Roque Dalton (1935-1975) was a dynamic poet who was inspired by the revolutionary movements in Cuba and Latin America. His poetry captures a feel that anything is possible when the masses of working people and peasants are in motion. U.S. imperialist and neoliberal policies have spent decades tearing El Salvador apart, along with the rest of Central America. In the U.S., Salvadoran immigrants are vilified as the media portrays many, if not all, as hostile M13 gang members.
Today, however, as students and workers are mobilizing across the region in opposition to their regimes and imperialism, a new generation of activists are finding their way in the class struggle. They will no doubt find their way to Roque Dalton. Dalton’s work has inspired the imagination of those dedicated to the overthrow of the capitalist system. What would he think about the prospects for revolution in a Latin America that is either in rebellion or a defensive fight against U.S.-backed coups?
El Salvador Will Be
By ROQUE DALTON
El Salvador will be a beautiful
and without exception, a dignified country
when the working class and the people of the countryside
enrich it, bathe, powder and groom it,
when they cure the historical hangover
and add enough to it by a hundred fold
to reconstitute it
and start it moving along.
The problem is that today El Salvador
has a thousand incentives and a hundred thousand inequalities,
cancers, castoffs, dandruff, filth,
sores, fractures, weak knees and offensive breath.
A few machetes will be given it
also restored self-esteem, turpentine, penicillin,
bathrooms with toilets and toilets with seats,
kisses and gunpowder.
Translated from the Spanish by Zoë Anglesey.
From Poesía Elegida, Guaymuras, Tegucigalpa, Honduras, 1981.
El Salvador será
El Salvador será un lindo
y (sin exagerar) serio país
cuando la clase obrera y el campesinado
lo fertilicen lo peinen lo talqueen
le curen la goma historica
lo adecenten lo reconstituyan
y lo echen a andar.
El problema es que hoy El Salvador
tiene como mil puyas y cien mil desniveles
quinimil callos y algunas postemillas
cánceres cáscaras caspas shuquedades
llagas fracturas tembladeras tufos.
Habrá que darle un poco de machete
lija torno aguarrás penicilina
baños de asiento besos pólvora.