My Roots
Life and theater in Guatemala: Chat with Manuel Corleto
by Edward Waters Hood
Manuel Corleto and his personal contribution to the Guatemalan Contemporary Theater
Corleto's interview to Otel Roc (With Every Drop of Blood from the Wound, Literary Award Rogelio Sinán, Panamá)

© 1996: Manuel Corleto

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Standing (left to right):
Martín, Hedthel, Manuel, Javier, Jorge.
Sitting: Gabriela, Manuel, Manuela.

Life and theater in Guatemala:
Chat with Manuel Corleto
Manuel Corleto, recipient of the Premio Centroamericano de Literatura Rogelio Sinán in 1996, has a long literary trajectory in Guatemala. The mayority of his plays had been published in collections -El canto de Gregorio, Algo más de treinta años después, El animal vertical, Los Dogo$, (Guatemala: Volumen 1, Dirección General de Cultura y Bellas Artes); ¿Quién va a morderse los codos?, Lluvia de vincapervincas, Vade retro, El día que a mí me maten (Guatemala: Volumen 2, Dirección General de Cultura y Bellas Artes, 1979); El tren, Opus uno, Opus dos, Dios es zurdo, Ellos y... Judas (Guatemala: Volumen 3, Dirección General de Cultura y Bellas Artes, 1994); La Profecía, Edición del Autor, 1989)- and he has five edited novels -Bajo la fuente (Guatemala: Ministerio de Cultura y Deportes, 1a. edición1987 y 2a. edición 1994); Se acabó el tiempo (Guatemala: Artemis Edinter, 1992); Malasuerte murió en Pavón (Guatemala Artemis Edinter, 1992); A fuerza de llorar tanto (Guatemala: Oscar de León Palacios, 1994); y Con cada gota de sangre de la herida (Panamá: Universidad Tecnológica)-. This interview was done in Panamá City, March of 1998, by Edward Waters Hood, during the VI Congreso Internacional de Literatura Centroamericana.
Manuel, can we talk about your home town and youth experiences?
    I was born in the southern coast of Guatemala, in Escuintla. This city is very close to the sea and the whole region is hot and dry most of the year. My father worked drilling wells. I lived in the coast my first seven years of age, in completely arid places because his job was justly to find the water. That, in some way, defined my life in the sense that my first memories are from the ocean, the beach, the sun, the heat, making me love the cities close to the sea and the sand.  So I was seven years old when we moved to Guatemala City. And from then now I am city person.
    At first I studied in a private school called the Colegio Suiza. In charge were the mother and the three daughters, a very strict kind of teachers, martial like, who usually used he wooden ruler to make a point. It was very difficult for me, but for financial reasons I was transferred to a public school. I really liked it because the level in public education was fairly good. The private schools were for wealthy people. Consequently it was a very sharp division and we, the middle classes, went to public elementary schools and later to the public institutes. At the time there was only the State University.
    Since I was very little I had an inclination for painting and literature. And I developed the two things side to side.  The Academia de la Universidad Popular (Popular University Academy) occupied the second and third floors of the building. In the first stage there was the auditorium. And one day, when I was fourteen years old, I heard strange noises and I stepped down the spiral steps, got to the entrance curtains and discovered the theater. Usually I would go up stairs to my painting classes and down stairs to my house without looking at anything else. But this time I remember myself inhibited, watching what they were doing there. And what they were doing there was an Argentinian play. I can't forget it because of the gaucho costumes. It was a drama about the mother and the two sons, one of them a bastard, who were in love with the same girl. It was a very conventional kind of play but I liked it.
    I was so touched that I wanted to know what the theater was about. But I was so shy, probably for having lived in the country side for so long, because of the loneliness in those places, because of the aridity itself. So I asked a good friend to go and find out if I could study acting and that was all. At the very moment that I became registered in the Academy, the painter inside me died and the actor was born instead.
    When at seven years old I arrived to Guatemala City with my mother and my two younger sisters (my parents were separated at the moment), we lived in my grandaunt's house. It was a big colonial type house with a fountain it the first patio, a walkway for the horses from the street to the second patio with a fig tree, a not very common one. And not everybody had fig trees in their patio and an attic totally destroyed full with doves.
    There was also an incredible library. My grandaunt was a very avid reader and my family inclined to the books. And when I was able to read, I got immersed in this wonderful world. At that time it was believed that the best age to learn to read was seven years. So I learned at that age and from then on I passed much of my free time with the classics, encyclopedias, even the hand painted Bible and, of course, the most important Hispanic writers of the first decades of the twentieth century.  It was my first contact with that type of books.
    I'm talking about this, because in my early teens I wrote my first and only detective story. Later on, when I was a theater student, I began to write drama. The Universidad Popular wasn't a formal theater school, but there were special courses, workshops and plenty of diverse activities.  And I was working as an actor, and making my practices as director at sixteen, and designing and constructing decorates. And very often we used to go to other towns of the country with all types of plays.
    It was fun. And I quit my formal education and became a full time actor, playwright and director.    
There are many Central American novelists that begin their careers writing poetry.
    That wasn't my case. I wrote some poetry to my girlfriends and to life. I think it is a normal process when you're in love. It's nice, creates the atmosphere and it's worth it, as it happens in the movie El cartero (The Mailman) where a guy borrows Neruda's poems to gain his amorous conquest. And when Neruda itself asks the man why he took them without permission, the man answers that that's what the poetry is for, that it belongs to anybody who wants to obtain his goals in love. I didn't become a poet but a playwright. And more strange yet, after twenty years writing plays I didn't want to write anything else. To me it was like a mortal sin even to think in the possibility of writing a novel, for instance. And the word writer didn't really like me. I was a playwright and I wanted to stay as a playwright all my life. I was completely identified with the scene and the fact that a man from the theater was able to write for the theater.
    Everything was connected, simultaneous. I think that was very important for my formation as a playwright to know the theater from inside and the fact that I studied painting, sculpture, engraving, etc. That made it easy for me to get into the technical field in designing costumes, decorates, make-up. I did all this at the same time.

