07 September 2009

El Mozote, Perquin - Sept 7

I went to bed around 10 last night while the card game was still going full tilt. I went right to sleep and didn’t wake when Jane came in for bed. I slept soundly until 5. I must have gotten the earplugs in perfectly because I heard nothing all night.

I heard the water come on about the time I woke up. Hot showers today! Jane got up around 5:45. Apparently, it poured last night around 10-11. Alisha said there was some amazing lighting around 11:30. Jane said it dumped buckets. I slept through it all.

Breakfast was pancakes, beans, fried eggs, left over anonas. We left for El Mozote around 7:40-ish…arrived 10:20-ish.

We toured the site with a guide then had a reflection in the children’s garden. The short story on El Mozote is that it is the site of the largest massacre of the Salvadoran war. Somewhere around 1300 people (mostly women, children and old people) were killed in one day. There were so many people in that small village because the word had gone out that if you came to this village, you’d be safe. So people came from all over the countryside, but it was a trap. Men were taken out to a field and shot. Children were separated from their families and locked up in the church. Women were taken to another building. Older girls and young women were taken to a nearby hilltop and raped. Then everyone was killed.

We know what happened because there was one survivor, Rufina Amaya. The last time I was here, we met her and heard her story from her directly. She has since died and is buried at the monument. We happened to see a DVD at the UCA (University of Central America) when we were there and Kathy bought a copy. It’s a video of Rufina telling her story. She was 42 when the massacre happened and died at 62.

The main monument at El Mozote...the figures in front are cut from sheet metal. The plaques behind them list the names of the adults (as much as is known). You can't see it in this picture but Rufina Amaya's grave is on the ground to the left of the monument.

Part of the mural wall in the children's garden with the names of the children who died listed on plaques across the bottom.

In many cases, the actual names of the children are unknown. With no surviving family members and so many people from other places, sometimes the best that could be done is what you see in the picture..."Nephew of Dionisio Marzuez - 2 days old" or "Daughter of Agustina Perez - 3 days old"

There have been some changes since the last time. The children’s garden is the big one. It’s along one side of the church and there has been a lot of planting and landscaping that’s new. The murals on the church wall with all the names/ages of the children who died are new. Rufina’s grave is new.

The side of the church wall opposite to the childrens garden has this mural.

After we left El Mozote, we went to Perquin, a nearby town that was considered the center of FMLN (the guerillas) during the war. There is now a museum there with photos and artifacts. Since the signing of the peace accords in 1992, the FMLN has become a legitimate political party and, in fact, the current president is of the FMLN party.

We had lunch at a resort/restaurant called Perkin Lenka. It was at the top of a steep embankment and there were a LOT of step going up from the parking lot. But once at the top, the view was spectacular…especially since we could see storm clouds rolling over the mountains across the valley.

Storm rolling in from across the valley, as seen from the restaurant when we arrived.

The resort had really cool little cabins all scattered around. It looked like it would be a great place to spend a long weekend, although other than the museum and El Mozote, there really isn’t anything else in the area. We had a very nice lunch for 11 people for $80 (including tip).

When the storm arrived...

The storm we saw rolling in hit while we were eating. One thing I’ll say for the rain in El Salvador, it doesn’t do anything by halfway measures…when it rains it comes down in massive quantities. On the up-side, it had mostly quit by the time we needed to make the trek down the stairs to the microbus. We joked with Alfredo (the driver) that he was going to have to drive the bus up the stairs to pick us up. Actually, there was a guy at the top of the stairs with umbrellas who offered to walk us down but it wasn’t raining enough for me to worry about it. Although…now that I think about it, I probably deprived him of a substantial portion of his income for the day.

Back at the Casa, we paid Alfredo for his services for the week (including the Monday to come for taking us to the airport). I used Kathy’s PC to burn the photos from my camera’s memory card to a CD and clear the card so I could take some more pictures.

Before supper, conversation around the table was Lynn, Alisha, Michael and me comparing the merits of hairy chests/backs (on men). Ex-hippie Lynn thinks the more the better and Alisha voting for substantially less.

After supper I started to read when Jane asked if I wanted to play Egyptian Rat Screw with them. It’s a pretty simple game and really fun with 4 people…at least until it gets down to 2 and stays there interminably. I gave up after an hour or so and went to the kitchen to refill my water bottle. I surprised a semi-feral adolescent cat that tried to make a mad dash out of the house. It skidded sideways on the turn out of the kitchen and then couldn’t get any purchase on the tiled floor. It was just like a cartoon with its little legs scrabbling wildly on the tile and not getting anywhere. It was the funniest thing I’d ever seen and I laughed until I had tears streaming down my face.