Wednesday, August 26, 2009

27 years after the Calabozo massacre

The road from Amatina Arriba to Amatitan Abajo was muddy and hard to see in the dark, but never the less, over a hundred people primarily teenagers walked the muddy road holding signs that read “A people never forgets its martyrs” and “Que viva los martires del Calabozo.” When they arrived in Amatitan Abajo, the cultural and commemorative activities of the Friday night vigil commenced. A few of the survivors shared some words and then the youth took over with songs, reflections, a small documentary they had made about the massacre and short play they had written.

None of the youth had lived through the Calabozo massacre that happened by river of Amititan in a place called the Calabazo in 1982, but they had grown up hearing the story from their family. How the army had advanced from the San Pedro hills and how the inhabitants of the region fled their homes in what was known as the “guindas.” How the people had been walking for seven days without food and took refuge by the river to sleep when they were attacked by the Atlacatl and the Ramon Belloso Batallian, it was then that they were massacred in cold blood, over two hundred men, women and children. When the youth group from the Community of El Rincon acted out a play that had written about the massacre, they made sure to include the part where the mothers plea for the soldiers to take their own lives but to spare the lives of their small children. No they had not lived through the massacre and the guindas but many of them had lost aunts, uncles and siblings during the twelve year civil war that heavily affected the Northern region of San Vicente in the municipality of San Esteban Catarina where the Amatitans are located.

What would it be like to be a young person growing up in a post war country where you parents and family lived through a brutal conflict that you hardly remember? Many of the young people in the Northern Zone of San Vicente have little interest in the past and focus more on the recent arrival of cell phones and American fashion to their small remote communities. However, a growing number of young people are interested in the historic memory of their community. Throughout the Friday night vigil and the Saturday morning commemoration ceremony one could hear many of the young people quoted as saying “we must remember our past so that it doesn’t repeat itself.”

Remembering the past so as not to repeat itself is not just something that people say in theory, it’s something that is very real in El Salvador where many of the people who ordered massacres such as the massacre of Calabazo are powerful government figures who are protected by an amnesty law that does not allow them to be prosecuted for war crimes. One point that continued to surface throughout the entire commemoration ceremonies was the fact that one of the architects of the Calabozo massacre, Sigfredo Ochoa Perez, is currently the Salvadoran ambassador to Honduras. “How is it just” ask the people “that we continue to mourn our loved ones, whose murderers have never been brought to justice but instead are high level government officials?” In a talk preceding the Saturday morning mass at the actual site of the massacre, David Morales, the lawyer who is representing the Calabozo case as well as the Archbishop Romero murder case, called to repeal the Amnesty Law that allows impunity to continue in this country. The people cheered in support of his words, though it is unlikely anything will happen. The newly elected leftist president, Mauricio Funes, has already stated that he does not plan to repeal the law.

But the people in the communities such as the Amatitans continue to fight for justice, whether their government supports them or not. And after being present for all the activities it is evident that this struggle is one that is being passed on to the future generations and will not die when the Calabozo survivers do but rather continue on as long as the history of El Calabozo, of El Mozote of the Rio Sumpul and all the other horrible acts of war are being told.

-Laura Hershberger, SHARE Grassroots Solidarity Eduation Coordinator

Photography captions:

1) Youth at the vigil with a sign that reads: "The youth from Nueva Guadalupe rescueing our historic memory on the 27th anniversary of the massacre, we are remembering our martyrs who will always be in our hearts"

2) Sign with the names of the martyrs being held during the campfire at the vigil

3) Mass being said at the site of the Calabozo massacre, photo taken from the CoLatina


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