January 28, 2012

Los Torogoces de Morazán....... .........Combat Rock (El Salvador 1981)

In 1995 I picked up a hand-copied cassette of Los Torogoces de Morazán from a street vendor in San Salvador who was scraping by, like many Saladorans, in the informal economy. Just 3 years earlier, after 70,000 dead in 12 years of war, government death squads and military massacres, the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) signed peace accords with the US-backed government and transitioned from guerrilla insurgency to political party.

Los Torogoces  

Is that Paul Simonon on the right?
Around 1981, when Los Torogoces recorded the songs on this tape, the Clash was recording Combat Rock and Rock the Casbah was soon to be all over commercial radio in North America. The tropical guerilla dreamscape of that record lacked the punch and political message of earlier records (that I hadn't heard yet). A product code "FMLN 2" was on the sleeve (their previous record Sandinista! was "FSLN 1"), but their revolution was superficial. The only specific reference to any real-world clashes came from Allen Ginsburg's spacey side-babble in Ghetto Defendant: "...Guatemala, Honduras, Poland, 100 Years War ... TV re-run invasion, death squad El Salvador...."

Toda Centroamérica  (All Central America)

Still, I believe (Joe Strummer at least) they probably felt some earnest solidarity with people struggling for justice, or equality, or respect, or a voice -- be they union workers, guerrilla fighters, or bored suburban kids. So I have to give them some credit for subliminally raising my 13-year old consciousness to issues outside of my little world. Let's be honest, I didn't even know El Salvador existed at that point.

Combat Rock sounded cool, but I had little notion of what a real armed revolution meant, and I really had no idea a band like Los Torogoces de Morazán was living their struggle, broadcasting the resiliency of the Salvadoran people from a liberated mountainside:
"...June, 1981 in the most difficult time living in our country, El Salvador. Twins were born in the mountains of Morazán: LOS TOROGOCES DE MORARZAN AND RADIO VENCEREMOS. Arisen out of a need to solve two serious problems: One, how to keep not only the fighters but the entire population informed about the situation of the war.  Two, how to raise the morale of the fighters and to demoralize the enemy...."
Venceremos  (We Will Overcome)
"...The radio director saw a bird perched on a branch and asked what bird it was. 'It's a Torogoz' he said.... 'We liked the name because we identified with the Torogoz,' says Sebastian ... 'it's a bird that takes care of its family, helps its partner and their young until they grow. So are we....'"

 Soy combatiente del FMLN (I'm a Fighter in the FMLN)
"...In times of peace, and in the midst of impending war, Los Torogoces held guerrilla dances and took the opportunity to record their songs in the primitive studio of the radio, located in the town of Perquin, Santiago (the main transmitter of Radio Venceremos)...."

 Los fusilitos (Little Rifles)

"...Little things were born... from the hearts of the people and the need for revolutionary action....
El beso de sapo (Kiss of the Frog)

Andrés Mejía Barrera (Arturo)
Benito Chica Argueta (Sebastian)
Cristóbal Chica Argueta
Carlos Enrique Consalvi (Santiago)
Ricardo Ventura (Caramel)
Esteban Álvaro 

"...Los Torogoces de Morazán performed during the twelve years of war uplifting and accompanying the fighters not only in times of relative tranquility, but also in combat, thus four of the singers gave their lives in combat...."

Las casas quemadas (Burned Houses)
A government soldier poses after the reoccupation of Morazán

Sebastian still performs the music of Los Torogoces de Morazán.
The FMLN candidate Mauricio Funes won the presidency in 2009.
........So far, no Washington Bullets.

Thanks to Los Torogoces Facebook page and Amherst College's Experience of War Project for the quotes and photos in this post.

There's more on Radio Venceremos there, as well as at at Retazos de Memoria Histórica.

The music is from Canto Nuevo Para Todos (I lost my copy of the tape a long time ago).


  1. Replies
    1. Ask them directly: Los Torogoces Facebook page: www.facebook.com/tdmorazan