Going Back to El Salvador ~ by René Colato Laínez
In the winter of 2010, I received a call from Salvadoran children’s book author Jorge Argueta. He and his wife Holly Ayala were organizing a children’s poetry festival in El Salvador and he was inviting me to present at the festival. For one reason or another, I had not gone back to El Salvador since my father and I had left the country and moved to the USA. I did my math: 2010 – 1985= 25. Twenty-five years away from El Salvador! It was time to go back. I was returning to my homeland as a teacher and as an author.
My country was still beautiful. But in 25 years, there had been many changes. I saw new roads, big shopping centers and new tourist places. The war torn El Salvador had evolved into a peaceful place. Salvadorans are working hard to have a better El Salvador for the new generations.
For three days, November 8-10, more than 600 children visited the National Library Francisco Gavidia. They came from more than 25 neighborhoods around the country. Children were excited to meet authors and poets. Some authors live in El Salvador such as Ana Ferrufino and Manlio Argueta. The rest of the authors came from others countries such as Jorge Argueta, Francisco X Alarcón and Margarita Robleda, Jeannette Martinez Cornejo, Jackie Méndez and myself.
Most of my books are about Salvadoran children such us René Has Two Last Names/ René tiene dos apellidos and My Shoes and I. Children were connected to these books because they could see their faces, culture and country. I told them that dreams come true. When I was a kid in El Salvador, I had two dreams: to become a teacher and to be an author. Now my dreams are a reality because I believed in myself, did my best and did not give up. Children looked at me with sparkles of hope in their eyes. They told me that they will also reach for their dreams and they were so proud to meet me a “famous Salvadoran author”.
Children were amazed to discover that a Tooth Fairy collect children’s teeth in the United States. They were interested in that “pretty princess” on the cover of The Tooth Fairy Meets El Ratón Pérez. “But she will not find any tooth here. All the teeth belongs to El Ratón,” a boy said. I told them that in the United States it was that pretty princess, the Tooth Fairy, who collects children’s teeth. They enjoyed the story and the adventure where their beloved Ratón Perez met their new hero the Tooth Fairy.
The Second Children’s Book Festival took place last November. Salvadoran authors Maria Guadalupe Castellanos, Silvia Elena Regalado, Jorgelina Cerritos and Manlio Argueta joined Jorge Argueta, Francisco X Alarcón, Margarita Robleda and myself. We had an incredible time reading to children. Children had fun writing their own poems and stories and you can watch a video of the festival here.
I am eager to go back to El Salvador for the Third Children’s Poetry Festival which will take place November 14 – 16, 2012. In this short video authors Jorge Argueta and Manlio Argueta talk about the next Children’s Poetry Festival.
In the meantime, we need to raise money for the next festival. We have an online fundraising campaign (click here to donate) and on Sept. 15, 2012 we will have the first Children’s Flor y Canto Festival at the Brava Theater in San Francisco. Come and visit authors Francisco X Alarcón, Lucha Corpi, Maya Christina Gonzalez, Jorge Argueta and more! Lots of surprises are in store and we guarantee a fun time for all! We need your support to have another great children’s poetry festival in El Salvador. Visit the Talleres de Poesia Facebook page to learn more!
René Colato Laínez is the Salvadoran award-winning author of many multicultural children’s books including The Tooth Fairy Meets El Ratón Pérez, From North to South, René Has Two Last Names, I Am René, the Boy, Playing Lotería and My Shoes and I. He is a graduate of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program in Writing for Children & Young Adults. René is “the teacher full of stories” at Fernangeles Elementary School. In his books, you can find culture, fun and hope for the future. Visit him at www.renecolatolainez.com and read our 2006 interview with him here.
We are thrilled to have René join us as PaperTigers’ Global Voices Guest Blogger for the month of July. Part 1 of his series “The War in El Salvador” was posted here. Part 2 “My Life in the United States” was posted here.
The Canadian Children’s Book Centre will be joining us as our Global Voices Guest Blogger in August.