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Classical 91.7-Arte Público Author of the Month: Mario Bencastro

Mario Bencastro has been selected as this month’s Classical 91.7/Arte Público Press Author of the Month. In the next installment of a series of monthly features, Classical 91.7’s Eric Ladau spoke with Mr. Bencastro.


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Salvadoran writer Mario Bencastro presents moving images fueled by the horrible realities of war and the painful need to leave behind all that is dear in his riveting new bilingual collection comprised of stories, poetry, and one novella, PARAÍSO PORTÁTIL / PORTABLE PARADISE.

Mario Bencastro's Paraiso Portatil / Portable ParadiseThe watchman feels very fortunate to have a job in El Salvador after the civil war, when so many people are unemployed. It’s boring but easy work, taking care of a new house that belongs to a Salvadoran couple living in Los Angeles. When he thinks about his previous jobs—day laborer, coffee harvester, highway construction worker—he’s even more grateful. And once a month, he reassures the owners that their beautiful home in their beloved homeland remains in good condition until their next visit. Then one day, everything changes.

In “Dragon Boy,” a group of children orphaned by El Salvador’s civil war band together to survive, even as they are exploited by predators. In “The Plan,” a successful Swiss millionaire returns to his native El Salvador—which he left as a defenseless orphan—and executes his ruthless plan to take revenge on those responsible for the brutal killings of his family. And in “From Australia with Love,” a Salvadoran émigré plans to marry a countryman she met on the Internet, until they realize that they have met before.

Bencastro examines themes of political strife, dislocation, and longing in a unique collection that readers will not soon forget.

Mario Bencastro is the author of numerous award-winning and critically acclaimed works that explore the impact of civil war on a people and the lives of Central American immigrants in the United States. They include two novels,  A Shot in the Cathedral (Arte Público Press, 1996), a finalist in Mexico’s International Diana y Novedades Literary Prize, and Odyssey to the North (Arte Público Press, 1998); a short story collection, The Tree of Life (Arte Público Press, 1997); and a novel for young adults, A Promise to Keep (Piñata Books, 2005). All of his books are available in the original Spanish. He lives in Port Saint Lucie, Florida.

Arte Público Press is the nation’s largest and most established publisher of contemporary and recovered literature by U.S. Hispanic authors.  Its imprint for children and young adults, Piñata Books, is dedicated to the realistic and authentic portrayal of the themes, languages, characters, and customs of Hispanic culture in the United States. Books published under the imprint are designed to serve as a bridge from the home culture to that of the school, as well as to support family literacy and elementary school education. Based at the University of Houston, Arte Público Press, Piñata Books and the Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage project provide the most widely recognized and extensive showcase for Hispanic literary arts and creativity.  For more information, please visit