In Guatemala who were your friends that were writing and doing theater?  
    That was a kind of strong brotherhood, and it happened to be that I was standing within two generations. Everybody talked about “the such” generation, “the such” group and it happened to me be alone due to my age. There where the old, the masters, and the very young promises. That made me get close to the old who became my mentors (Manuel José Arce, Carlos Menkos-Deká, Hugo Carrillo and his brother Raúl Carrillo, a very good story teller and novelist translated to the German).
    My family had financial problems. They lost some properties after the war. And one of my granduncles was a politician. And to be a politician in Central America at that time is saying that he was in a very bad relationship with the government, and that he was in dismay and with a great possibility of going to jail or the exile.
    It was another passage that influenced me at the time. My grandaunt, virgin and martyr, had a fiancé who was a cadet of the military school involved in the attempt of assassination of the tyrant, who got caught and was executed by the shooting squad. My grandaunt never married and I remember a photograph or her beloved in the clothes cabinet.
    To this house used to go the personalities of the literature of the epoch. Of course, it was before I was born and when I was little. My grandaunt was well known in that circle and they would chat and drink coffee. I was told that Miguel Angel Asturias (Nobel Prize of Literature in 1967) went several times. And that Mario Monteforte Toledo was in love with one of my aunts. Many years later, when I was an adult, I met Monteforte Toledo and we established a good relationship. I asked him about my aunt and he told me that it was true. I asked my aunt and she got a little nervous. I concerted a date for them, but I don't remember why they didn't meet.
    I won several awards in theater. As a playwright every year, for a while, I had a prize. It was a kind of tradition to participate and win in Quetzaltenango, the prestigious Juegos Florales. And there I met the greats as Roberto Sosa y Manlio Argueta, Manuel José Arce, and all the others. I'm talking about the late sixties and early seventies when we all coincided in Xela for the September fiestas.
    When I published my first novel, Francisco Morales Santos was surprised that a playwright were writing a novel, when it generally is that a novelist writes a play. Anyway, my training as actor and director was giving a characteristic treatment in my novel, particularly in the dialogues. It's the Waterloo for the majority who intend to write a novel. When you start to write narrative you ask yourself: How can I make my characters talk in a credible and natural form? This is very difficult, but I'm sure that in my case the theater was an important training.
    I'm writing professionally since the sixties. I consider I'm a serious writer that prefers work rather than going to parties and cocktails. And being a lonely the writers who congregate in groups, associations and inner circles try to margin me. This is the sixtieth international literature congress, and only because I won the Rogelio Sinán Prize I was invited to assist. If not, as before I should be forgotten. But I know that kind of events are very important, because the public realize that you exist and begin to pay attention to your work. They suddenly discover you are a playwright, a novelist, an actor and director. For me it's like getting into a new dimension. I am aware that someone is going to know more about me, about mi job, and eventually could be interested in doing a translation or a study of my books.
    I'm very happy and motivated for the Rogelio Sinán award, especially because there were three women (Alina Camacho-Gingerich, Alondra Badano e Itzel Velásquez) the ones who choose my book. They are women of quality, intelligence, very professional, well prepared and each one in her field incapable of making concessions. That made me really proud.
Can you talk about some of your plays?
    Yes. I begin with El animal vertical. This play debut was during a Guatemalan Theater Festival and I won the Direction Prize with it. It was my professional beginning in 1973. The next year, in one of La Antigua Festivals was the opening of Algo más de treinta años después and I won a Direction Prize too with this other play. It's theater of the Absurd and in my novelistic there is that tendency too. If I have to mention another, there is a small piece. I asked myself once if the audience wants the equivalent of the ticket price. If you pay you deserve a two hour show. That's your right. And if somebody touches your holly right you won't be happy. So I decided to do an experiment. Such an experiment never was a fact because the theaters closed their doors in my very face. Let me explain to you the seven minutes of good drama theory (when the play finishes the actors left and the audience, without knowing what is going on, begin to protest and finally break the theater). Well, this is to demonstrate that it is not the size, the audience is not paying for a two hour spectacle, it is