SOCORRO, N.M., June 23, 2009 – Rafael Lara-Martinez, professor of Foreign Language at New Mexico Tech, is the author of a newly published book whose title translates into English as “Balsamera under the Cold War: Intellectual History of an Ethnocide.” The book is published in Spanish, under the title “Balsamera bajo la Guerra Fria: Historia intellectual de un etnocida.”
The publisher is the University Don Bosco in San Salvador, a Salesian institution of higher education. Lara-Martinez is originally from El Salvador, and the book will be presented in August in San Salvador.
The book recounts the silence about the 1932 genocide of a group of Indians in El Salvador known in the ‘scientific’ and anthropological imagination as “Balsimos.” This group made their living by collecting balsam from a tree native to the region, processing it, and selling it. Profits were shared by the group, according to needs determined by tribal elders who served as governors and priests. The economic system could be compared to Western socialism, in that wealth was distributed among families according to their needs. Westerners supposed that these mysterious and uncommunicative people had vast sums of money buried in the forest.
Lara-Martinez has been a professor at New Mexico Tech since 1994. He frequently writes and publishes on Latin American subjects, in addition to teaching Spanish language, literature, and culture at the college.
New Mexico Tech is a state-funded four-year research university in Socorro that is the leading educator of scientists and engineers.