The civil war in El Salvador lasted twelve years (1979-1992), and Salvadorans feel the ramifications to this day. This bloody war was a conflict between the rightest military-led government and the leftist-led 5 guerrilla groups (FMLN) that now comprise a political party. FMLN currently operates as the party in power. Much can be said about the war, so this blog post is intended to present only a brief overview.
What are the social justice issues?
Although we did not meet with any of the former supporters of the former rightest government, one can understand this perspective by reading most historical texts and popular literature before 1992. Before and during the war, most Salvadorans were severely oppressed, even more so than the present. Those in power used violence, dehumanization, and policies aimed to silence opposition. The government used means of oppression in order to maintain the ends–power.
Experiencing decades of horrendous oppression, the people finally decided to revolt in the late 1970’s. However, this came at a cost. Hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans died. They were tortured, permanently separated from their families, and many still show the physical and psychological scars from the war atrocities. This war was primarily funded through the U.S. government under the Reagan administration (at 3 million dollars per day). The goal of the U.S. was to stop the spread of communism, even post-cold war. In other words, the U.S.A. opposed the revolution of the Salvadoran people and funded the governmental violence.
We dialogued with many survivors of the war, primarily in Santa Marta, and I do not wish to share their stories in this blog. They are profoundly emotional. As a citizen of the U.S.A., I find it disturbing to my core when I think about my government’s role in this. However, the warmth and nonjudgemental nature of the people towards us continues to comfort me. Salvadorans do not blame us. They also appear to be much more engaged in politics, so we can learn from their resiliency and from their ability to organize pragmatically because politics is part of everyone’s daily life.
The war still feels alive in El Salvador. Alive in the sense that the people continue to use it as a source of strength and as a source of knowledge to act in the present. How can we do this is the U.S.A.?