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  • Writer's pictureGabriel San Roman

The Machete as Metaphor: On Roberto Lovato's 'Unforgetting'

The tranquil hum of the Sumpul River seemed incongruous given the historical terror that had once happened there. In 1990, Roberto Lovato, at the time an activist with the Central American Refugee Center in San Francisco, visited the site during El Salvador’s bloody civil war. It was the first mass grave he humbly witnessed. The grounds near Chalatenango also once held the distinction of being the worst massacre in the nation since 1932; the Salvadoran military and paramilitary forces killed more than 600 souls there in 1980 — the first, but not the last, brutal salvo against civilians in the war.

“My visit to the killing fields of Chalatenango gave me a different sense of what it meant to be Salvadoreño,” writes Lovato in Unforgetting, his new memoir. “Now I realized that learning both Salvadoran history and the history of my family was essential to understanding my story.”

Read more on my latest contribution to the Los Angeles Review of Books:

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