The Great Battles
I admit it: I fell in love with Santiago's voice. I got into this whole mess because of it. From the first day they broadcast, on 10 January 1981, the day of the general offensive, I was bewitched by the conviction in that voice:
Fifty years of dictatorship are falling! Join the ranks of the Farabundo Martí Front!
I don't know why, but I felt like he was talking to me, inviting me to join up. I wanted to take the first plane, grab a bus, even slog it on foot, and head right back to El Salvador. You see, I'm Salvadoran, but I was living in Nicaragua at the time.
I used to work in San Salvador at the newspaper La Crónica. My beat was stolen cars, stabbings, bottles thrown in fits of passion, that sort of thing. News, you could call it. One day just for fun, I wrote a political joke and showed it to the editor Jaime Suárez, who was a good friend of mine.
"Marvin, don't do any more news stories. If you bring me five jokes a day like this one, I'll double your salary."
With that stroke of luck I started writing a little column called "The Politics of Humour. Every day I came up with my five jokes making fun of politicians and members of the military junta. They hated it of course, but what really bothered the generals and colonels was the paper's critical stance. Not only our paper, but El Independiente, the YSAX radio station, the National University, the Human Rights Commission... It wasn't long before they assassinated Jaime, my editor. Then we started getting anonymous calls in the newsroom, that we're going to kill you all, that we'll teach you a lesson... Since I'm no hero, when they sprayed the building with bullets I made a decision: "I'm leaving. I don't want the death squads cutting off my tongue or sticking a screwdriver in my eyes."
I packed my bags and didn't stop until I got to Nicaragua. That was in 1980. I was still there in mid-'81 when I tuned in to Venceremos and heard that electrifying voice:
Transmitting its signal of freedom from El Salvador, territory in combat
against oppression and imperialism!