Visiting El Salvador
The Story of Rufina Amaya
The Museum of the Revolution
The $25 taxi ride from the airport to San Salvador was the most expensive transportation fare I found in the country. The route goes through a dangerous barrio and hijacking the airport bus is not an unusual occurance.
After spending the night in the capital, I took a $5 cab over to UCA to visit the Romero Museum. I didn't figure out what UCA (ooka) was until I arrived at the campus of the University of Central America.
The museum consists of only a few rooms but does a good job of recounting the assault on the University by government forces in 1989 and the ensuing massacre and destruction of the buildings.
There I met a Guatemalan student who generously guided me via bus to the cathedral downtown and Romero's tomb underneath.
Then we got on a bus to Terminal Oriente where I caught a bus direct to San Francisco Gotera, three hours
away. The direct bus is modern , comfortable and cheap. $5 to Gotera where it's easy to get either bus or pickup
for the trip north on the Calle Negra (now known as Ruta de Paz) to upper Morazan Department.
Salvadoran buses feature excellant live entertainment. Besides vendors selling everything from candy to shish kabobs, I was treated to a fifteen minute mystery story in which the unbelievable bargain was not revealed until the end. It was a cook book featuring 90 international and Salvadoran recipes! On another bus, I couldn't believe my good fortune to find an empty seat. After we got moving, I realized I was seated next to the designated pulpit of a full blown evangelical who, for the next 20 minutes shouted, shook, cried, spoke in tongues, poured sweat, jumped up and down, went into spasms and tired to convince everyone that, unless we repented immediately the depths of hell awaited us all.
I was going to ask him if it was his god who visited hell upon the children of el Mozote 30 years ago, but didn't feel so confident in my mastery of the idiom.
But anyway... it was a different bus I rode into Perquin just before sundown.
I came because while reading Mark Danner's book in September, I thought, "This year is the 30th anniversary of el Mozote. I think I'll go there. I bet some other people will, too."
I also wanted to help spread Rufina Amaya's remarkable story. She promised God she would tell the story to the world if he let her live. That's what sent me up the Calle Negra to Perquin.
The bus comes in on the branch to the right and then goes on to San Fernando. Yury's bar is just to the right at the next corner. The buses and pickups run south from town on the left branch. Up there is the bus stop, the park, and past that the rooming house of la Abuela.
The soccer court is between the two branches. It seems to be the main entertainment in town.
I stayed at la Abuela. The place is definately worth a visit. She has an unbelievable collection of trinkets and memorabilia. (to right and below)
She is a very nice lady but I cannot recommend the place. Every night I wished I had moved. Their coffee is lousy. I'm used to bad mattresses, no hot water and the occasional bug bite. But that god damn mongrel cur they keep there is unbearable. He barks every half hour all night long. When I did sleep I dreamed of roasting him on a spit.
I think next time I'd stay at Perquin Lenca or check out Hotel Perquin in town. You can catch a pickup truck to take you up the hill from Perquin Lenca for about ten cents.
"Mama Juana y Mama Toya" has a really good pechuga but all the rooms open onto the dining room which also serves as a bar. If you get tired of pupusas, their pechuga is the next best bet.
I found out that there was a big Commemoration scheduled at el Mozote Saturday. I wanted to scout the area before it was crowded so I hired a guide.
The forums all mention hiring a guide who was a former guerilla. I spent 5 days there and never met anyone over 40 who was not a former guerilla.
My guide, Enrique, is from los Toriles, a colonia two kilometers south east of el Mozote. los Toriles was also "cleansed" in "Operacion Rescate", the scorched earth campaign of the Atlacatl Brigade in December, 1981. Of the 767 victims Tutela Legal chronicled in the immediate area, 61 were from los Toriles.
Enrique was with the FMLN in the area at the time. Tears came to his eyes as we sat by the Rio Sapo and he told me what he found when he returned to the area after Colonel Domingo Monterrosa's "sweep".
Enrique marched me all over the area around el Mozote, Rio Sapo, la Tijera, and el Llano de Muerto. When we left Perquin he asked me if I could walk for 40 minutes. I said "sure". I didn't realize he meant 40 minutes at a time, many times and often straight up or downhill.
It certainly gives you an appreciation for the guerillas ability to survive in this country.
There is a lot of sugar cane being grown in the area.
The contraption on the left above squeezes guarapo (sugar cane juice) out of the cane. I asked Enrique if it was people powered. "No, it's pushed by an ox.", he said.
After the guarpo is squeezed out of the cane, it is boiled down into melado (molasses) in the cooker in the little shed.
What we have here is a miniature sugar factory high on the banks of the Rio Sapo.
Along with cane, I saw mostly maize and maisillo.
The people began pouring back into the area in November of 1989. The guerillas had launched such an offensive that it became politically necessary to negotiate an end to the war.
They came from the Colomoncagua refugee camp over the mountain ridge to the north in Honduras.
When Mark Danner visited in 1992, the town was still pretty much demolished.
Today, it has stores and pupuserias. There are many new houses
There are people in town and fincas in the surrounding area.
Kids play in the street.
The church has been rebuilt.
Life goes on... but can another el Mozote be avoided?
"Today there is a well in the town built with funds from US AID."
"We trained the soldiers who massacred your people and funded your military government with no regard for their death squads... but here, have a well."
Several hundred people got together December 10, 2011, for the 30th anniversary.
The theme at the Commemoration was that we should never forget so that such a thing does not occur again.