paying for a play and if the play lasts seven minutes it doesn't matter. After that the play became of “normal” length with the title Lluvia de vincapervincas. There is another, El día que a mí me maten (The day I get killed). This is the lyrics of a Mexican Corrido that says: El día que a mí me maten que sea de cinco balazos y estar cerquita de ti para morir en tus brazos (The day I get killed has to be with five bullets and very close to you so I can die in your arms), and it adds that fortunately, only one of the five shots was a mortal wound. The main subject in my theater and novels is the critic to the corrupt system in our countries. And it was developed in the worst years of the civil war and repression in my country. What spared me to die was my non participation in the armed fight against the government. Many writers, as Otto Rene Castillo, and Luis de Lión were disappeared and killed. I was very careful in that sense. And I survived because I never militated in the left or in the right wings. When I was living in Mexico, in the early seventies, I received a commission from the Guatemalan guerrilla asking me to participate actively in the movement. They put my back against the wall, asking me about the fact that I write muy bonito (sweet talking) but where was my contribution to the revolutionary fight? And I had a clear idea about it and I answered to them that I was overwhelmed by his decision and spirit but that wasn't my way of doing things and that I believed in the power of the word over the power of the sword. Blah-blah. It was an easy way of making my point and get away from them without any trouble.
    Some time after that a man arrived from Africa called Ives Fleurima. Carlos Menkos-Deka, the Teatro Universitario director was a very generous person and permitted him to stay in the theater and live there in exchange for some work as a technician. I was amazed because Ives, as if in the branches of a tree in his native jungle, was sleeping in the highest part of the scenic cube embracing the wooden frame. And I was afraid of a fatal fall. I'm telling you this, because some years later a guerrilla man in jail commented to a music friend that my head had a price, and that if I stayed in Guatemala rather than going to Mexico there were suppose to kill me because I was believed to be a CIA informant (as Fleurima was). It is all I know. That was the left wing. From the right wing, one of my karate students, a soldier, told me that my dossier was big and that the army intelligence was only waiting for a false step from me to get me.    
    Ten years later I did confirm it with the publication of Bajo La fuente, my first novel. It was in the beginning of the presidency of Vinicio Cerezo from Democracia Cristiana. I won the Premio Froylán Turcios and the Ministerio de Cultura was interested in the first edition. We made the arrangements, the novel was printed and everything was ready for the launching of the book. But it was delayed. Asking why, they told me that the book was a dirty book and that the government won't be able to endorse it. They didn't mention the real reason and everything was intended as a moral issue. Mario Monteforte Toledo knew about it and went directly to speak with the president, telling him that either they present and distribute the book or he is taking the next plane to Mexico and returning to his exile, because he was back to believing in democracy and not the censorship.
    The new government was aware of the strength of Mario Monteforte as a political banner.  He was offered Secretaries of State and Monteforte said he was not interested in power. Admirable! In some other occasion they gave him financial support for the presentation of one of his plays. And he returned the money he didn't spend. Who in the hell does that? Mario Monteforte Toledo! They gave him twenty thousand dollars and he returned five thousand. Who in the hell would do that in Guatemala? As I say, only Mario Monteforte Toledo. Period.  He didn't accept neither the Ministerio de Cultura nor the Ministerio de Educación. He said no thanks, because he wasn't in agreement with the government politics. Who does this? That demonstrates the ideological values of this man. Well. When Mario gave them the ultimatum the book was printed, with a date for the launching. They agreed finally. But the government wasn't present in the act. There was not advertising or promotion of any kind. The edition was consistent in 1000 books. They gave me 500 and I personally distributed my share. As for the 500 books left, nobody knows what happened to them, they just disappeared. Possibly the humidity and the moths finished them at the end. The government accepted Mario's ultimatum but they took revenge destroying the books. Shame on them.
    Of course I had trouble with the thematic of my plays and novels. Even though I didn't run and kept working in the more difficult years of the repression without doing any concessions and knowing the risks. But, as I told you before, my logic of survival was based in the fact that I'm a writer, I'm working, I have my ideology, I'm a rebel but nobody can say I am a subversive.

