December 30, 2006

El Mozote 25 years on

Some stories get stuck in your throat. There´s no good way to start them because they don´t make sense.

El Mozote is a small hill village in remote Morazan famous because the military massacred the whole town (primarily women and children) on Dec. 11, 1981. I go to see it with a couple of friends on Christmas day. Our guide is Maria de la Paz Chicas. Now 36, she was eleven at the time of the massacre. She had been away visiting the countryside that day. She lost six brothers and sisters and her parents.

Her story is told all matter-of-fact with one hand cradling her one-year old and the other on her pregnant belly. This is where the bombs fell, this is the well where nobody hid for fear of snakes, these are bullet holes made from aerial pot-shots. The church where children were shot (burned and replaced) , the hills where women were violated... The laundry list of atrocities rubs raw under a bright sky sky dotted with cloud puffs. Next to the crayola-colored murals there´s a rose garden where the children are buried. There´s chalky rubble where some ruins lay unexcavated--the relatives had no interest in digging up the past.

There´s something sinister about a beautiful day, when horrors have been about. We walk to Rio Sapo, where the sun is hot and families swim in t-shirts and shorts. We join them, relieved to be somewhere where life is thick.

The orginal story about El Mozote, written by Mark Danner for The New Yorker is at

In Suchitoto there´s a restaurant called La Balanza. The owner is an ex-guerrilla, who put a sculpture of a scale above the entrance. One half holds the tip of a 500 lb. missle-head, the other a stack of tortillas. The misslehead weighs heavier, to say, the damage of the war cost us more than the hunger that started it.


Antonia said...

As Carolyn said, the sort of story that gets stuck in your throat. How do these things happen? It made me think of the Nanking Massacre, not to mention more recent atrocities like Rwanda and Darfur.

What switch gets flipped in people to make them turn bloodthirsty and savage, lashing out at neighbors or strangers as if they suddenly no longer understand what a human being is?

Hunger . . . greed . . . unfocused rage . . .

Goyo said...

Carolyn - came across your recent post on Morazan and didn't know what to say, but had to comment, somehow, so I wrote a brief post on my blog about my experiences there more than 15 years ago.

Thanks for making it up there and for sharing. - Greg