This research explores diverse tropes of the animal and animality in literary works published by a selection of authors from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Peru since the year 2000. These tropes are employed as concise symbols that represent the ambiguities of modernity in Latin American societies. The texts analyzed reflect and problematize the importance assigned to the urban environment as the reference and center of progress in such societies, which builds on the paradigm of civilization against barbarism — an essential component of Latin American imaginaries since colonial times. The animalization of urban spaces questions one of the core principles of the civilizing process: the elimination, control, or use of nature (flora and fauna). Likewise, the presence of animal characters and the animalization of human characters are means to explore inhumane or dehumanizing conditions of life brought forth by modernization. In this research, I demonstrate that these authors navigate the continuities and discontinuities between humans and animals to convey the idea of loss of dignity of the human being and the need to restore/redefine the core values of humanity towards an ethics of social and ecological responsibility. I contend that the widespread use of animal tropes in recent Latin American fiction can be explained by their accumulated cultural value, their versatility in meeting the authors’ need for powerful and synthetic narrative devices as well as mounting concerns for social inequality.