Is there, for you, any kind of non political, non social literature?
    There are not any dividing lines, everything is connected. But we are talking about the price of your head in countries like mine, some real and evident fact if we count the dead and disappeared. I don't believe in a division. Maybe it's the measurement for the concessions you can do. I don't know. Once a guy got close to me and asked me: “Do you want to stay alive in this country? Use your auto censorship. Don't ever touch this people and you are going to be fine”. To me it sounded terrible. I think there is not a line, that everything is connected. The people in position of power are afraid of the word. Mario Monteforte said so in an analysis of my theater and first novels. He said that in me there was not anger, that the things I write have a sense of purity, but he added that in me the word is sharper and more destructive than a bullet.
    If somebody is acquiring knowledge about certain themes, among the knowledge there is the capacity of debate. Knowing your rights and obligations, you can draw a schema and question the system. That's why the dictatorships traditionally try to maintain the people in a total state of ignorance, because they can gain more control. And who has collaborated with that the most? The religion, the dogmatic part: This is a sin, that you cannot do it, the power of God, etcetera. That drives you to say amen and accept everything as an unquestionable fact. Education in our country is for them opposition. And they don't like it. If I know the law, if I know my rights, I can question you.
You can't eat the letters, can you?
    Some times yes, like a letters soup. For the majority of writers, writing is something you do by stealing time to your job and rest. You can eat the letters, but just a few can live out of them.
    When I encountered the theater, or the theater had the close encounter with me, it was love at first sight. As I told you, I was a student at the Painting School, and the only possible way of making money and a living was in an advertising agency. I learned about marketing, promotion, commercial production. And I landed in the only possible place that fitted me: an art department. I worked for many years in the media, playing all the bases, as a designer, artistic director, creative director and, finally, manager assistant. In the seventies, before I went to Mexico, the owner of the agency were I was working made me a proposition: “I'm about to buy a bankrupt advertising agency. I want you to be the manager and my partner”. Can you imagine? I was twenty five years old, aggressive, ambitious, willing to make a career in that field. But on the other hand there was the opportunity in Mexico to experiment in theater, television, in the movies.
    You bet. I rejected my boss' offer. And when I came back from Mexico, three years later, I returned to my late job, until I was fed up with the advertising contents. It was the last shock I could bear. We, the agency people, were sent to Costa Rica for a wax survey. We were hidden in a small room all day long listening to the housewives talking about the non sliding wax in the other side of the window glass (a mirror for them). The housewives were asked about the wax. And we reached the conclusion that the non sliding wax wasn't non-sliding at all but quite dangerous on the floors. So I said to the account executives that we couldn't endorse the non sliding campaign. They saw me as a rare animal and launched the campaign anyway. I did quit not only from the agency but from the advertising world.
      That was the drop that filled the glass. It was beyond the limits of my patience. So I had the good fortune of being hired by a very important editorial in Guatemala, specialized in scholar books and all kinds of educational publications. This editorial made a fortune up to one cent charts of geographical, scientific, technical contents. They invented, more than fifty years ago, that wonderful aid to teachers and students.
    When I began working with them, they were already twenty years in the market and it was the exact moment when the editorial was suffering the transformation from a family business to a very competitive enterprise. I was the one who organized the editorial production department, in the graphic field, getting more and more involved in books. So, paradoxically, not the theater or the literature but the book production is what have made possible my financial survival.
    On the other hand, karate was introduced in Guatemala in 1952 by Jorge Sosa García, a man who listened about ju-jitsu after the II World War when martial arts were totally unknown in the western hemisphere. In the beginning he trained alone with the help of a book bought in the United States. By the time he opened a small karate studio, he met accidentally a Japanese electronics technician. They became friends and the Japanese was, coincidentally, a karate teacher. I began my karate training in 1967. I was looking for a contact sport and tried boxing first, but my long nose was bleeding all the time. Next, wrestling, but my physical consistency was weak. Judo sounded interesting to me, but as in wrestling my weight didn't help me and I'm not that kind of strong man. Finally I found karate and it fitted me because you keep the distance with the opponent and you don't really need much pounds or muscles. I did take it seriously as a philosophy and a discipline and I'm still sticking to it. I don't know if karate helped in some way for my literature or if it was the other way around, but it has been a great experience in my life. The last ten years I've been an instructor, licensed by the Japanese Karate Federation with the grade sensei (teacher). Karate to me is not for making money. I have a very modest dojo (studio) and I like to teach young people and women.

