Selected Poems and Literary Works

Tamalitos de Cambray / Little Cambray Tamales

Claribel Alegría


(makes 5,000,000 little tamales) – for Eduardo and Helena who asked me for a Salvadoran recipe.

Two pounds of mestizo* dough
half a pound of Guachupin* loin
cooked and finely ground
a little box of pious raisins
two spoonfuls of Malinche* milk
one cup of seething water
lightly fried conquistador helmets
three Jesuit onions
a purse of multinational gold
two dragon’s teeth
a big presidential carrot
two spoonfuls of informers
Panchimalco* Indian lard
two ministerial tomatoes
half a cup of television sugar
two drops of volcano lava
seven pito* leaves
(don’t be evil-minded it is sleep inducing)
put it all to simmer
on a low heat
for five hundred years
and you’ll see what a flavor!


Dos libras de masa de mestizo*
media libra de lomo gachupín*
cocido y bien picado una cajita de pasas beata*
dos cucharadas de leche de Malinche*
una taza de agua bien rabiosa
un sofrito* con cascos de conquistadores
tres cebollas jesuitas*
una bolsita de oro multinacional
dos dientes de dragón
una zanahoria presidencial
dos cucharadas de alcahuetes
manteca de indios de Panchimalco*
dos tomates ministeriales
media taza de azúcar televisora
dos gotas de lava del volcán
siete hojas de pito*
(no seas malpensado es somníffero)
lo pones todo a cocer
a fuego lento
por quinientos años
y verás qué sabor.


Mestizo: the mixed racial composition of Latin Americans (African, Indian and white)
gachupin: derogatory term for Spaniards
beata: phony, hypocrite
Malinche: interpreter for, lover of the Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes; traitor
sofrito: sauce (a mixture of onions, chiles, garlic ...) to season meats and stews
jesuita: Jesuit, intellectual  at the  service of foreign powers
Panchimako: An Indian village in El Salvador, a symbol of the native resilient struggle to retain its cultural identity.
pito: fruit bearing plant that produces a soporific drink when boiled


Woman of the River. University of Pittsburgh Press, 1989.
Translated by D.J. Flakoll.
Reprinted from Rediscovering America (Teaching for Change, 1992)