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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Journalist By Trade-i

This, as said in my previous post, is a personal reminiscence, not a primer in contemporary Salvadoran history.
By saying this I hope that you will excuse my not delving deeply into things like the origins of the armed conflict of the last quarter of the XX Century.
You may prefer to explain the 12 years of open low-intensity conflict from 1980-1992 as a legacy dating back to the infamous matanza of 1932.
Or just assign blame to the more immediate political strife of the 1960s and 1970s, the CIA or the KGB, Castro or the Sandinistas for arming the guerillas, the liberation theology priests for supporting the insurgents or the wealthy (the oligarchs, as it was the then fashionable terminology) for supporting the military. Most people would track the beginning of the so-called civil war to the alleged fraud in the presidential elections of 1972. A failed military coup later (among, of course, many other things) so the story goes, urban guerrilla warfare intensified and led to the young military uprising of 15 October, 1979, the real catalyst for what was to follow.
Political turmoil in those years was not confined to El Salvador.
Back in early 1976, as a then young government official heading the Dirección de Publicaciones [the Ministry of Education’s Publishing House] I told one of my literary advisers during a private conversation of my fears that in terms of armed confrontation our country would either become another Argentina (or Chile or Uruguay, take your pick, in reference to the brutality of government repression) or another Nicaragua (by then, the guerrilla war in the nearby Central American country was almost full blown.)
Because of our territorial size, my friend opined, there was very little likelihood of us becoming another Nicaragua. And most surely, he also thought, people on both sides had by then learned enough to avoid a repetition of whatever was still going on in the Southern Cone.
Sadly for our country, not only was he wrong in rejecting the possibility of an either-or scenario in El Salvador.
The result, as time came to show, was both.
Having said all that, when I first heard the news about the murder of Archbishop Romero in the early evening of Monday 24 March 1980, there was no doubt in my mind that this was the actual beginning of a long, brutal, and bloody conflict, the real start of the war —a nasty confrontation book-ended almost at its conclusion by another atrocity, the killing of the Jesuit priests in November 1989.
(Please click on the images above to see a scanned copy of a round-up about the situation in San Salvador and the country at large after the events at the funeral of monsignor Romero.)

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