Can we talk about your prized novel Con cada gota de sangre de la herida (With Every Drop of Blood from the Wound)?
    I wrote a first novel of about three hundred pages in the early eighties. I was working in the editorial, so it was easy to make the final montage and get the book ready for press. But something was bothering me and I had my doubts. So with the book finished in my hands I decided not to print it. I never published it and I never will. This decision was most celebrated by Mario Monteforte. He said: “So many little writers have the good sense and fortune of never publishing their first novel, because the first novel is full of imperfections, because it is an experiment that drives them to an unknown world. That's why the ending is not too happy”.  He celebrated my decision and I agree because that first novel was a rehash of great part of my plays. I'm glad I disposed it.
    That was when I wrote the one I consider my first novel Bajo la fuente and I won the Premio Froylán Turcios in Honduras in 1985. Afterwards it liked me. I continued working in the genre with Se acabó el tiempo and A fuerza de llorar tanto. Both novels were awarded with the Premio Guatemalteco de Novela in 1991 and 1993. In 1991 I published another novel, this time it was requested by a very famous delinquent called Malasuerte (Bad luck). He offered me money for writing his story. And he didn't tell me the same thing twice because it wasn't common to gain money writing so I accepted. With some reserves because it is well known that many criminals sell their copywrights just minutes before being executed. But I imposed my conditions and he accepted. If he wanted his story, I will tell it. The story of a criminal, that in a stage of his terrible life, decided to change and dies in jail as a criminal for the rebirth as a man of good.
    Marc Zimmerman criticizes my novel. He didn't like it and I agree. But it is a job as any other (I already had three awarded novels). And as the Bible says “There is a time for everything in life”, don't you think so?
    I was in a moment that I wanted to talk about myself, my childhood, my neighborhood; all that I had lived and experienced in my adolescence. I remembered something I had written a long time ago about my grandaunt's house. I found it and it became part of the description in my novel Con cada gota de sangre de la herida (With Every Drop of Blood from the Wound). I took the old elements and reinvented the story in the event of a horrendous crime perpetrated against a homosexual in the old barrio de Gerona. He was a clockmaker by profession and a doll repairer by avocation. In his workshop he has doll parts hanging all over the place. And it is true. I mean when I was a child I saw this very workshop and I felt terrified looking at the arms, heads, legs, torsos, eyes everywhere. This was the shooter in my novel. The two friends split after that man is found in pieces hanging among his dolls parts. Nobody knows what happened but some possibilities are suggested. The watchmaker raped the small brother of one of the protagonists. After many years, the friends are reunited again and they make a blood pact that takes part in the end of the novel.
    The University Theater presented my play El tren based in a narrative text. The characters are the chief of the train station in a country town, his son and a school teacher. The son is working in the city but is now visiting his father. And the teacher, she is going back to the city in the same train with the son and the tyrant. This is the moment were the action develops. And in the very end a bomb explodes. I'm telling you this because when I saw the montage I was amazed. The director decided that the son was gay. And it gave the play a different dimension, something I didn't even think about and with gusto in the presentation.
    What is happening to me today is that I'm ahead one novel and a half. And come back to the events that motivated Con cada gota de sangre de la herida (With Every Drop of Blood from the Wound) is painful and strange, because I mix characters and stories from other works. I fill a great distance between me and the novel.
    Anyway a passage that I consider interesting in that novel is the chess game that link the events related with the crime. I like it very much. It is short. In a half dozen of moves there is a chess mate and everything is said. It was not my intention to inscribe the novel in the crime story genre. There is a crime, an existential problem, the story of the neighborhood, the politics of the moment, the real events that marked this people lives. As I told you before, it is very autobiographic, about my personal experiences in my beloved barrio de Gerona.

