Rufina Amaya, the woman who was often identified as the last, or only, survivor of the massacre at the village of El Mozote, died last week. She was not, strictly speaking, the only survivor of that monstrous event, but she appears to have been the only one who emerged with her wits about her, a clear memory of what took place, and the will to describe how hundreds of people, including her husband and four of her children, were systematically butchered on Dec. 11, 1981, in an impoverished corner of El Salvador.
The massacre took place in the early days of the United States' involvement in El Salvador. In that conflict, radical leftist guerrillas tried to overthrow a ruling establishment utterly loathed by the population at large for its corruption and human rights atrocities. The Reagan administration intervened to train and equip the Salvadoran army, and to shore up the government against what it feared would become a red tide of communism lapping at the very borders of the Rio Grande...
...The troops arrived the following day and, after an initial brutal search, told the villagers that they could return to their homes. "We were happy then," Señora Amaya recalled. " 'The repression is over,' we said."
But the troops returned. Acting on orders, they separated the villagers into groups of men, young girls, and women and children. Rufina Amaya managed to slip behind some trees as her group was being herded to the killing ground, and from there she witnessed the murders, which went on until late at night. An army officer, told by an underling that a soldier was refusing to kill children, said, "Where is the sonofabitch who said that? I am going to kill him," and bayoneted a child on the spot. She heard her own children crying out for her as they met their deaths. The troops herded people into the church and houses facing a patch of grass that served as the village plaza. They shot the villagers or dismembered them with machetes, then set the structures on fire. At last, believing they had killed all the citizens of El Mozote and the surrounding hamlets, the troops withdrew.
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Ronald Reagan: American Hero?
Those who would suggest that Reagan was a great president would do well to remember a one woman from small town in El Salvador and check their consciences: