Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Soul Journal: Perquin

Perquin is a small town in the Morazan district. Some people say that it was the unofficial center of the liberation movement (FMLN) during the war. I don't know if it had that distinction intentionally, but there is a significant event that happened there, which makes Perquin a meaningful place to visit when we endeavor to listen to the stories of the people of El Salvador.

As Mark Danner recounts in his excellent book, Massacre at El Mozote, one of the FMLN's most significant military achievements ended up in Perquin. The story- as I remember it, so see Danner's book for a more accurate account- is that the Salvadoran Army's Colonel Domingo Monterrosa, wanted badly to capture "Radio Venceremos," which the FMLN used to warn villages and towns and one another about the army's movements. Radio Venceremos allowed the FMLN to stay one step ahead of the army in many cases, and Monterrossa wanted to get the transmitter in order to cut off the broadcasts. (Monterrossa was born right across the street from the house where our Parish Team works and where we stay when we are in ES. He was a very effective military leader- "effective" meaning he did not hesitate to kill women, men, children, combatants, non-combatants, and even animals to achieve his goals. He was the leader of the fearsome "Atlacatl Battalion", and the one who ordered the massacres at El Mozote, Cinquera and elsewhere as part of his policy that "you are either for us or we will kill you.")

What the FMLN did was to boobytrap one of their radio transmitters, by planting a bomb inside of it and leaving it behind them as if they had accidentally done so when they left hurridly. The soldiers who found it took it to Monterrosa, who immediately boarded a helicopter in order to take it to the army's leadership as a trophy of a great accomplishment. When the helicopter was over Perquin, the FMLN detonated the bomb and Monterossa was killed. The place where the mangled helicopter landed is now the location of the Museo de la Revolucion.

This museum is a unique, must-see when one visits El Salvador. Not only does its remote site remind us of the challenges that the FMLN faced when living in the mountainsides, but the simple photo-and-typed-index-card displays of the museum are authentic testaments to the fact that this is a people's museum, organized and put together by those who lived the struggle. It tells of the poverty that provoked the war, the violence that the government used to quell protests, the honor that is due to martyrs, the horrors of massacres and murder, and the process of peace. The silent witnesses that one finds in that museum are simple things like a 500 pound bomb that says "Made in the USA" on the side or the reinforced bullet-proof autos that were used to attend signing of the peace accords. Everything there gives us something to think about, something to remember, and something to repent.

No comments:

Post a Comment

If you want to leave a comment using only your name, please click the name/url option. I don't believe you have to sign in or anything like that by using that option. You may also use the 'anonymous' option if you want. Just be nice.

Blog Archive