Sunday, August 15, 2010

Mother and advocate for justice, Alicia Garcia, dies

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.”


Mara said...

Hello Tim,

So glad I found your blog!! It's good to find another companero who understands how important Alicia was (and will continue to be). And what a surprise to find myself quoted in your post!! :) A lovely surprise! I have recently formed a fundraising/publicity organization in solidarity with the Co-Madres. It is called, "Friends of Co-Madres, USA." We are putting on a fundraiser house party tomorrow night in Brooklyn, NY to benefit Co-Madres. I am pleased that the event will be held the same night that they will hold the memorial service for Alicia in El Salvador. We will continue to put on fundraising events for Co-Madres. You don't happen to live in New York, do you?

All the best,
Mara Komoska

Mara said...

Oh, I see now that you don't live in New York! Silly me! In any case, I am glad I found your blog!! I would love to communicate more if you have the inclination :)

Tim said...

Hi Mara,

I'm glad you like my blog and happy you didn't mind being quoted. Keep me informed about Friends of Co-Madres.


Senor Pescado said...

thank you for your assist in NY with Friends of El Salvador

Mara said...

Friends of Co-Madres, USA's first large fundraising event, held on 8/21/10, raised $1000, all of which will be donated to Co-Madres to support all the wonderful work that they do!

Tim said...

Great! Congratulations.

Matthew said...

@ Mara or Tim: I set up the Comadre's website but Alicia's health started to fail and we just never got it set up so that I could give them access to the occasional email I would get for them. I keep it active so they are publicized a bit, but I would love to give someone down there email access and GuestBook Moderation. Let me now. email me at the site. And Tim, thanks for this blog.

Kelley said...

Hello Mara, Tim and Matthew,

Don't know if this blog is still active but did you know that the Friend of CoMadres was started in Boston in 1986/87? We had a number of different chapters, sent delegations to El Salvador, "accompanied" them in there office and at the FEDEFAM conference, organized tours for their representatives in the United States-America Sosa (Gloria), and Maria Teresa Tula. If you want to see some of the history of the group, I donated my files to Northeastern University library and they are available as the Kelley Ready Archives.

Is this Tim of CoCoDa by any chance? If it is, you know that Maria Teresa Tula is living in Minnesota. I am sure she would love to know of the existence of the Friends of CoMadres since she has been out of touch with the CoMadres for some years now. If Mara is interested in getting in contact with her, let me know and we can work it out.

Mara said...

Matthew, I tried to contact you through the Co-Madres site but it didn't work. Please contact me at Thanks!

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Hola I worked with the co-madres too in El Salvador and Seattle WA (same as Kelley but west coast)during civil war. I was close friends with Maria Teresa Tula, She stayed at my house in Seattle with son, Oscar when he was a baby. I went and saw her once in DC. Finding via this site she moved to MN. Would love to correspond with her. I imagine she does not write/use computer unless things have changed since I knew her. She did not speak much english in the 90's but perhaps that has changed too since she has been in the USA for longer now. More Spanish is better as I live in Mexico now. Can anyone put me in touch with her? She would remember me if you say Joey (female) and worked with a group of women in Seattle in the late 1980's and when she was on tour there she stayed with me. Gracias por todo Joey

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mara said...

Hello Joey,

I am in touch with Kelley, who has the contact info for Maria Teresa Tula! Please email me at: so that we can continue the conversation!


P.S. - We have now formed an official support organization for Co-Madres. Please check out our website at We are heading down to ES to work with the Co-Madres on Tuesday, and will stay for three weeks. We will be posting a blog on our website while we are there!

Liton Kumar Podder said...

This was an excellent post and was very insightful.

start a fundraiser on
Start a fundraiser