The Latin American modernist movement, of which Rubén Dario was founder and chief advocate, was a literary movement which was actually a combination of three other movements of the time. Dario's first book of poems and short stories called "Azul" (Blue) which he published in 1888 was the initiator of this movement. The modernist poets who followed Dario's example used free verse and sensual imagery and symbolism to express their highly individualistic values. The other major members of this movement were the poets Antonio Machado and Ramón Jiménez and the novelist Ramba del Valle Inclán.
The first of these movements was romanticism. Romanticism affected almost every European and American countries' literature from the mid-1700s to the mid-1800s. Romanticism was derived from the medieval romantic works and was defined by imagination and creativity instead of factual, rational thought. The Romantic writers were inspired by nature and glorified it in their free-thinking and subjective works.
Another influential group were the French poets called the Parnassians. The Parnassians got their name from a journal called The Contemporary Parnassus, which they published for ten years, beginning in 1866, in France. The Parnassians were actually a group that sprang out of Romanticism and their doctrine was writing for art's sake alone. Their works were usually very exotic, never boring and common, and their writing was done very carefully and perfectly.
The last and most influential movement, perhaps, was the Symbolist movement which started to gain recognition in France near the end of the 1800s. Like the Romantics, the Symbolists were imaginative and idealistic, but they expressed their ideas subtly through the use of symbols instead of specifying their thoughts. Part of the beauty of these works is that since their meaning is never clearly stated, different people can derive different wonderful ideas from the same work. One important feature of this movement, however, was that they moved away from the conventional and tried to create a whole new way of writing and imagery.