From Small Hours of the Night

I REMEMBER ROQUE DALTON

BY ERNESTO CARDENAL

I remember a laughing Roque Dalton. Skinny, pale, his bones sticking out, big-nosed like me, and always laughing. I don't know why I always remember you laughing, Roque Dalton. A laughing revolutionary. Not that revolutionaries are particularly serious, not at all, but he was a revolutionary that laughed all the time. First of all he laughed at himself. He laughed at silly little things about El Salvador and was forever talking about it, because he really loved his "Tom Thumb" country. Naturally he laughed at the Salvadoran bourgeoisie and would make us all laugh. He would laugh at the Jesuits with whom he had studied and in whose school he had "lost his faith" (he would also laugh at this expression) to join the Communist Party, and he'd also laugh at things about the Party. (Still it was his Party.) He would tell fantastic stories about El Salvador that seemed to be made up but were actually true. A man was in jail a real sewer covered with cockroaches, for several years. He was crazy when they let him out and he didn't mind roaches the least bit; he would smile blissfully and, for him, being covered with roaches was like being covered with butterflies. Roque Dalton was in prison once, they were going to shoot him. What's more, they were going to make the Party believe he was a CIA informer and spy to make sure he wouldn't be considered a martyr. He didn't believe in God, but he prayed that night, he knelt down in his cell and prayed. As "mad luck" would have it, he said, there was an earthquake that night; the prison's walls collapsed and he escaped. Cintio Vitier and Fina and I laughed at him, telling him that what he called "mad luck" we called something else, and he also laughed. Roque was always in a great humor despite the horrible things he had been through, and the horrible things still waiting ahead that he had a premonition about. Roque Dalton's commitment to the Revolution was like a marriage contract. He was married to the Revolution. It was his destiny not only to sing it but also to give his life for the Revolution. Now he is reembodied in many lives, he has come back to life in El Salvador's insurrection. He's always laughing, in spite of the massacres, in spite of the weeping. He is laughing because he feels victorious. As if he were already the victor. Roque Dalton will soon be children's parks, schools, hospitals; he will be the poems he wrote and many others not written yet. Roque Dalton will be a laughing, happy population of Roque Daltons.

Translated by Hardie St. Martin;
originally published in Recopilación de Textos sobre Roque Dalton,
Casa de las Americas, 1986.

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