Latin American Literature: Manlio Argueta’s Cuzcatlán

by Latina Fatale on 11/21/2010 · 0 comments

in Literature

Years ago in college I read the book A Day of Life, written by an author from El Salvador by the name of Manlio Argueta. The book was originally written in Spanish and translated to English. I was so in love with the book, which is told from the female “peasant” perspective during the time of El Salvador’s brutal dictatorship and civil war. The political and social portrait that the book paints of the brutality that poor people suffered at the hands of the military and the sacrifices that working class people and Catholic priests made during that era is heartbreaking and devastating. Looking back I can honestly say that A Day of Life is one of the best books that I ever read and for at least twelve years or so I frequently vow to read all of the books written by Manlio Argueta.

At one point very few of his books were able to be bought on Amazon, and so I briefly forgot about my vow to read all of the books. However, last week I came upon an old copy at a local garage sale of another one of his books that had been translated into English, Cuzcatlán: Where the Southern Sea Beats. The book was translated by Chris Hansen.

This book tells the story of a family who lives in Cuzcatlán, the indigenous name for the country of El Salvador. We travel through time as generations of a family are born, die, and work in a small town that is polluted from the die from the local indigo factories and barely has any water or soil that is sustainable enough to grow any corn for tortillas. We read about how landowners take advantage of the poor and how the brutal military patrols (who were trained by the United States) brutalize the poor as they are searching for revolutionaries. We watch how families are split apart and pitted against their own family members by war, starvation and violence.

I wish I could say that I fell in love with the book with the same intensity as I did with A Day of Life, but I can’t. The book seemed tedious at times and seemed to be too full of description and lack of any development or conflict until towards the end of the book. Towards the middle of the book I wanted to just put the book down, but at one point as I was reading I became interested in the descriptions of the daily life of the family, the way that people were treated in the country, and the descriptions of the land. However, when I finally finished the book, I was glad that I completed it although it had been slow at times because it has quite a twist at the end of it.

It’s really no wonder that later the author, Manlio Argueta, was later exiled from El Salvador due to his writing of such a political nature. Some of the other books that I will be picking up from him are:

My recommendation? Read A Day of Life first if you haven’t already, but know in advance that Argueta’s books jump back and forth in time as well as chapters that are in the form of characters’ inner thoughts or streams of consciousness. And then pick up this book if you like Argueta’s style and want to read more about the conflict in El Salvador.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: