Otto René Castillo

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Otto René Castillo
Born(1934-04-25)April 25, 1934
Quetzaltenango, Guatemala
DiedMarch 23, 1967(1967-03-23) (aged 32)
Zacapa, Guatemala
OccupationPoet, revolutionary
Notable worksPoema Tecún Umán
Vámonos patria a caminar
Notable awardsPremio Centroamericano de poesía (1955)
PartnerNora Paíz Cárcamo

Otto René Castillo (April 25, 1934 – March 23, 1967) was a Guatemalan poet, activist, guerrilla fighter and revolutionary.

Early life and activism[edit]

Castillo was born in Quetzaltenango on April 25, 1934, to middle-class parents. Active in progressive politics as a high school student, Castillo went into exile in El Salvador in 1954 after the overthrow of Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz by a Central Intelligence Agency-orchestrated coup d'etat.[1]: [21] 

In El Salvador, Castillo met Salvadoran poet Roque Dalton and founded an influential literary circle. He spent the next several years in and out of exile, including a period of time spent in East Germany at the University of Leipzig. A handful of younger writers—those who were just beginning to publish or had not yet done so—headed for El Salvador, joining up with young Salvadorans sharing the same concerns. The Salvadorans had already gathered around the most charismatic figure among them: Roque Dalton. ... One of the recently arrived Guatemalans, Otto Rene Castillo, quickly captured Dalton's attention and became the group's ideologue. During the 1960s, these young writers joined up in Mexico with the group of writers that had left Guatemala in 1954.[1]


Otto Rene Castillo never married in Guatemala, but during his stay in East Germany, he fathered three sons. Documentary filmmaker Karl-Heinz Mund, together with Werner Kohlert made a short commemorative documentary about Castillo, entitled Ganz Berlin ist in deinen Augen... (Todo Berlin esta en tus ojos...), produced by DEFA Studio fuer Dokumentarfilme in Berlin.

Publications and death[edit]

The early to mid-1960s saw the publication of the only two volumes of work put into print during Castillo's lifetime, Poema Tecún Umán and Vámonos patria a caminar. In 1966, he clandestinely returned to Guatemala and joined the guerrilla struggle with the Rebel Armed Forces, where he served as the chief of propaganda and education. After operating in the Sierra de las Minas for several months, he was captured by government forces and taken to Zacapa barracks alongside his comrade, Nora Paíz Cárcamo in March 1967. There they were interrogated, tortured, and burned alive.[2]


  1. ^ a b "In [1954], US intervention put an end to the Guatemalan democratic experiment, and the country's cultural leaders fled into exile."
    Arias, Arturo. “Literary Production and Political Crisis in Central America.” International Political Science Review, Vol. 12, No. 1, The Politics of Art/Art et politique (January 1991), pp. 15–28.
  2. ^ "In March 1967 Otto Rene Castillo was captured, tortured for four days, and burned alive." Paige, Jeffery M. "Social Theory and Peasant Revolution in Vietnam and Guatemala", Theory and Society, Vol. 12, No. 6 (November 1983), pp. 699–737.: [715] 

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