Who Killed Roque Dalton?

Roque Dalton was the most important Salvadoran writer before Horacio Castellanos Moya came along. Dalton was very well-know outside of the country, which is extremely rare for a writer from the Northern Triangle.

But then Dalton decided to quit writing and join a communist guerrilla. The first guerrilla he tried to join refused him because even guerrillas weren’t dumb enough to think one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century should run around the jungle with an Uzi instead of writing.

But there was another guerrilla that accepted the poor, deluded poet. Dalton stayed with that guerrilla for a very short time until the guerrilleros assassinated him. This is very common among all leftist forces. They slaughter each other a lot more eagerly than even the enemy.

But why did the guerrilla leaders really assassinate Dalton? Was it because they honestly believed he was a spy for the CIA or for the Cubans? Or was there something else?

Horacio Castellanos Moya, the greatest living Central American writer, has been fascinated by Roque Dalton’s story his whole life. Then, he finally got lucky. He came across a packet of letters exchanged by Roque and his ex-wife while he was in the guerrilla.

And. . .

. . . drumroll!!!. . .

the letters contained previously unknown information that really clarifies what happened. And it’s not political at all. Turns out, the guerrilla leaders who ordered the poet’s assassination and carried it out had young, dumb, entitled, mouthy mistresses. They sent the mistresses to stay with Dalton’s ex-wife in Cuba. An epic cat fight between the women ensued. The young mistresses came back to the guerrilla and complained, and Dalton, known for his acerbic wit and an enormous dedication to the ex-wife, wasn’t kind about their whining. Immediately after, the ‘husbands’ of the young women killed him.

The story is narrated in Castellanos Moya’s recently released book of essays titled Roque Dalton: Correspondencia clandestina y otros ensayos. The other essays narrate Castellanos Moya’s own political evolution. They are beautifully written and fascinating. No English translation yet, unfortunately, but for those who read Spanish, I highly recommend the book. The writing is crystalline in its clarity and an absolute joy to read.

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