Las Palomitas: The Little Doves
By Laura L. Valenti
THE LOVE STORY OF AN AMERICAN IN EL SALVADOR WHO FELL IN LOVE WITH A WHOLE VILLAGE
Praise for Laura L. Valenti’s writing:
“Just enough romance and heart to make it lovable and just enough plot to make it interesting and compelling, but it’s the history that makes this book unforgettable.”
– Goodreads reviewer Stephanie on The Heart of the Spring
An out-of-place American is discovering that a fishing hamlet in El Salvador just might be his own slice of paradise. But, the simplicity and beauty of village life is just one thread of a beautifully woven story of a people, a place, and a time in Las Palomitas: The Little Doves by Laura S. Valenti [October 5, 2021, 2Nimble]. The complicated machinations of government and high society in Central America in 1980 provide an intricate backdrop for this story inspired by true events both in the author’s own life and world history.
Las Palomitas is the tale of a student who stumbled into a peaceful life on a Salvadoran beach as a civil war brews and his life collides with that of a woman with a past more byzantine and deadly than his own. In falling in love with the recently returned local, he finds comfort and inspiration. As the war takes hold, they struggle to save one another and the village and people they love.
“While this story is written about the struggles between the US and its Latin American neighbors forty years ago, conflict is still ongoing and we’re no closer to a satisfactory conclusion,” Valenti says. “This story illuminates how government policies and procedures impact the lives of the people involved.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Laura L. Valenti is a freelance journalist and author, former resident of El Salvador and volunteer aid worker in several Central American countries. Las Palomitas: The Little Doves is borne of her passion for the people of El Salvador and the Latin culture that has permeated her entire life. After returning to America she embraced another small paradise, living, learning and writing about the people of the Ozarks including seven popular regional novels. She and her husband Warren raised four children and have several grandsons and remain sequestered in the Ozark hills in yet another delightful fishing sanctuary.
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A Q&A with Laura L. Valenti
Author, Las Palomitas: The Little Doves
Question: You lived and volunteered in El Salvador 40 years ago, and have since lived and focused your writing in the Ozarks. Why revisit Central America in your writing now?
Laura L. Valenti: In a very real sense, I have stayed involved with Central America over the past 40 years even though I have lived in the Ozarks. Our oldest daughter was born to us while we were in the country and we adopted a Salvadoran baby boy, both of whom are now adults in their 40s with families of their own. Our daughter even returned to El Salvador for her junior year of high school. We hosted two different Salvadoran students, one of whom married here and became a US citizen, another who returned to El Salvador and has been a government engineer for many years. And I have been on several humanitarian aid trips to Guatemala, Dominican Republic and even El Salvador, years ago. I have returned to El Salvador many times to visit friends there who have become like family over the years.
When I originally wrote this book in 1992, sadly no one wanted to hear about El Salvador. It was put away in a box on a shelf in the spare bedroom—where a lot of novelists’ first novel end up, yes?—and left it there for many years while I was busy with living—working and raising four children and enjoying my grandchildren. As all of us have gotten older, including some old friends who had also lived in El Salvador, I realized if I was ever going to do anything with it, I better not dawdle much longer. It really felt like God was saying, the time has come.
Question: This book is semi-autobiographical – how much of your own life and the real-world Salvadoran Civil War did you include in the novel?
Laura L. Valenti: All of what I wrote about as far as village life in general came from our experiences there, the fishing, the church life and the involvement of the church leaders with the people. Many of the comments like the remark made by the one military man to Imanuel Flores about “we know you are not communists but you organize the people….” And the comment made by one of the wealthy people at Carlos’ party about ….”you Americans interfering in the lives of the poor people. They do not need these things…” were both comments made to a priest I knew and the other was made in my hearing at a cocktail party and yes, I answered just as Rick did, much to the embarrassment of some others who were there. We picked up hitchhiking soldiers in our Jeep with government plates and yes, I have looked down the wrong end of an M-16 held by a nervous teen aged soldier. I learned that day I could speak Spanish and English both at the same time, very, very fast! As in any novel, some of the characters were invented, like Franco, but much of what he said, was simply the rhetoric of college students I knew there at the time. My characters are often a compilation of two or three people I have known over the years.
Question: When including your own life in fiction, what challenges did you face separating yourself from the characters?
Laura L. Valenti: The purpose of including your own experiences or those of others you have known, is to make the story believable, to help the reader enter a world they might never experience otherwise. But the whole thing only works if your characters have something important to share, a compelling story to tell. I hope that is what I’ve shared here, the importance of love—for one’s family, for the community, for one another that even makes it possible to welcome a total foreigner into your midst. That is what happened to me in El Salvador, to become a part of the community and to still be welcomed as such when I ‘go home’.
Question: Your love for El Savlador is evident, what is it you wish more Americans knew about this neighboring country?
Laura L. Valenti: One of the international economic agencies working in El Salvador when I was there characterized the average Salvadoran worker as only 20% less efficient than the average Asian worker, credited as the most efficient in the world. I have spent a significant amount of time in Mexico and Guatemala as well as El Salvador and I have always been treated most kindly in El Salvador. I knew almost nothing about El Salvador or her people when I arrived there in 1973 but I found so many to be kind, welcoming, and hard-working. While it is an incredibly poor country on the economic scale, the people are rich in their caring for one another and even for strangers who stumble into their midst. Recent government officials and news reports have tended to portray Salvadorans and other Latinos coming across the border as dangerous, desperate people. The truth is they are no different than any North American might be if placed or born into a similar situation, one fraught with few opportunities to improve their life and most importantly, the lives of their children. That is all most decent people want, no matter their original station in life—a chance to provide a safe life for their children that includes food, medical care and education. That is the one thing for which parents are willing to risk everything, even their very lives–walls, borders, and armed guards notwithstanding.
Question: The conflict between America and Central America described in your book is still unresolved, what lessons do you think readers can learn from Las Palomitas about America’s role?
Laura L. Valenti: I was never a diplomat or policy maker. I don’t know the answers to these complicated problems, but I do know that history shows us that when one small group continues to get richer at the expense and detriment of a larger group eventually the desperation of the poor will drive them to revolt in a manner that will lead to significant changes. Unfortunately, waiting until that revolution comes, while the rich try to avoid the inevitable by refusing to give anything to the poor, usually results in violence and mayhem. In the cases of the American Revolution, the French Revolution, and the US Civil War, just to name a few such instances, the results are now a part of history. A few hundred years ago, white men in ships came from Europe and their descendants took this continent away from the indigenous people who had lived here for centuries. Now, descendants of other indigenous people are lined up at the US-Mexican border. I don’t know the exact answer but I do believe that the US government is going to have to do a better job of making concessions to those people, one way or another. That may not be a popular view right now, but numbers speak louder than any political rhetoric designed to simply preserve the status quo.
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