How was your narrative received?
    There are two things about my critics. They want to know why I am abusing the theatrical resources and including some dramatic material in my novels. And they ask why it is so autobiographical. Another thing that bothers some readers is the absolute license I take with the language, with grammar. I think that these aspects, precisely, are the success of my work, a matter of style.

With Maximón

Manuel Corleto and his personal contribution
to the Guatemalan Contemporary Theater
(Dissertation in Alianza Francesa, during the Festival Apolo with the participation of Manuel Corleto for Guatemala, Roberto Gusteve for El Salvador and Isidro España for Honduras, 1995)

I consider myself a product of the revolution of October 1944. I was born that very year, sucked into the essence of freedom and democracy. But I didn't enjoy it because of the ominous and shameful invasion backed for the gringos in 1954.
    Located into this frame of time, I suffered one phenomenon that was going to put an indelible mark in my life, in the theater, and set me in an almost lonely position in between generations. When young, I associated with older men. And now, being myself an adult, with the young.  
   Therefore, I am a contemporary in my chore but out of time. My generation corresponds to the sixties, but anyway we can't talk properly of a generation of the sixties because there is none.
    I said that marked my life, allowing me to see up to my elders and down to the ones who follow me. Not in the pejorative sense but chronological.
    I did live, for instance,  the golden epoch of the traditional theater with don Alberto Martínez, the Theater Academy with Manuel Lisandro Chávez in the Universidad Popular, the belle époque of The Universitay Theater with Carlos Menkos-Deká, the creation of the Festivales de Teatro Guatemalteco with Luis Domingo and Rubén Morales Monroy, the droll theater with Rubén Aguirre "Plantillas del zapato", the intent of Compañía Nacional de Teatro with Hugo Carrillo, the Festivales de Antigua Guatemala with Eunice Lima, the Gadem with Luis Herrera first and then with Carlos Catania. I was in contact, by different means, with the work of Domingo Tessier, Seki Sano, Jack Brooking, Manuel José Arce, Francisco Salvador, el "Bolo" Flores, Víctor Hugo Cruz, Tito Medina, César Avilés "Tamakún", Claudio Lanuza, Mario González, René Molina (among many others) and, working in their plays, with Galich, Solórzano, Asturias and the other ones who preceded us.
    In the sixties, I was saying, that incredible theatrical movement served as the foundation, the support for my developing as an actor first, and a playwright and director afterwards. It is curious, nevertheless, how the invasion and the subsequent right wing governments couldn't repress the creation at all levels as it happened with the so called democratic ones, but it was because of the excellent quality of artists of the revolutionary generation who were capable of maintaining his highest artistic expressions in this specific time.
    The theater, as an integral art, allowed then the most rigorous contact with the greats of the music, dance, painting. I myself, before even dreaming of getting into the theater, I studied to become a painter.
    From this point of view, there is no doubt that my job in the theater, profoundly influenced by the plastics, music, dance, had to be related to a personal search and more that that a lonely search. On one hand there were my teachers and mature friends and on the other hand nobody but me. The elders helped me to clarify my doubts, to make several corrections;  but I didn't have, I don't know if fortunate or unfortunately, people of my generation with whom I could discuss about creation and experimentation.
    For this very particular circumstance I had the honor and the responsibility—to put it in some way—and while I was growing up in age and experiences, to face many challenges and try many things. While I was young, I was seeing with benevolence for my elders whom considered that I was a kind of enfant terrible; it was a situation attenuated with the years—the benevolence, I mean—for giving way to an attitude of rejection that I have to face everyday with more strength and determination to not end swallowed by the mediocrity, everyday most evident, in the theatrical media.
    When you have to talk about yourself, your contribution to the contemporary theater is not an easy task. You have the risk to seem boastful and immodest—that I don't think being the first but yes much of the second—, I take the total responsibility when I say that the contemporary theater, in new proposals, begins and ends with me. My elders stayed in a very conventional stream and didn't take any unnecessary risks in experimentation and seek new expression forms or, simply, they are living in some other countries or are retired, working in a most lucrative and liberal profession. That's the reason I have inaugurated some events into the theater, most of them considered taboo, of bad taste, against the established by the social norms, moral and ethics.
    There are many factors that seem to be contributed in the notable down in the quality of the theater in Guatemala in the last twenty years. The main among them is the political repression that collected its quota of death and destruction, retracting the theater people to the experimentation, to face compromise in the thematic and stay in a very low level of exposure. And it is clear in a way, because the creator is subversive. And subversion is combated by the political system.
    Another determinant factor in the stagnation of the Guatemalan theater is, without any doubts, the limited support given to the creator for his development, by the government and the private enterprises. On the contrary, the establishment has moved to fury against him considering him unproductive and conflictive.
    Another factor seems to be the lack of adequate spaces for the experimentation, because the contemporary Guatemalan theater is closed in a very tight circle of interests that dictates a standard for the theater of consume. If the repression has obligated to make an easy comedy theater for entertainment exclusively, today in a supposed democracy, there is a type of non compromised theater, a theater of the minimal effort and fast digestion for the alienated audience.
    The theatrical production of the late years-that I call contemporary only because it corresponds to our time and not because it is a serious effort in the field starting in the seventies-has given some sparks in the case of Abel Lam, Jorge Godínez y Olga Armírez. Abel Lamb, a playwright with great sensibility in the difficult task of the short play, wasn't strong enough to overcome the indifference of the media and institutions and maybe in an unconscious way decided to stop with his small body the truck that killed him. Jorge Godínez, with my same age but newer in theater, gave samples of exceptional talent, but abandoned the drama for the novel. And Olga Armírez, from the young University Theater, has quality enough and promise. But, if I am not mistaken, we finish the counting here.
    In the very young, nevertheless, it seems to be a new air. Maybe with the years we'll be in the possibility of talking about them as the generation that have taken in a responsible way the ship's course trough the 2000 year. Then, probably, the majority of the contemporary of today will be dead, but surely our work and effort will germinate in them, as it has to be, to permit the theater to be considered an integral art, the most beautiful and ephemeral that exists, and not an article of consumption for the majorities. That's why the soccer exists, isn't it?

