Last week El Salvador lost one of its leading figures in the struggle for justice for victims of the civil ware. Alicia Garcia was a mother who suffered greatly during the war, and out of that suffering came a determination to persevere on the path of justice. From the SHARE Foundation:
On Wednesday, August 11th, Alicia Garcia, one of the founding members of the Committee of Mothers Monseñor Romero, passed away after over thirty years of unending struggle in defense of human rights and for justice in El Salvador.
After witnessing the student massacre of June 30, 1975 from the Maternity Hospital where she worked at the time, sheltering students running from the National Guard and watching bodies thrown into military trucks, never to be seen again, coupled with the disappearance of her own son, Alicia accompanied women searching for their loved ones in prisons, morgues, and mass graves. When he was named archbishop, Monseñor Romero encouraged the Comadres to form a committee to search for their loved ones, support each other, and denounce violence together. At every Sunday mass, Monseñor Romero would read a list of disappeared, tortured and killed people that the Comadres compiled as they received information and testimonies from victims and families of victims.
Because of their extensive library of documents and photographs of the death squad and military violence during the 1970s and 1980s, the Comadres offices were bombed many times. In meeting with delegations, Alicia would often share her own heart-wrenching testimony of the disappearance, torture and death of her children and her unending search for their whereabouts and sometimes, her own stories of torture at the hands of the military.
From accompanying women to morgues, mass graves, and prisons during the war, Comadres, with Alicia in the forefront, formed a crucial part of the Pro-Monument Committee, which created the Monument to Truth and Memory in honor of the civilian victims of the civil war. When she spoke about this monument, Alicia would emphasize the story behind each name, the struggles for justice, the family left behind, many of whom never knew the final resting place of their loved one. "To never forget," she said.
Alicia continued to call for an end to impunity and investigations into human rights violations during the war, worked with victims and orphans in mental health issues, and shared her story and the story of thousands of Salvadorans with younger generations and international delegations to ensure that the past is never forgotten.
As we mourn her death, we also celebrate her life and take it as an example for our own. Alicia, who faced unfathomable hardships and unsurmountalbe odds, never gave up her faith or her struggle for justice. During the war, she was a beacon of light and strength for thousands of mothers whose loved ones had disappeared, and became a beacon of light for an entire society against violence, repression and injustice. She is a call, a reminder, to continue the work for justice and in defense of human rights, whatever the cost. Alicia, we will not forget.
The organization she co-founded, COMADRES, dedicated to remembering and seeking justice for victims, will be a lasting legacy.
Mara Komoska wrote about meeting Alicia:
Her testimonio and the question and answer period afterwards changed my life. Alicia told us about her personal experience of having been kidnapped, raped and severely tortured by her own government. She told us that their office had been bombed eight times and that all of their files (documenting the cases of the disappeared) had been destroyed. We all sat there in shock after listening to her story. Then a classmate of mine raised his hand and asked Alicia, “Are you afraid to continue doing this work? Are you afraid to walk down the street on the way to your office because you know you could be kidnapped again or that the office could be bombed again?” Alicia thought about it a moment and then said, “No, I am not afraid, because I know that our path is just. I know that what we are doing is right. And Archbishop Romero said to us that the right path may be covered with briars, but that you have to tread it, because it is the right way; it is God’s way.”