by George Zamora
SOCORRO, N.M., Sept. 14, 2005 – Rafael Lara-Martinez, foreign languages professor at New Mexico Tech, is the compiler and editor of a recently published collection of poetry by the late Salvadoran poet and activist Roque Dalton (1935-1975).
No Pronuncies mi Nombre, Poesia Completa I de Roque Dalton, or Do not Pronounce my Name, Complete Poetry of Roque Dalton, Volume I, by Lara-Martinez, a native of El Salvador, was released this month by La Dirección de Publicaciones e Impresos (DPI) of El Salvador’s Consejo Nacional para la Cultura (CONCULTURA).
DPI is the largest publisher of poetry, narratives, and other literature emanating from El Salvador and surrounding Central American countries.
Lara-Martinez has several published books to his credit, including his recent anthology of the poetry of fellow Salvadoran Roque Dalton. Dalton, he says, was a founder of a guerilla movement that started around San Salvador, who was tragically killed in 1975 by his own guerilla group, almost at the beginning of the Salvadoran Civil War.
“Roque Dalton was an intellectual from the Left, a left-wing revolutionary, and a world traveler,” Lara-Martinez says. “Dalton was a poeta maldito who, when he was killed at the age of 40, had written more than 15 books of poetry — most of them revolutionary in a broad sense, but many also filled with love and surrealist poems.”
Another of Lara-Martinez’s books, Salarrué, o El Mito de Creación de la Sociedad Mestiza Salvadoreña, depicts the calculated genocide of a Salvadoran Indian tribe, which actually took place in the 1930s.
More recently, he has written another book on the genocide that will be published next year in El Salvador: Balsamera bajo la Guerra Fria — El Salvador en 1932 (Historia Intellectual de un Etnocidio).
“Fiction is the only place where those Indians have their say,” Lara-Martinez points out. “A lot of the more traditionally written forms of history fail to acknowledge that history is essentially about people, what people believe, and what has happened to those people.”
Lara-Martinez’s teaching and research interests also encompass Latin America’s unique cultural history, literature, and poetry — especially its politically committed poetry.
“Literature and poetry in Latin America are very different in that they are not isolated from political life and public life,” explains Lara-Martinez. “You cannot separate art from politics in Latin America; and it’s that specific link that I continue to pursue throughout my research.”
In recognition of his collective body of work, last year Lara-Martinez was awarded the research university’s prestigious New Mexico Tech Distinguished Research Award.
Lara-Martinez teaches Spanish, French, and Latin American and Hispanic studies at New Mexico Tech, and has been instrumental in developing a Hispanic Studies minor at the university through the school’s Department of Humanities.