Poetry: Pablo Neruda - translated in EnglishNo list could possibly be complete without including this remarkable Chilean writer. His poetry speaks for itself. He has a collection of a hundred love poems which are wonderful. In addition to his talented poetry, he's also well known for his political activism. You can read more about that here.
Short Story: A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings by Gabriel Garcia MarquezGabriel Garcia Marquez, author of One Hundred Years of Solitude, probably needs no introduction. He's hailed as one of the great modern masters of Magical Realism, a genre closely tied to Latin American literature. He takes a more literary approach which feels like it was meant to be read slowly (at least, the English translations do). If you don't mind long sentences with lots of commas, you might like his style.
Vignettes: The House on Mango Street by Sandra CisnerosI'll admit, I didn't care for this book the first time I read it. It was assigned reading in high school, and I would have rather been reading basically anything but American Lit. It's not that I hated the book, or anything, I was able to relate to a few points, but for the unaccustomed, vignettes are weird. I recently decided to give it another chance and it left me utterly amazed. I see now what all the fuss was about. It's beautiful and brilliant in a way I could only hope to aspire to.
The chapters are delicious bite size pieces. Most are no more than three or four pages, which makes it perfect for either reading straight through or taking it all in over the course of a week or two.
Of every piece of Latino Literature I've ever read, this is the one that best captures the essence of what it means to grow up as a Latina. And it manages to do so without becoming overly political or whiny. Open, honest, and vulnerable. Can't recommend it enough.
Novel: Like Water for Chocolate by Lauara EsquivelThis Magical Realism novel is great in English, even better in Spanish. It centers around Tita, a Mexican woman whose ability to marry is complicated by tradition. Rather than spending his life away from her, the love of her life agrees to marry her sister. Tensions rise when he moves in under the same roof as Tita. She soon discovers that her cooking was magical, everything she felt while constructing the dish (depression, passion, contentment, etc.) would be felt by anyone who ate it.
The book is wonderfully emotional (though not over the top in a Telemundo sort of way). It's the first piece of Magical Realism I'd ever read, and before I reached the last page, I already knew it wouldn't be the last.
If you're bilingual, I highly recommend the Spanish version (there's a lyrical quality to that English can't match). If not, the English translation is still pretty great.