Friday 16th November - Perquín
This morning we took the first bus out to the town of Perquín; where the museum of the revolution is located. This museum pays tribute to the hundreds of thousands of El Salvadorians that lost their lives or went missing during the 20 year civil war. We had a guide named Jorge who was ex-guerrilla and showed us around the museum, explaining many of the photos and artefacts on display there. He explained to us how the Americans were integral in beginning the war by funding arms for the government's army. They did this in order to protect their own interests in El Salvador – namely the United Fruit Company. The government used this backing to begin a genocide of its own; mostly indigenous people, who were forced to flee the country or fight in the guerrilla against the government. There were massacres of people all throughout the country and many went missing never to be seen again. In 1992, the peace agreement was signed and the rebel guerrilla destroyed their weapons. Jorje told us that now everyone in the country wants peace. As part of the peace agreement a law was made that none of the war crimes committed in the Civil War would be tried in court. People who lost family members in the war will never get justice, but Jorje seemed to think that the majority of people would rather move on with their lives than think too much on the past. Children in school are being taught about the war though which is good and people here genuinely seem to want to prevent something like this from ever happening again.
Also in the museum we were able to visit some of the tunnels used by the Guerrilla to protect them from army attacks. There was also some old radio equipment, guns and bazookas as well as some armoured cars with some of the thickest glass I had ever seen. Nearby there was a small hill where we had an amazing view of the sunset looking out over the surrounding towns and nearby Honduras.
Saturday 17th November – Perquin to San Miguel
This morning after breakfast we took a bus and a tuktuk to the tiny town of El Mozote which experienced a huge massacre at the hands of the El Salvadorean army on the 11th of December 1981. In this massacre over 800 people were killed, people who had been told to come to the area because it was safe and the Red Cross were supposed to be coming to visit and provide aid there the following day. Instead, the army came to the area and began systematically killing all the men, women and children. Over 400 children died in the massacre and were left in the house of the nuns before the whole town was burned to the ground to hide the evidence. There was only one survivor of the massacre, a woman who died in 2007 but had written a book about her experience. It´s hard to fathom how something like this could have happened so recently, and difficult to understand how the US could have supported a regime that could complete these types of atrocities. At one point the US were providing $1M every day to help the El Salvadorean government fight the uprising of the people who were trying to improve their lives and make the economy fairer for all. We had a lovely older lady explain some of the history of the massacre to us and show us the plaques with the names of all of the victims of the massacre with their ages. It was hard to fathom just how many people were killed in this place. After visiting the first memorial we walked a little way out of town to visit a larger memorial set on a hill. This memorial pictured a family holding hands and was surrounded by statues of famous people who have fought for peace – Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, Pope John Paul 2 and Gandhi. It was a beautiful and fitting tribute to the victims. In the afternoon after a quick lunch it was time to take the squishy bus back to San Miguel. We arrived back in town just in time for dinner and an early night, bus travel is tiring!