Thursday, December 02, 2010

A savage week -- 30 years ago


Enrique Alvarez: Presente!?
Thirty years ago this week, right wing death squads and the Salvadoran military, and the oligarchy they were protecting, made it abundantly clear that there were no limits to the violence they would wield against opponents.

First, on Thursday, November 27, 1980, six leaders of the Democratic Revolutionary Front (FDR) were kidnapped from a school where they were meeting, tortured, and killed. Their bodies were dumped along a roadside later that same day. The FDR had been a broad opposition coalition which represented many sectors of Salvadoran society. The murders drove the FDR to align itself with the armed movement which was the FMLN.

Among the six murdered leaders was Enrique Alvarez Córdova. He was raised in one of El Salvador's "14 families." He tried to serve in the government as an advocate for progressive change. He eventually committed himself to the struggle for social justice in the country. His story is recounted this week in an essay by John Lamperti in Truthout. Lamperti notes that:
The year 1980 was notorious for murder in El Salvador. The 10,000 to 12,000 killed included a beloved archbishop, the rector of the national university and the four US churchwomen. Even so, Alvarez stands out among the victims, since he was born and raised in the privileged class those same armed forces existed to protect. "He was the first rich man who died in El Salvador for the poor ... for his country, for his people, for the poor," said Monsignor Ricardo Urioste of San Salvador's archdiocese. How could such a man fall victim to El Salvador's right-wing terrorists? The answer is fundamentally simple. Alvarez had, very consciously, chosen the side of the majority of the people.
The murder is commemorated in this poem:
The Murder of the Polo Champion

They killed the polo champion.
The man of a thousand suits,
the same one who had mansions
and yachts
and rich and pretty women almost the world over.
They shot him dead
and threw him, hands tied,
into a ditch.
They killed him because he abandoned his suits,
his horses and polo,
his yachts and mansions,
and above all because he began to walk like a poor man among the poor.

-Alfonso Quijada Urías
I also recommend the excellent biography, Enrique Alvarez: Life of a Salvadoran Revolutionary And Gentlemen, by John Lamperti.

Five days later, "they" committed another infamous murder. Armed soldiers of the Salvadoran military stopped the van carrying four US churchwomen, took the women to a remote place, raped and murdered them. Ursuline Sister Dorothy Kazel, lay missionary Jean Donovan and Maryknoll Sisters Maura Clarke and Ita Ford had been devoting themselves to caring for the poor in a country spiraling into armed conflict. Their deaths became a symbol of the savage lengths to which the Salvadoran state would go to preserve its privileges of power. They joined the ranks of the martyrs of the struggle for justice in El Salvador.

You can read biographies of the four women at this link from the InterReligious Task Force on Central America and watch this short video put together by Maryknoll:


Alvarez and the churchwomen were only the highest profile victims of violence perpetrated by El Salvador's death squads that week. As had been true throughout the year, dozens of bodies turned up on streets and in dumps -- campesinos, union leaders, educators, religious, students -- a part of the madness which was El Salvador's civil war.

1 comment:

Senor Pescado said...

thanks for keeping this alive, best to forget, how can one forgive?
revenge is best served cold,
time, time, but some of horrors have yet to be punished for the crimes