As of 2022, Hispanics made up 40.2% of the population of Texas, giving them a slim plurality over the state’s non-Hispanic white population. According to the most recent statistics published by the U.S. Census Bureau, of the 27.3 million residents of Texas, 7.8 million speak Spanish at home, putting the state at the forefront of a burgeoning movement in the book business to serve Spanish-language readers.

Among the most popular efforts catering to these readers is Hablemos, escritoras. Launched in January 2018 as a podcast featuring interviews with a focus on Mexican women writers, it has since become a valuable repository of information about these writers, with 487 episodes of the podcast and an online encyclopedia covering 1,300 authors and 2,000 books.

“Hablemos began as a project focused on novelists, but its scope soon expanded,” says founder and producer Adriana Pacheco. “We brought female translators, critics, journalists, editors, and artists into the fold,” she adds, noting that such “diverse perspectives” have the potential to leave indelible marks on readers and scholars.

Pacheco, who was born in Puebla, Mexico, has had a long affiliation with the University of Texas, where she earned a PhD and served on the school’s international board of advisers. She’s also written and edited several works of academic criticism.

“When I first started thinking of this project,” Pacheco says, “the literary landscape for female writers in the Spanish-speaking world was very different from what we see today. With a few exceptions, it was largely dominated by men or else focused on a handful of women writers.” But over the past decade she’s seen a significant shift, with independent publishing houses in Spain, Latin America, and Mexico championing a new generation of women authors.

Pacheco cites several examples of women who have risen to prominence, including Argentina’s Mariana Enríquez, Ariana Harwicz, and Samanta Schweblin; Ecuador’s Mónica Ojeda; and Mexico’s Cristina Rivera Garza, Valeria Luiselli, and Fernanda Melchor. All have had titles translated into English, and many have won awards. Most recently, Schweblin’s Seven Empty Houses won the 2022 National Book Award for translated fiction, and Garza was shortlisted in 2023 for National Book Award for Nonfiction for Liliana’s Invincible Summer: A Sister’s Search for Justice. In 2020, Garza was awarded a MacArthur “genius grant.”

In 2020, Hablemos opened an online store with selling books in Spanish as well as English translations of Spanish-language works, and the company has recently begun its own publishing program. Hablemos’s first title was Arrythmias by Mexican writer Angelina Muñiz-Huberman, which was published in October 2022 as a co-edition with Houston’s Literal Publishing, in a translation by D.P. Snyder. Last September saw the publication of the company’s second title, Free Radicals by Mexican author Rosa Bletrán, which was also published as a co-edition, this time with Miami-based publishing house Katakana Editores, translated by Robin Myers. “Then, at the end of last year, we took a leap and published a Spanish-language audiobook original with Andor, a novella by Venezuelan writer Raquel Abend van Dalen,” Pacheco says.

Abend van Dalen had previously published several books in Venezuela, but her new work was published while she was living in the U.S. and came as a result of her having graduated from the University of Houston’s newly minted PhD program in creative writing in Spanish. (It’s the only program of its type in the United States, though three universities currently offer MFAs in creative writing in Spanish: New York University, the University of Iowa, and the University of Texas at El Paso.)

Houston’s program was founded six years ago by Garza, who comprises the faculty with Bolivian novelist Rodrigo Hasbún. They are joined by guest speakers and authors from Mexico and Latin America. “It feels like all Latin American writers know each other, so often all it takes is a phone call,” Hasbún jokes.

Hasbún, whose novel Affections was published by Simon & Schuster in an English translation by Sophie Hughes, says that the U.S. has become fertile ground for Spanish-language authors. “Throughout the 20th century, Europe used to be the most common destination,” he explains. “Historically, a great deal of Latin American literature has been written in exile. Think of the authors of the Latin American boom or Bolaño, who spent most of their productive working lives abroad. Nowadays, the U.S. seems to be taking its place.”