Translating salarrue: Cultural evolution, memory and indigenous de-exotization from the massacre of 1932 to the negation of indigenous ancestry in the Salvadoran Spanish of today

Nelson J. Lopez
Translation Studies, State University of New York at Binghamton
July, 2010


Social injustices and discrimination against indigenous peoples have left a bloody scar in El Salvador. The focus of this study is the incidence of Salarrus Cuentos de Barro in the cultural evolution of Salvadorans. In 1932 thousands of indigenous people were brutally exterminated in El Salvador during the presidency of General Maximiliano Herndez Martez for voicing their needs. A year later, Salarru a Salvadoran writer, published a book of short stories in which he "resurrects" the indigenes killed in the massacre by providing the characters of his Tales of Clay with actual names of those assassinated. This dissertation is an attempt at the historical reconstruction of the language spoken in El Salvador focusing on Salvadoran writer Salarrus Tales of Clay (1933) and the Massacre of indigenous peoples. My approach is to analyze Tales of Clay and its imminent links to the events of 1932 known as La Masacre , contemporizing Salarrus thought in relation to Salvadoran society today. My rendering of Salarrus work into English is significant for the study of cultural evolution and to de-exoticize the belief that one can feel indigenous by visiting the archeological sites while Salvadorans keep invisibilizing the indigenous peoples in front of them. My theoretical approach draws from historical accounts, linguistics and sociolinguistics, archaeology, anthropology and ethnography. The translation itself has been a much more complex matter that brings multiple disciplines into play. The careful examination of translations that deal with the vernacular (i.e. Their Eyes Were Watching God, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn ) has played a vital role in keeping the fidelity and orality of the Salarrueian text into the English rendering. The translator must be aware of the fields above but must also be aware that Salarrulike Mark Twain merges several languages into one. Tales of Clay incorporates indigenous words from Nahua-Pipil, neologisms, regionalism and localisms, botanical and zoological names of plants and animals that may well be extinct by now, geographical names of rivers or populations that no longer exist, and the cosmogony of the indigenous groups.