Morazán Department, el Salvador
December, 2011

Visiting El Salvador
The Story of Rufina Amaya

The Commemoration
The Museum of the Revolution
Miscellaneous Photos

The Museum of the Revolution in Perquin consists of a collection of buildings housing artifacts from the war, an outdoor exhibit of a Guerilla camp complete with underground bunkers, and a large expanse of land around Cerro (hill) Perquin.

The Perquin area was a strategic site with an excellent helicopter landing area. It alternated between being contolled by the guerillas and the military.

The children have painted the front of the museum with murals. The theme is living in harmony with the environment.

Mortars are lined up on the porch.

Inside the buildings is a collection of arms, posters, vintage photos, as well as a reproduction of the broadcast room for Radio Venceremos.

"The Revolution Will Be Televised." Lt. Colonels are sworn in at Joateca in December 1991.

At right, "Chendo" went from security to operator with Radio Venceremos.

RV was a crucial part of the revolution.

It was essential that news from guerillas perspective was available through the country.

Atlacatl Brigade Commander Domingo Monterrosa was obsessed with Radio Venceremos, an obsession which would lead him to his death.

In the background is a crater made by a 500 lb. US made bomb, dropped in August 1981 by the Salvadoran Air Force during the first taking of Perquin by the guerrillas.

On this occasion, the Salvadoran Air Force dropped six 500 lb. bombs around Perquin. two of them exploded in the city center, three exploded on Perquin Hill and the other exploded here in the Museum of the Revolution.

The bomb in the foreground is similar to those which were dropped on Perquin.

Top, "For the United States, the moment has arrived to take the initiative once more in all parts of the world". -Ronald Reagan

Bottom, "The increase in repression and the intervention of the United States government, through their counter insurgency plans, create the conditions that favor the emergence of the revolutionary war of the people in January of 1981

"If a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it will give a lot of fruit."

Mark Danner describes the remains of the above helicopter as, "...the most cherished monument in all of Morazán."

When I walked up to it, a local man was sitting on the railing. I asked him if this was the helicopter in which Monterrosa died. He jumped up and looked me right in the eye. With a proud smile on his face, he intoned, "October 23rd, 1984, 4:17PM."

The ambush of Lt. Col. Domingo Monterrosa, commander of the Atlacatl Brigade, was probably the greatest coup the guerillas pulled off in the entire war.

In the summer of 1984, the US government gave the Salvadoran government ten new Huey helicopters. Guerilla Commandante Villalobos knew Monterrosa would be using the helicopters to come after them. In October, Monterrosa was planning another operation similar to "Operacion Rescate" where they "cleansed" the area around el Mozote in December 1981.

Villalobos also had a plan. It was well known that Monterrosa was obsessed with Radio Venceremos. He had trumpeted his success when he captured a transmitter back in 1981 and had made it clear to his men that they should always be on the lookout for the oppurtunity to capture another.

Villalobos' plan called for a bomb to be planted in an RV transmitter. A guerilla unit carried the transmitter to the outskirts of Joateca, the site Monterrosa's headquarters. They faked an ambush, transmitting that they had a casualty, had to retreat and had lost the transmitter.

Leonora, whom I met at the Commemoration, told me this story. "When they left the booby trapped transmitter near the cemetary, they cut the throat of a chicken. As it ran away it left a trail of blood leading right back to the transmitter. The blood trail led the soldiers right to the transmitter."

The air waves came alive with chatter of the find. The soldiers knew Monterrosa would be delighted with their prize.

He was so delighted that he called back to the capital and gave notice to the news media that he would be arriving via helicopter with a captured Radio Venceremos transmitter. Monterrosa enjoyed nothing more than preening in front of the press.

A television crew arrived the next day to accompany Monterrosa back to the capital. Todd Greentree from the US Embassy boarded the helicopter to ride with the Colonel. Greentree was in a hurry so, at the last minute, he disembarked from Monterrosa's helicopter and boarded another that was leaving sooner.

Mark Danner describes what happened next: "on a hill northwest of town, the guerillas of the E.R.P. watched excitedly as the Huey rose above the tree line. They waited until it had reached its apogee, pointed a remote-control device in a direct line of sight, and pressed the button. Nothing happened. 'We didn't know what had gone wrong,' Villalobos said. 'We thought we had a malfunction. Then we heard his press conference' - Monterrosa was apparently being interviewed by radio, announcing his destruction of Radio Venceremos- 'and we realized it was the wrong helicopter.'

They sat tensely on the hill deep into the afternoon, until at last, after what must have seemed an interminable wait, a second helicopter climbed above the tree tops and lofted into space. The big aircraft rose high over Joateca, turned, and began to head west toward the Sapo River - toward the tiny hamlet of el Mozote.

Poised high in the blue sky, it caught the sun. Far below, a man from Perquin gazed upward, squinted and then saw the machine of war - he had seen them so many times over Morazán - suddenly blossom into a great orange-and-black fireball; and then he was deafened by the explosion.

'I remember thinking to myself', said the man, who had been forced to guide Monterrosa's men on their limpieza three years before. 'I remember thinking, if only he had gone a few minutes more, his blood would have been mixed with the soil of el Mozote.'"

Proudly displayed in the Museum is the transceiver used to detonate the bomb in Monterrosa's helicopter.

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

A view from la Cruz, above el Mozote, looking across the Sapo River toward Joateca.