An Old Letter from El Salvador

Ronald E. Yates is an author of award-winning historical fiction and action/adventure novels, including the popular and highly-acclaimed Finding Billy Battles trilogy.

Between 1980 and 1982 I spent a lot of time for the Chicago Tribune in Central American countries such as El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua–all of which were involved in some vicious uprisings and revolutions. From time to time I will post one of the stories I wrote from these places. The following story was one I wrote from San Salvador. 

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador—In 1937, a year after Juan Chong arrived in San Salvador from Hong Kong and opened the Canton China Bar and Restaurant, an American journalist dropped in for a drink.

“I think he was from New York,” said Chong, shifting his 80-year-old frame in the ancient wicker chair behind the bar. “New York World. Yes, yes, that was it.’

Chong, his ancient brown eyes peering out from behind wire-rimmed bifocals perched on his nose, examined the reporter sitting across the bar from him.

“You American?” he asked. The reporter nodded.

“You know something?  You’re the first American journalist to come in here since 1937. You work for New York World, too?”

“The Chicago Tribune,” the reporter answered. “The New York World died a long time ago.”

“You come to write about the war, right?” Chong asked. The reporter nodded again.

”There had been some trouble just before that other reporter showed up,” Chong said, recharging his memory cells with a shot of vodka. “Some peasants up north had shot a couple of soldiers. There was talk of another rebellion like the Matanza.” (The Matanza, or “slaughter,” had occurred In 1931 and 1932, when some 32,000 men, women, and children were killed by government forces after an ill-fated uprising by the Trotskyite Indian named Farabundi Marti).

“We were all very excited about It, Chong said, igniting an ancient pipe.”But this American journalist, he was not. He