    The blonde, by Pablo Corleto

Corleto's interview to Otel Roc
(With Every Drop of Blood from the Wound,
Literary Award Rogelio Sinán, Panamá)
Self-portrait spoken of the so called winner of the
Premio Centroamericano de Literatura "Rogelio Sinán" 1996

Corleto, that's me, is well known as a very conflictive person who is used to say what he wants to, and that doesn't like people who don't hesitate to shut doors on his face and sue him. He has gotten “black ball in the Ministerio de Cultura y Deportes de Guatemala”-meaning he is not wanted over there-because of his critics to the corruption in the government.
    Otel Roc (Corleto written backwards, as a pseudonym), is the other me, who besides winning the Premio Rogelio Sinán with his novel Con cada gota de sangre de la herida, has won several international awards in theater and holds the record of four novels written and four awarded.

Technical file:
Manuel Corleto, Escuintla, Guatemala, February 23rd, 1944.
    Guatemalan, writer.
    Actor, director, playwright, producer.
    Actor, director, screenwriter, TV producer (México and Guatemala).
    MAESTRE DE TEATRO (MASTER IN THEATER), Juegos Florales Centroamericanos, Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, 1976.

    This interview, in three parts (don't blame me, I was ordered to do so), has taken place in the airplane that brought him to Panamá, in the award act in Panamá City and in the plane that took him back to Guatemala, between the seven hours of April 22nd and the twenty hours of April 28th, 1997.
Note: Corleto is not responsible for Otel Roc's declarations, and Otel Roc doesn't give a damn about it.
Corleto: To Panamá, at last, it seemed as if you couldn't make it.
Otel Roc: With the flying hours I got as a writer and contestant, I never doubted the first edition of the Premio Centroamericano de Literatura Rogelio Sinán had to be mine.
Corleto: Why so sure, when the literary prizes are a lottery, kind of a lifesaver for the always in crisis writer?
Otel Roc: I never buy the lottery. The dice are loaded. The ace is under the gambler's sleeve. I knew the prize has to be for me and nobody else.
Corleto: Can you be more specific?
Otel Roc: I want to make clear that any declaration I make at twenty thousand feet, has no value for the Guatemalan Press when I get down to the ground. I bet you.
Corleto: Don't understand.
Otel Roc: If I go to the cabin and order the pilot to go to Cuba, by instance, my name, my picture and my fucking story hijacking a plane will go around the world in less time that the one I spend telling you. But a Literary Prize, who cares?
Corleto: I do, as anybody who believes in culture does.
Otel Roc: (LAUGHING) Where am I going? Why am I going there? What's the importance of the prize? To tell you the truth, I'm going there because I don't understand how three professional women, as jurors, awarded my novel.
Corleto: What do you mean? Five years of work doesn't mean anything? The constancy on the desk, the work's discipline, the care in the language, the ability of putting words together, the talent.
Otel Roc: Did you read Chapter One? It's disgusting. Two old ladies do it to a priest at the beat of Debussy's piano work.
Corleto: No. But I did read the verdict of the three women jurors.
Otel Roc: Literature loses its value when it is in academic hands. It's a kind of autopsy. On the contrary, get its true dimension when in hands of a reader.
Corleto: There is the announcement. We are arriving in Panamá.
