El Salvador is a country where Central American Spanish is the main
official language. Only about 1% of the population speaks the Pipil
Language; however this is more commonly used by older people. There
is a well accepted dialect that is also spoken in the more rural
areas of El Salvador and that is called Caliche. This dialect uses
many slang terms and phrases that are not part of the Spanish
language. English is the accepted second language in this country,
but is mostly used by business people.
As the settlers of Spanish origin moved into El Salvador, they also began to marry with the Indian populations. This caused the immergence of a group of people in the country to be called Mestizos. In some areas, this term is used for those persons having one European parent and one Amerindian parent. In others areas, this word is used for anyone having a mixed heritage.
When we hear the name El Salvador, something exotic immediately comes to mind. Because this country is considered one the top ten best places to visit for beaches, most likely we think of beautiful beaches surrounded by white sand and the smell of a lovely ocean breeze. But there are also many other beautiful things this country is known for and offers.
The country of El Salvador has always had a rich tradition in the
arts. Today, this rich tradition also encompasses the literature
world. The element of great literary works has now become a special
indulgence for readers throughout the world, and today this literary
art gives Salvadorans bragging rights. In the past, there was a time
when poets and authors were murdered for their writings and
expressions; although today, writing against government ideals is
still undertaken with a cautious undertone. Currently, though, being
an author in El Salvador is a very much admired and respected
As we look at some of the literary works that have been created from this country, Roque Dalton comes to mind. He is considered one of the most famous writers of El Salvador. His writings and poems supported the oppressed people of El Salvador at the time. He used his leftist writings to bring people together and to encourage revolution. As a result of this, he was sent to prison on two separate occasions. He later joined an organization EGP, which stood for Ejército Guerrillero de los Pobres (Guerrilla Army of the Poor in English). He was eventually murdered at the age of 40. History indicates that he was killed by EGP militants who believed he may have divided the organization with his leftist views and therefore was executed.
Another writer, painter, and editor is the well known Arrué Salvador Salazar; best known by his pseudonym Salarrué. One of his greatest accomplishments was writing Cuentos de Cipotes. He studied in Washington DC but later returned to El Salvador and was the editor of the newspaper Patria. His compilation of stories are comprised of children stories and the interesting human perspectives of life. Even today his writings are used as study material for colleges in the subject of literature.
Manlio Argueta is another famous writer and novelist born in 1935. He considers himself a poet; however, in the English speaking world he is well known for his book One Day of Life. As he gained notoriety in the poet arena, he also won a national prize for poetry in 1956. This gave him credibility amongst his peers and the general public in both the El Salvadoran arena as well as throughout South America. He eventually used his writings to criticize the government and was exiled to Costa Rica in 1972. He returned to El Salvador in the 1990s and eventually became Director of the National Public Library.
In addition, we have Italo Lopez Vallecillos who was the editor of the newspaper The Independent. Over two decades, the newspaper became a focus of attacks by the military governments in place. Vallecillos went on to create the University Press of El Salvador and a magazine which became very influential amongst the population. The magazine was called The Painted Slut. Eventually he founded the Central University Publishing for many of the important writers within the region. It was named EDUCA.
There were and are many other writers and novelists in El Salvador and each of their literary works has helped to shape and mold the thinking of the peoples of a given time. Today, having a poem or book published in El Salvador is not as difficult as it may have been in the past. Currently, most of the newspapers and publishing companies are privately owned. There is recent legislation which indicates that the freedom of the press can’t necessarily print things “just because,” and that the privacy or unjust smears of a citizen or organization has to take first priority to the rights of journalism.
Although the right to print what a person thinks has been relaxed, caution is still the word. It is a reminder that El Salvador’s civil war was not too long ago and many thoughts and prejudices from that time still remain within the culture and the ruling party. Much like the time during the civil war era when you could not say anything that was considered anti-government, many journalists and writers are still wary; although, some still continue to write with some openness and frankness.
There is a lot of interesting information and literature that has arisen from this country. We know El Salvador has beautiful beaches, but it also has a history of strong people who fight and write for what they believe in. Writing does not seem like a big deal most of the time, but we should never forget the struggles, and what some people have given up for their expressions and beliefs. It is important to remember not to take anything for granted because we never know what the people before us had to give up for the liberty of speech and freedoms to write and express freely.
This week, The Latino Author is grateful and pleased to present you an interview with author Manuel A. Meléndez. Mr. Meléndez gives us an insightful view into the literary world alongside some great advice to becoming a successful writer.