© 2013 Natalie Alfaro

Rainbows of El Salvador


(forgive the quality of these photos: they were taken on my iPhone on a bumpy lancha ride)

We have been here for over a week now and projects are well under way, so this past Friday everyone was more than ready for a weekend excursion. We got to start the weekend with a lancha ride to a floating restaurant. Now I should preface this with the fact that due to my working on a strategic plan and an MOU I haven’t had the same chances that people in other groups have to get out of Ciudad Romero daily and see the beauty of El Salvador. So, I was especially excited to get onto the water and away from the dusty heat and to see the sights (not to mention to see a Mangrove in real life). The sunset on our way back from the floating restaurant was breathtaking. It wasn’t just the sunset. It was the volcanoes and the mountains in the background with water, mangroves, and a rainbow in the foreground all steadily going by. When I reflect on it, I remember laughter, sounds of awe, and bursts of silence. It was one of those moments where I decided to stop taking pictures because it just wasn’t going to capture everything in the way that my memory could.

The next day we were off to Perequín and El Mozote. If you know recent Salvadoran history, these two names might ring a bell. This area of El Salvador was where a lot of the violence took place during the civil war. As much as we were all looking forward to the break from work, we knew that it was going to be a heavy weekend. Honestly, I could handle the general information about the civil war at the museum in Perequín. It wasn’t that it wasn’t moving… it’s just that at a certain point I become numb to these histories to the civil wars in Central America. Not because I don’t care, but because in a lot of ways it has become very academic to me. That is why I knew going to El Mozote was going to be so important for me.

El Mozote is a town that early on in the civil war was taken over by the military and massacred. Every. Single. Person. Except for one. Men, women, and children were separated and killed. Every. Single. Person. Except for one. Walking around the reconstructed church that the children were put into and then set on fire. Reading the names and ages of the deceased on the walls. Thinking about the feeling of powerlessness mothers had when their children were ripped from their arms and the look on the kids’ faces pulling on the older kid’ pants, looking up and asking what was going on. Thinking about those details is what starts to evoke those feelings of anger, frustration, and most of all a heavy heart of sadness that walking through a museum may once have evoked. And then I start to think how sad I am for the men that walked away from El Mozote thinking that what they had just done was somehow justified and were never tried for the injustices they dealt out. But allowing for those feelings to silently stir in my heart is absolutely not what I am supposed to do.

As Oscar Romero had said that the resurrection of his death would be in the fight of the people, we must commit that our work towards peace and social justice is in the resurrection of the people of El Mozote. Especially that of the one woman who survived by playing dead after witnessing the death of her whole town; the one woman who had her 8-month year old baby, three other kids, and husband taken from her; the one woman who lived to witness and tell about the raping and torturing of those that she loved; the woman who died in 2007 from heart failure but lived out the rest of her life to share her story in the hope of finding justice. It is this woman, whom I believe, truly died of a broken heart that we must commit to being a part of her resurrection as we continue our work in advocating for peace and social justice.


One Comment

  1. Paula LeRoy-Antaki
    Posted January 18, 2013 at 11:36 pm | #

    Thank you for sharing your experience and your photos. Still hoping to get to El Salvador soon. Hope to hear more!

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