On December 11, 1981 a horrific event took place in the town of El Mozote located up on a mountain in the department of Morazán. The government troops decided to repress the guerilla movement by killing around 750 men, women, and children in a terrible massacre in the town square. The people were systematically killed. The men were interrogated, tortured, and shot. The women and young girls were raped and then machine gunned. Children were locked in a church, shot, and then the building was burned to the ground. After leaving the town square more people were killed in the surrounding communities. In the end, 1,000 Salvadorans were dead. It was a human rights atrocity of the worst kind.
A cover-up followed as the government insisted this was a false claim by the guerrilla forces. In reality, it happened. The Salvadoran government at the time was backed by the U.S. because it was trying to suppress the communist resistance movement, and I understand the U.S. was trying to prevent a communist Central America. However, the Reagan administration refused to even investigate because they supported and had trained the troops who committed this act. No one from the U.S. Embassy visited the site and the only Americans to try to find the truth were journalists. Eventually the truth came out. Innocent victims had been massacred in an attempt to completely wipe out the resistant movement in El Mozote and the surrounding communities. Several years later, it was finally printed in the U.S. newspapers.
Visiting the site of this horrific event was sobering. It was just a tiny town square in a tiny town on a tiny moutain in the corner of El Salvador. The same houses sit in the area, the same families are still affected. Fresh flowers lay on the memorial, evidence that the community is still grieving. It’s hard for me to believe that such horrible things can happen, but they do. It makes me angry, and it causes me to ache for the people who lost so much. Not only loved ones, but also trust that their government cared for them and wanted the best for their country. This is such a sad chapter in the history of El Salvador and an event that I hope and pray is never repeated.
The plaque in front of the memorial reads: “They have not died, they are with us, with you, and with all of humanity.”
A picture of the memorial at the edge of the town square. Many names are listed on the wall and most are complete families who died together.
A field behind the memorial and town square. I’m not completely sure, but in some of the sources I’ve read it is said that houses were here that were burned, and bodies were left in the fields.
One of the many lists of names on the walls of the memorials. This details the names and ages of a family that was wiped out. Some of the children’s ages are 10,9,5, and 3 years old.
This lists a whole family massacred a few days after the original killings. It mentions they were killed in a cave where they were most likely hiding.
A new church was eventually rebuilt because the old one had been burned to the ground along with many homes in the town.
A view down the street from the town square. As you can see it’s a small little town where today life continues on.