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International Reflective Writing


René Castillo

René Castillo (1934 – 1967) was a Guatemalan poet and revolutionary. Otto Rene Castillo was born on April 25th, 1934. He was the son of Juana de Dios Castillo Merida, from whom he inherited his personality and verbosity. These characteristics eventually led him to win the title of Revolutionary Poet of America. Castillo went to primary school in Quetzaltenango and later moved to Guatemala City to attend secondary school at the Central National Institute for Boys. In the Democratic Republic of Germany, he attended the University of Leipzig. He majored in cinematography, taught by Jorvis Ivens, and graduated with a Master's degree in Arts.

At age eighteen, he began his career writing articles for youth magazines. In 1953, poet Werner Ovalle Lopez gave a seminar called, "The Sunday Hour" and declared Castillo a "worthy youth" because at this time he was writing articles for a variety of magazines. As a youth, Castillo participated in the student's association and was president of a youth organization called the Work Party of Guatemala. In 1954, during the Pro-imperialistic counter revolution, this leading youth with some other democratic intellectuals, went into exile.

Otto Rene Castillo took refuge in El Salvador where he worked as a laborer, salesman and clerk. His life as an emigrant was hard and poor. But during this time, he met Oswaldo Escobar Velado, Roque Dalton Garcia, Roberto Armijo and other writers who encouraged him by reading and promoting his literary works. These were published in the "Daily Latino. " From that point, he went to the university to study law and then founded the University Literary Circle. His influences were Neruda, Hernandez and Vallejo. In 1955, Castillo received the poetry prize of Central America , which was shared by Roque Dalton. In 1956, he received another prize from Guatemalan university students in celebration of the poem, "Motherland, let's Walk." This work, according to his critics, is a reflection of the misery and sadness caused by immeasurable exploitation.

In 1957 after the death of dictator Castillo Armas, the people were, "allowed to breathe easily." Otto Rene Castillo returned to Guatemala to integrate himself into the cultural movement and study law at the University of San Carlos. In 1959, he left for Leipzig by means of the Filadelfo Salazar Scholarship. Between 1957 and 1959 his poems were released in the student editions of "The Student informer" and the "The Impartial." He traveled to Europe, Asia and Africa, acquiring an extensive humane world vision. In 1964, he returned to Guatemala to dedicate himself to cultural activities and the political actions of the Worker's Party. He founded the Experimental Theater of the Capital City Municipality, collaborating with the association of university students who published some of his sonnets in their book "Tecun Uman." Castillo was also published in the university magazine, "Spears and Letters." In 1964, he was put in jail by the Peralta Azurdia regime. Later he was expropriated, traveling to Europe where he organized the World Youth Festival. He later returned secretly to Guatemala to gather up a rebel force to combat the Montenegrista regime. In the distant and humid mountain ranges of Zacapa and Izabel, Catillo experienced the demanding limitations of the guerrilla insurrection and the intimidating, harsh Guatemalan system. Still young Castillo promised the motherland to drink her bitter cups of grief and affliction and become blind so that she can see, fulfilling the words in his poem, "Vamos Patria a Caminar," March 19th, 1967 . He was captured in the mountains of Sierra de las Minas, along with Nora Paiz. He was taken to the brutal estate of Arrana in Zacapa, where he was tortured and burned with various other plantation workers.

The people paid homage in Guatemala, great Britain and Costa Rica to Castillo after his death, by publishing his work "Report of Injustice."

In the final words of Oscar Arutro Palencia, "The thirty three years that Castillo lived with us is our evidence that the decent, intellectual, artistic, and scientific man should grow, raising himself up with his own people, with the humble".

Apolitical Intellectuals 

One day 
the apolitical 
of my country 
will be interrogated 
by the simplest 
of our people.

They will be asked 
what they did 
when their nation died out 
like a sweet fire 
small and alone.

No one will ask them 
about their dress, 
their long siestas 
after lunch, 
no one will want to know 
about their sterile combats 
with "the idea 
of the nothing" 
no one will care about 
their higher financial learning.