Otel Roc: I heard it, I'm not deaf. I understand English too. Let's forget about the interview for now, because if something makes me really nervous is the perspective of having an accident in the landing.
Corleto: The only accident, as I see it, is your prizes record.
Corleto: You shut me up yesterday in a very abrupt way. Do you feel better now that the prize ceremony is over?
Otel Roc: That's the part of the award I really dislike. Everybody is expecting too much without thinking we are simply mortals, as everybody. To me, by instance, the heartburns were killing me all night long.
Corleto: What did you eat?
Otel Roc: Lobster in garlic sauce. I'm not accustomed to it.
Corleto: You should be, with so many prizes in theater and novel.
Otel Roc: I'm referring to the food, stupid!
Corleto: Are you OK now?
Otel Roc: Better. Only because I'm having a very good time with my three juror women, doing some tourism in the Canal, eating delicious food, watching amazing shows, talking of anything but literature, the heat didn't kill me… Corleto: What do you think about the jurors?
Otel Roc: What a question! Besides being beautiful and non feminist women, they know what are talking about when analyzing Con cada gota de sangre de la herida, even though I don't understand a word.
Corleto: By the way, why the title?
Otel Roc: Do you think because you are a newsman you can ask anything you want? The critics are growing even underneath the rocks and they are worried by nonsense. The title tells it all.
Corleto: If the title says it all, why read the wining novel of the Premio Rogelio Sinán?
Otel Roc: A good point. They are awarding a manuscript that will be accessible for the reader until the publication day, sometime next year. Unfortunately the same thing happens with Rogelio Sinán, the great Panamenian writer. His books are sold out. I think he has to be published… And I better stop here, because I have to go to the bank. And that negro, the one over there, is waiting until I get the prize money to steal it.
Corleto: Here we are, flying again, going back to our country. How do you feel?
Otel Roc: Good. My stomach is good.
Corleto: I'm asking you about bringing another prize to our land.
Otel Roc: Oh! In the bottom of my heart, I don't care. The only real triumph is that of the spirit over the flesh.
Corleto: What?
Otel Roc: I know it only matters to my family and close friends.
Corleto: You're mistaken. Everybody is willing of your return.
Otel Roc: Specially the ones who I owe money to. Let's be realistic, Corleto. If you were returning after a spectacular robbery, the international and national press would be dying for a picture of you, a declaration of your lips. You would be a great ass kicker. Let's be crystal clear you and me. Nobody gives a damn about a writer, nobody understands his work. Because a writer is someone who is tied to a non productive waterwheel, dreaming with words and ideas, incapable of solving the crisis and problems of the human kind. Where is the delegation of the friends of the books to welcome you? Where is the delegate of the Ministerio de Cultura y Deportes? Where's the reporter for an exclusive interview? Where's the editor to publish your books? Believe me, Manuel. This triumph, though honoring, doesn't mean anything to Guatemala, because right now, in this very moment, there is a soccer game for the championship of…
(Otel Roc remained alone inside the plane and the flight attendant asks him to leave right away before she calls security, because who the hell does he think he is.)

    Brrr Utah!

    Mustang P-51 (Utah & Guatemala)