Letter from Abel Cuenca to López Vallecillos, 22 March 1975

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Letter from Abel Cuenca to López Vallecillos, 22 March 1975


Abel Cuenca (1909-1975) was one of the Communist organizers of a 1932 peasant uprising in western El Salvador that was crushed by the military dictator Maximiliano Hernández Martínez. The mass murders carried out by army troops on the dictator's orders collectively became known as La Matanza (The Slaughter). Little was written about La Matanza until the 1960s when stories and poems began trickling into publication, many based on oral accounts and quite a few published in La Pájara Pinta. The early 1970s saw the publication of two landmark works on the events of 1932: U.S. historian Thomas Anderson's Matanza and Roque Dalton's Miguel Mármol, the latter based on the testimonial of a survivor and published for the first time by López Vallecillos and Manlio Argueta at EDUCA in Costa Rica in 1972. (There have been many later editions and translations.)

In this letter, Cuenca, living in Mexico City, responds to López Vallecillos's request that he write an account of his own role in the events of 1932. Cuenca's tone is non-committal; he says that he would need at least a year to write it and that he would need to "attempt to return to El Salvador once again" and financial support to do so. The letter shows that López Vallecillos continued to seek out voices and witnesses to document La Matanza, which remained an open wound on Salvadoran society, while also reflecting the ambivalent feelings that survivors of the massacre still felt decades later. Cuenca died later in 1975.


Abel Cuenca


López Vallecillos Family Archive


22 March 1975






Personal letter

Text Item Type Metadata



Esteemed friend and compañero,

Last year I received, by way of Torres Jr. and Jorge García Laguardia, a thoughtful letter from you in which you suggested that it would be advisable for me to write one or several chapters about the Peasant Insurrection of 1932 in our country, whose surviving protagonists include myself; and, later, the drafting of a kind of monograph about my personal participation in that and other Central American events of undeniable importance (the Guatemalan revolution of October 1944, the imperialist intervention by the Caribbean Legion in Costa Rica in 1948). I must admit I am flattered by your proposal, and I should have answered your letter at the earliest opportunity; but unfortunately in 1974, all the "plagues of Egypt" descended on me and conspired to zero out my humanity absolutely. This is why I was not able to answer your request, as I would have wished, for a text by me about 45 years of Central American history, which I experienced intensely.

Now I have received a letter from my wife, who spent some months in Tegucigalpa, in which she encloses a letter of yours with a paragraph for me, in which you restate your original request. Well.

Needless to say, MUCH of this work is drafted and written, and I have a long-standing personal and historical-ideological interest in the subject. Nevertheless, I don't think I could put this into publishable condition without a year of intense work, since it would be indispensable to carry out research that would require me to try to return ONCE AGAIN to El Salvador. Naturally this would require time and resources to sustain me during the time I would need to carry out the job. […]


Cuenca to ILV I.pdf
Cuenca to ILV II.pdf



Abel Cuenca, “Letter from Abel Cuenca to López Vallecillos, 22 March 1975,” Italo López Vallecillos, Editor to the Revolution, accessed May 21, 2024, http://rogeratwood.georgetown.domains/items/show/15.

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