They won't be questioned 
on Greek mythology, 
or regarding their self-disgust 
when someone within them 
begins to die 
the coward's death.

They'll be asked nothing 
about their absurd 
born in the shadow 
of the total life.

On that day 
the simple men will come.

Those who had no place 
in the books and poems 
of the apolitical intellectuals, 
but daily delivered 
their bread and milk, 
their tortillas and eggs, 
those who drove their cars, 
who cared for their dogs and gardens 
and worked for them, 
and they'll ask:

"What did you do when the poor 
suffered, when tenderness 
and life 
burned out of them?"

Apolitical intellectuals 
of my sweet country, 
you will not be able to answer.

A vulture of silence 
will eat your gut.

Your own misery 
will pick at your soul.

And you will be mute in your shame.


The most beautiful thing 
for those who have fought a whole life 
is to come to the end and say; 
we believed in people and life, 
and life and the people 
never let us down.

Only in this way do men become men, 
women become women, 
fighting day and night 
for people and for life.

And when these lives come to an end 
the people open their deepest rivers 
and they enter those waters forever. 
And so they become, distant fires, living, 
creating the heart of example

The most beautiful thing 
for those who have fought a whole life 
is to come to the end and say; 
we believed in people and life, 
and life and the people 
never let us down.

Before the Scales, Tomorrow

And when the enthusiastic 
story of our time 
is told, 
who are yet to be born 
but announce themselves 
with more generous face, 
we will come out ahead 
--those who have suffered most from it.

And that 
being ahead of your time 
means much suffering from it. 
But it's beautiful to love the world 
with eyes 
that have not yet 
been born.

And splendid 
to know yourself victorious 
when all around you 
it's all still so cold, 
so dark.

Source: Socialist Platform:



My exile was made of cries.

The infinite face of police, grey
on my insufficient features.
The great tables of hunger beyond the fist
full of dollars that violates the land.
The bags packed every month,
ready to wrap up the exodus
of tears and dust.

I walked strange shores
in search of my country’s face.
Dawns of gulls followed me.
I received the brutal embraces
of he who discovers a cataclysm of roses
in the most hidden places of his soul;
touch of hands in the nights
of escape, where the liquid eyes
of our mother burned,
her ageless dimension of cottonwood,
branches up
defending the city of birds
From the endless assault of water.

I was a tear of my country
rolling down the face of America.

Because I am one of those
who still carry
maternal winds,
in the pores of his blood.
One who cries swallows
when he dreams the face of his infancy.
One who runs after agile butterflies.
And who sails his paper boat
every winter afternoon.

I am only the young tide
of my people.
And yet I say:
Tomorrow my long hair
of fish
will be white.
My face will be wiped out
by hands of fog.
The shape of my bones
will be lost in a wind
of ash.
But my heart
will be a whole soldier
with flags flying.


You, who sell my country,
Have you heard the land walk
beyond your blood?
Did you ever wake up
crying from the sound of your pulse?
Sitting at a café in a far off land
one winter day
have you listened to men speaking
of your fight?
Have you seen the moribund exile,
in a dirty room, sprawled
on a bed of planks,
question the vague stature
of his children far from his love?
Have you heard him combing his laughter?
Have you once cried on the great belly
of our country?  Have you been victim
of that accusation:
communist! Because you were different
from the deifying sheep of the despot?
Have you watched as the sweet seamstress
planted a tender kiss on the oily cheek
of her prince the mechanic?
Or pressed the calloused hand
of the workers who build
the world’s collective destiny?
Have you seen poor children laugh
the beautiful optimism of their childhood?

Salesmen of my country, your silence
is greater than all your cash.
And you, the indifferent, what do you say?
You do not answer,
Don’t open your mouths
if you can’t
answer in protest.

One last painful question for all:
Do you even know what exile is?
Oh, you will know!
I’ll tell you:
is a long long avenue
where only sadness walks.
In exile every day
is called simply: agony.

And one more thing, salesmen and indifferent
of my land.  In exile you can lose
your heart, but if you don’t
they’ll never be able to kill its tenderness
nor the powerful strength of its storms.



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