© 2015 Tessie Barrera-Scharaga. Website designed by Gabrielle Scharaga

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Dialogue with a Dead Poet

Mixed-media installation incorporating steel, clay, cast plaster objects, light, and soundtrack. 

L11' x W7' x H10'

2007

 

I learned the hidden history of El Salvador from a dead poet. When I came upon his work, Roque Dalton had been dead for more than ten years, a victim of the political turmoil that tore up El Salvador in the decades of the 70's and 80's. I had studied Latin American poets while attending school in El Salvador, my mother's country of origin. Consequently, I was very surprised that I had never heard of Roque Dalton, and more importantly, to find out that he had published many books and won literary awards in other Latin American countries and in Europe. In El Salvador, where he originated, Roque Dalton’s name was never mentioned. He had spent many years in exile due to his roles of social critic and poet of the opposition. He returned home in the 70’s to participate in the struggle to bring about social change to El Salvador. It cost him his life.

 

 

Dalton’s work spoke fearlessly and directly about things he found questionable, things that went unspoken or were lied about in Salvadoran society and culture. For instance, the massacre of the indigenous people of El Salvador in 1932, which had been a well-kept secret for over 50 years. The destruction of their culture, language, art, music, and crafts brought about a cultural vacuum of catastrophic proportions. Fear reigned supreme decade after decade and an entire generation of poets, artists, musicians, and writers was silenced. Roque Dalton broke that silence, and his voice has now reached new generations.

 

This installation is an attempt at paying back an intellectual debt, one I feel is owed to Roque Dalton. It is also a contribution to the cause of ending the silence. It is offered with deep respect and admiration to the indigenous people of El Salvador, as an expression of solidarity and support in their continuing struggle for justice and equality.