Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name



Classical and Modern Languages, Literatures, and Cultures

First Advisor

Dr. Víctor Figueroa


This dissertation examines the literary representations and interpretations of La Matanza, a Salvadoran massacre that occurred in 1932. A peasant-led uprising resulted in the assassination of thousands of campesinos and indigenous people by General Maximiliano Hernández Martínez's repressive military regime. As a result of government repression and censorship, the events surrounding La Matanza were intentionally omitted from Salvadoran history for many decades. Despite these censorship efforts, writers like Roque Dalton, Claribel Alegría, Salarrué and Manlio Argueta defied authoritarian government repression and incorporated the events of La Matanza into their writing. The literary texts that this dissertation analyzes are: Salarrué's "Mi respuesta a los patriotas" (1932), "El espantajo," (1954), Dalton's Miguel Mármol: Los sucesos de 1932 en El Salvador (1971), "Todos," "Viejuemierda," "Hechos, cosas y hombres de 1932," Alegría's Cenizas de Izalco (1966) and Argueta's Un día en la vida (1980) and Cuzcatlán donde bate la mar del sur (1986).

These authors exemplify multiple and often conflicting perspectives concerning the massacre. Each of them offers a unique interpretation of this event, emphasizing issues such as class, identity, gender and race, among others. However, all of them share the attempt to use literature as a vehicle to lend a voice to populations that did not have a place in official historical accounts. This study draws upon subaltern, postcolonial, feminist and other theories, in order to highlight the particular position of each author. Moreover, in this dissertation I argue that, the colonial, racist and patriarchal discourse that was used to justify the massacre was also used to justify the atrocities of the civil war in the 1980s. In addition, this analysis emphasizes the links between the peasant resistance of the 1930s and that of the 1980s. Furthermore, this dissertation stresses the importance of remembering El Salvador's complex history of violence in order to better understand the post-war era.