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Poet Warriors

Pork Mango Picadillo

By Tim Hazell


“A poet must also learn how to lead an attack.”

—Ho Chi Minh


The mythology of resistance and the image of the poet warrior are alluring and romantic. However, few are capable of assuming the mantle of the fighter with a pen.

In the Philippines, poet and activist Emanuel Lacaba (1948–1973) aspired to combine an intellectual calling with entanglement in the peasant movement. While still in his teens, he wrote of his longing to be “involved in humankind,” which led to his role as a student activist in the late 1960s and the drafting of a manifesto, Down from the Hill. In it, Lacaba called out to his people to “get down from the hills” of elitism and join the mechanism for sociopolitical change.

Three years before his death in 1973, Lacaba gathered his verse into a collection, Salvaged Poems, and wrote, “I feel no sadness anymore; I can only remember the world we left behind, whose wiles of momentary farce and luxurious living we have to continue to struggle against.”

Born in El Salvador, poet and revolutionary Roque Dalton (1935–1975) reveled in a love-hate relationship with his country. His conviction that poets must serve as instruments of reform “in word and deed” was the product of a stagnant, unjust society. Roque Dalton’s father, one of the members of the infamous Dalton brothers gang, settled in El Salvador after a career of robbing banks and invested his fortune in coffee plantations.

Dalton assumed a defiant posture from early adolescence. He joined the Communist Party and was arrested in 1959 for “forming red cells among workers, students, and peasants.” Sentenced to be executed by a firing squad on October 26, 1960, Dalton was saved the day before when the dictatorship was overthrown by a coup d’état. He spent 1961 in Mexican exile, then moved to Cuba before returning, disguised, to his home country in 1965. He considered himself a professional revolutionary, his personal ethics forged in the incendiary atmosphere of El Salvador.

Traditional Salvadorian cuisine consists of ingredients from indigenous Lenca and Pipil cultures, and European and Spanish settlers. Here is a picadillo (hash) of pork and mango, variations of which can be found throughout Mexico and Central America.


Pork Mango Picadillo


1 lb ground pork

1 tbsp oil

1/3 cup thinly sliced onions

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp dried oregano, crushed

1 tsp dried thyme, crushed

1 cup of chunky, tomato-based salsa (prepared or homemade)

1 mango, peeled, pitted, and cubed

2 tbsp toasted almonds, chopped

2 tbsp cilantro leaves



Heat oil in a large skillet. Gently brown the ground pork. Add the onions, garlic, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, oregano, and thyme. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Fold in the salsa and mango pieces. Cover and heat through on low heat. Spoon into a serving dish. Sprinkle with toasted almonds and cilantro and serve with hot cooked rice.


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