Morazán Department, el Salvador
December, 2011

A Visit to El Salvador
The Story of Rufina Amaya

The Commemoration
The Museum of the Revolution
Miscellaneous Photos

The December 10, 2011, commemoration at el Mozote was attended by about five hundred people. Representatives from the United Nations, Venezuela, Colombia, el Salvador spoke as well as family members of the victims.

Calls were made to continue investigation into the massacre in spite of years of delay. The investigation has been hindered by the government ever since the Chaputepec Peace accords were signed in 1992.

The present FMLN government broke new ground when their representative apologized for the atrocity and vowed to continue investigation and the pursuit of reparations.

Family members of the victims took the stage and told of their experiences.

A choir of children sang songs and read the names of children who were killed in the church behind them 30 years before.

A major theme discussed was the need to remember the history in order to avoid the same mistakes in the future. But isn't it necessary to know what is going on in the present in order to be able to record a history to remember?

The reporters who broke this story back in January of 1982 were accused of misleading their readers.

Ray Bonner, Susan Meiselas (New York Times) and Alma Guillermoprieto (Washington Post) spent weeks hiking to and from the site from Honduras. They saw first hand the results. Meiselas shot two rolls of film.

The Wall Street Journal dismissed their reports as "propaganda". The Reagan administration spun the report to make it sound like a skirmish between combatants.

The day after the stories broke in the New York Times and The Washington Post, Ronald Reagan certified to the US Congress that the government of El Salvador was "making a concerted and significant effort to comply with internationally recognized human rights."

Local people as well as city people attended. Hitch hiking out afterwards, I got a ride in a pickup from the capital. I asked a fellow passenger in the back, a fellow around 50 years old, why he had come. He said just out of curiosity. He saw ads for the event but had never heard of the massacre.

As attacks led by The Wall Street Journal and the Reagan administration continued, support for Bonner from the New York Times waned. In August, he was recalled from Central America and assigned a position on the Metro desk. After taking a leave of absence to write a book, Ray Bonner left the Times in 1984.

It wasn't until 11 years later that Tutela Legal was well into their forensic examination of the site, that irrefutable proof came out vindicating the reporters.

By that time, it was too late to stop funding of the death squads, interest in the story had waned and damage to the reporters' careers was fait acompli.

This is a pattern that continues to this day.

It was eerie to see 6 year old kids reading off the names of other young children who had been massacred 30 years ago.
The bronze statue of Bishop Romero is part of the new monument being constructed outside town.

Brian Barger and Robert Parry broke the Contra story of arms and drug smuggling. Their initial reports were dismissed by the administration and buried by the AP editors.

Powerful administration officials berated their stories. Parry and Barger were both gone from AP by the next year, their integrity tarnished.

Vindication that their allegations had all been true dribbled out little by little.

By the time Special Prosecutor Lawrence Walsh was finished with his investigation, there was little doubt that criminal guilt ran all the way through the Reagan administration.

The folkloric dancer in the center holds a poster of Bishop Romero made up of small images of faces of the victims.

But by that time interest had waned. George H. W. Bush described the findings as "old history" and pardoned those susceptible to prosecution as he left office.

In July 1995, Gary Webb broke a blockbuster story on CIA Contra drug running in the San Jose Mercury News.

At first his newspaper backed him up but as other papers joined in attacks on the story, the Mercury News finally caved.

Gary Webb was demoted and transferred to a lesser job.

His life spiraled down and he eventually committed suicide.

It continues right up to the present time.

Death squads run rampant in Colombia supported by US aid that since 9/11 no longer has restrictions on military use.

Ex-guerillera Leonora, Professor Chris White and student Valerie start up Cerro la Cruz, above el Mozote.

As Garry Leech reports, during President Uribe's first term in office, the New York Times held FARC responsible in over 80% of the reports involving killing of civilians.

"However, according to a report published by the Colombian Commission of Jurists (CCJ), the guerillas were responsible for 25 per cent of civilian killings ... Meanwhile, the paramilitaries accounted for 61 per cent of the deaths and the Colombian military for the remaining 14 per cent....

An over reliance on official sources and the resulting distorted portrayal of human rights violations is not unique to the New York Times; it is present in most mainstream US media coverage."

View looking north from the top of la Cruz. The ridge in the distance is the Honduran border.
Many refugees fled the war walking overland with all their belongings and children to camps like Colomoncagua, Honduras.
Off to the right is Joateca where Col. Domingo Monterrosa took off in his booby trapped helicopter.

So is the aspiration for "El Mozote, Never Again!" a possibility? Without reporting by brave journalists like those mentioned above, it certainly is not.

Without a populace willing to search for the truth, it is not.

The deck is certainly stacked against that aspiration.

But we have to try.

Leonora introduced me to ex-guerilla Commandante Nolvo, Jose Jesus Romero Marques, right. He signed my copy of Mark Danner's book. He is from here and fought here. He told me about slipping through the enemy lines as Monterrosa's Atlacatl Battallion moved south into the area. As we were talking, two policemen came by. "What do think these cops want?" Nolvo asked me. "Beats me", I answered uneasily. "He probably wants to say hello", said Nolvo, "because he is my son."

My biggest thrill of the commemoration was meeting Marta Amaya. I had been scanning the crowd, especially around the memorial, for people I recognized from pictures. I thought I saw Pedro Chicas Romero but wasn't sure.

Then I saw Marta Amaya and was struck by her resembelence to her Mom. I asked a man nearby, "Is that Marta Amaya?" "Si", he answered.

I pushed through the crowd to get closer. "Marta!", I called. "May I take your picture?"

"Por que?", she answered. Why. Why indeed.

I guess it's because your mother had the courage to stand up and tell the world what she saw. .. and through you, she lives on in this world.

A Visit to El Salvador
The Story of Rufina Amaya
The Commemoration
The Museum of the Revolution
Miscellaneous Photos