If your only source of news was the main Salvadoran newspapers, you might have missed the story. The sole survivor of a notorious massacre of civilians during El Salvador civil war passed away on March 6. On December 6, 1981, Rufina Amaya, had somehow managed to escape from the government troops who systematically rounded up and savagely murdered the elderly, the women, the men, the children and the babies in her village, including her 8 month old child who was ripped from her arms. This war crime, known as the El Mozote massacre, led to the deaths of as many as 1000 campesinos in and around the village of El Mozote in Morazan province.
Both the Salvadoran government and the US government which was supporting the regime in 1981, denied that a wholesale massacre of civilians had taken place. After the war, the UN Truth Commission validated the details as have subsequent investigations. The story of the massacre and the subsequent denials were detailed subsequently by journalist Mark Danner.
There was one voice, which spoke simply and humbly as the voice of a witness, which ultimately allowed the truth to be known. That was the voice of Rufina Amaya.
Unlike the mainline Salvadoran press, bloggers, provided an extensive tribute to Rufina Amaya. Many spoke from personal knowledge of Rufina. Journalist blogger Jorge Avalos described her as:
la mujer más humilde que he conocido. Una mujer que venció con su palabra tantas mentiras y tanta inhumana brutalidad para recordarnos el poder de la memoria y de la verdad.
the most humble woman I have known. A woman who vanquished with her word such lies and such inhuman brutality in oredr to remind us of the power of memory and of truth.
Some, like Peace Corps volunteer Laura, recounted meeting Rufina and hearing her tell the story. Ixquic collected a list of links to the many blog entries which told the story. One of those links was from blogger Meg, who had written in February 2006 of meeting Rufina:
Today I met Rufina, and looked into her eyes for the first time, knowing that my own heart will remain connected to hers. I’m not sure I will ever think of the history of El Salvador again, without thinking of her. As I walked through the streets of this small town in northeastern El Salvador, I had to remind myself to take deep breaths, so that I wouldn’t cry, in encountering the reality that Rufina once lived.
Others let Rufina's witness speak for itself. In the days after her death, blogs posted the full text of narrative which Rufina had provided. And it was possible to hear and see Rufina in YouTube video.
Ultimately, many saw in Rufina Amaya a powerful symbol. Writer and blogger Juan Jose Dalton said in his blog:
Rufina nunca abandonó los alrededores de Morazán; estuvo en los refugios ubicados en la frontera entre Honduras y El Salvador; cocinó para la guerrilla y después del fin de la guerra (1992), fue una fundadora de la Ciudadela Segundo Montes, donde sus restos mortales descansarán finalmente. Queda entre los salvadoreños tu testimonio de lo sufrido, pero también como símbolo y reto permanente de la lucha por el derecho a la justicia.
Rufina never abandoned the area surrounding of Morazan. She was in the refugee camps located on the frontier between Honduras and El Salvador; she cooked for the guerilla forces and after the end of the war (1992) she was a founder of the Segundo Montes community, where her mortal remains will have their final rest. She left among Salvadorans her testimony of what she suffered, but also as a symbol and permanent sign of the struggle for the right to have justice.
Nora Mendez paid this tribute in her blog:
Rufina vivió 25 años superando el dolor día a día, sin descanso, contando su historia como la única forma que tuvo para resarcirse de aquel crimen cometido contra sus hijos, sus amigos y vecinos. Nadie le ofreció disculpas, nadie solicitó su opinión en las altas esferas del poder a la hora de evaluar la situación de las víctimas de guerra una vez finalizado el conflicto. Pero la voz de Rufina llegó por diversos medios, a los oídos de miles de salvadoreños, incrédulos unos, y otros que la comprendieron, pues también sufrieron bejámenes por el simple hecho de vivir en el campo, de ser pobres, de estar indefensos.Finally, in a fitting tribute to the memory which Rufina Amaya sought to preserve, a post on the Chichicaste blog provided a list of the victims of the El Mozote massacre and their ages.
Rufina lived 25 years overcoming the pain day by day, without rest, telling her history as the only form she had to account for that crime committed against her children, her friends and her neighbors. Nobody offered her apologies, nobody solicited her opinion in the high spheres of power at the hour of evaluating the situation of the victims of war when the conflict finally ended. But the voice of Rufina came through diverse media, to the hearing of thousands of Salvadorans, some incredulous but others that understood her, because they also suffered for the simple fact of living in the countryside, of being poor, of being defenseless.
Originaly posted on Global Voices.