A Shot in the Cathedral
by Mario Bencastro
English Translation by Susan Giersbach Rascón
Published: June 30, 1996
When Rogelio Villaverde finds himself destitute and desperate for employment, he leaps at the chance for work with The Tribune, a small newspaper in San Salvador. The jumbled pieces of his life begin to fall neatly into place with his new job and a new love interest, Lourdes. But the military coup d’etat in El Salvador brings curfews and the establishment of martial law upon the city. Rogelio’s work with the newspaper plunges him into the political melee, where he is forced to discard his political ambivalence and take a position. He can no longer remain indifferent in the face of the chaos that has overtaken the lives of everyone around him. His anti-government sentiments peak with the assassination of Archbishop Romero and the aftermath, when soldiers opened fire on the throngs of mourners.Rogelio’s first instinct is to escape the madness and accompany his boss and friend into exile. But destiny takes another radical twist, and chilling events seal Rogelio’s fate. He is compelled to remain and join the struggle for justice and freedom in his homeland. More than a political novel, A Shot in the Cathedral is a tribute to the endurance of the human spirit. Its protagonists are ordinary people who strive to live ordinary lives in the midst of dangerous and oppressive circumstances.Not a propagandistic or partisan view of the strife, A Shot in the Cathedral is remarkable for its sensitivity, restraint and poetic vision of the tragic and inhuman events and actions that polarized not only the people of El Salvador but also those of the United States, Latin America and Europe.
“A vivid newsreel of a country disintegrating.”—Publishers Weekly
“Makes powerfully real for us the human dimensions of war’s phlegmatic impersonality.”—Kirkus Reviews
“A Shot in the Cathedral is a political novel, not propaganda nor yellow press. The historian and the novelist here are walking together and often cross each other’s paths. A Shot in the Cathedral is a magnificent example of a novel that treats such a delicate theme as Latin American guerilla movements in a profound, objective and agile manner.”—Carlos Montemayor, judge for Mexico’s International Literary Award “Novedades y Diana”
A native of El Salvador, MARIO BENCASTRO is a novelist, playwright and painter. He took up the brush and canvas as the first outlet for his artistic expression. The medium garnered him remarkable success from an early age, with his works gracing the walls of major galleries in El Salvador, the United States, Latin America and Europe.Despite his triumph as a painter, the social and political drama which was unfolding in his country compelled Bencastro to concentrate his artistic endeavors in literature. In 1979, he began the arduous task of writing his first novel, A Shot in the Cathedral, a project that would consume the next ten years of his life. Chosen as a finalist from among 204 manuscripts submitted for the Diana y Novedades International Literary Prize competition in Mexico in 1989, the novel was first published in Spanish by the renowned Editorial Diana.
Bencastro currently resides in Florida; however, he maintains strong ties with his native land, spending a portion of each year there. El Salvador remains the author’s principle source of artistic inspiration.
Learn more at mariobencastro.org.