Martivón Galindo, PhD, professor of Latin American and Latino/a Studies, delivered a presentation about her new book, Storm Rolling Down the Mountain, on March 3.
Storm Rolling Down the Mountain is a memoir, written in Spanish, about Professor Galindo’s life in El Salvador during the years 1979, 1980, and 1981, before her exile in the U.S. The book includes personal recollections, poems, and short songs. “This is a very fragmented story of my life,” Professor Galindo said. “It’s not a research document. It’s only impressions that I collected through the years that the storm was coming down in El Salvador.”
Professor Galindo began her presentation by expressing her gratitude for the Irene Woodward Professorship, which she received during the 2014–2015 academic year. The professorship allows recipients the time to pursue creative or scholarly interests, and Professor Galindo used her time to write and assemble her book. She also thanked her son for his moral and emotional support, and her mother for preserving notebooks that she had left behind in El Salvador.
In the first half of her presentation, Professor Galindo spoke about the historical context of those years—1979, 1980, and 1981—and the beginning of the Salvadoran Civil War. “El Salvador was not the focus of U.S. interest until the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua started. And mostly when the revolutionaries in Nicaragua won in 1979,” she said. “In that moment, the U.S. started to pay attention to what was going on in El Salvador. Of course, the military aid to El Salvador was there all the time. By the middle of the 70s, people realized that there were no options, no democratic options. And young people, mostly students, began to organize. And that’s how the guerilla movement started in the mountains. And some of these students and young people, workers, and unions were organizing in the country and in the cities. In the middle of all this that I have described, I was working as an architect and I was also a teacher at the national university.”
One of the turning points during Professor Galindo’s final years in El Salvador, as she explained, was the election of Ronald Reagan. “Ronald Reagan was elected president in November 1980, and there was a big celebration in the Sheraton Hotel in one of the best neighborhoods of the capital [San Salvador]. And we could hear the sound of the elite shooting their guns into the air, celebrating that Ronald Reagan was coming with new policies against the people of El Salvador.  started with Reagan and his policy of the use of war. The U.S. accelerated the military aid, and monetary aid to the Salvadoran government equaled $1 million per day. In December of 1981, the Atlacatl Battalion perpetrated the massacre of El Mozote. And in this massacre around 1,000 people—mainly women and children—were killed. This was a year when many of my friends were captured and disappeared.”
Professor Galindo said that she was able to leave El Salvador thanks to the foresight of her mother and father. “My mother, with my father’s support as a United States citizen, had started filling papers to obtain green cards for all the members of the family. But I was not convinced. I wanted to stay in El Salvador, and I denied that I wanted to sign those papers. But my mother made a plea and said it doesn’t matter if you are not going there, you don’t want to go then don’t go, but just sign the papers just in case. And I signed the papers with the idea that I would never go to the United States, that I would never leave the country.”
At the end of her talk, Professor Galindo read an excerpt from her book about one of her last days in El Salvador, when men with guns came to her house and accused her of being a communist and collaborator. Professor Galindo called this episode “the highest moment of terror in my life.”
She also spoke about the first few years she spent in the U.S. and how she adjusted to her new life. “Then came exile and the reconstruction of myself. I had to glue many pieces of the broken parts. And I tried placing them together. I became ‘the other’ in the U.S. And I had to look deep within, and I found strength. First, I had a child. I had a child to take care of. And I had to be practical about it. Second, I had inherited the warrior spirit of two extraordinary women that raised me—my abuela and my mother. I kept alive the spirit of my grandma to always look at life as an adventure. I joined some El Salvadorans and we founded the Cultural Documentation and Investigation Center of El Salvador. It lasted six years, and I was the director. Those were incredible years. I enjoyed organizing cultural events and concerts in the Mission District in San Francisco. I reinvented myself after being pushed away from my land.”
Professor Galindo has taught at HNU since 1996. She began her professional life in El Salvador as an architect, but went on to earn a Licenciatura en Letras from the Universidad Centroamericana José Simeón Cañas, in San Salvador, El Salvador. After immigrating to the United States, she received her master’s degree in Spanish and Latin American literatures from San Francisco State University and her doctorate in Hispanic languages and literatures from the University of California, Berkeley. Storm Rolling Down the Mountain is available to purchase here (the title of the book in Spanish is La Tormenta Rodando Por La Cuesta: IMPRESIONES - EL SALVADOR: 1979-1981).