© 2013 Alexander Dennis

About the War

Last weekend we traveled to the department of Morazan to get some down time and learn about El Salvador’s civil war era.  The war officially started in 1979, when several disparate different rebel groups, which had been fighting against the oligarchical El Salvadoran, government banded together to form a united resistance movement called, “El Frente Marti de Liberacion Nacional,” or FMLN.  The FMLN were largely supplied through Nicaragua and relied heavily on older Soviet weapons given to them by the Sandinistas, captured ordinance taken from government troops, and homemade explosives.  The central government, in no small part due to support from the Reagan administration, was supplied almost entirely with an abundance of US weapons.  Despite this disparity in armaments and supplies the FMLN was able to wage a highly successful guerrilla war against the government, assassinating key leaders, harassing government positions, and at times striking in San Salvador itself.  In response, the government took to bombing and raiding rebel held territory.  In extreme cases, government troops took to a scorched earth policy in which they would come into villages suspected of sympathizing with the FMLN and massacre the entire civilian population.  The violence was widespread and brutal and during the war, a large percentage of the El Salvadoran population was compelled to leave the country and flee to refugee camps in Honduras, Panama, Guatemala and elsewhere.  The war lasted 12 years, ending in 1991 with a peace accord that demobilized the FMLN and turned the former rebel group into a legitimate political party.

During the war Morazan was a rebel stronghold and the department, with its rugged wooded mountains and rough terrain looked the part.  It had the sort of appearance that “rebel held territory” usually has when you see it in the movies or on the news.  Driving into the department we crossed a river that had once been an “unofficial official frontline” of the civil war.  The bridge across the river had been destroyed in the war and the government would fly FMLN and political prisoners above the river by helicopter, execute them, and then cast their bodies into the river.  Occasionally troops from either side would cross the river to make raids but over the course of the war the boundary remained fairly constant.

We set up in our hotel near the town of Perkin and went into town to explore and learn more about the war.  The town was surrounded by craters left by US made 500 lb bombs, dropped on it by its own government not so many years ago.  On the site of one of these craters a museum to the war had been created.  The museum was small, poor, and in places run down but the message came through and I found that after passing through some of the rooms I was compelled to go outside and sit down for a while before resuming my tour.  In one room, labeled “the hall of martyrs,” faces and stories of fallen FMLN fighters were strewn across the wall.  In another one could find pictures of massacred villages and posters exclaiming in red bold letters “USA get out of our country.”

I have often found that when I ask the previous generations of Americans how we allowed ourselves to become so irrational and inhumane during the cold war I am often given tepid responses about how it was a different era and how different the mind set was back then.  I wonder what future generations will think of ours and hope we won’t leave such a legacy.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Sites DOT MIISThe Middlebury Institute site network.