I loved Neruda and Lorca equally. Since I studied in Spain as an undergraduate, I knew that tradition a little better, but I went to grad school not having any strong preference. The Latin Americanists at the University I had chosen thought that peninsular should not be done at all, and that the prime directive for a Spanish department was to promote the Sandinistas.
When a Golden Age search came up, they organized the Marxist cabal of graduate students to prefer a candidate who had been a prominent Golden Age guy, but had switched to Latin America. They ended up hiring a superb Cervantista from Princeton, and then made his life miserable until he went back to Princeton (of course).
The senior Latin Americanists were a Chilean writer who could not be bothered to show up for his own classes, having flunkies substitute for him, and a British woman who could not speak Spanish, and had to switch to English after a few embarrassing slips the first day. She gave me my paper back with "nice job, A-." For a 10 week course we only read three novels. She left shortly after that for an ivy league. I didn't respect many of my fellow graduate students in the program. There was a brilliant Peruvian guy who had studied at Berkeley and knew philosophy, later ended up at Harvard for a while and UCLA. The other best students did peninsular.
So when I needed a dissertation topic, I reverted back to what I knew best, writing about a poet that I had studied with in Spain. I could have been a Latin Americanist, but not in that environment. I was more comfortable being the persecuted minority, doing a field that seemed inherently conservative, than trying to fit in with people I didn't respect.