Womens issues

Women of the War, Stories of El Salvador

Mujeres de la Guerra, Historias de El Salvador (Women of the War, Stories of El Salvador) is a documentary, book, and series of photographs about women leaders who work for peace and justice in El Salvador, in many cases beginning with the repression and injustice at the cause of the Salvadoran civil war.

The talented women compiling these important testimonies into a film and book need your support to finish up They need to raise $12,000 by July. As of this morning they have $4000 and need $8000 more. Members of Voices’ staff and board of directors has contributed to this great project and we’d be grateful if you did as well. Click here to donate!

Of the 28 Salvadoran women who shared their testimonies for this project, four are from Voices’ partner communities in Morazán and the Bajo Lempa. Gabriela Hernandez, Gaby, a member of the Pastoral Association of Segundo Montes, is featured in the Mujeres de la Guerra teaser.

Another of the women interviewed in the project is Maria Yolanda Garcia Vigil.  Yolanda was a young girl when violent repression began in Morazán. She tells of fleeing into the mountains from the army’s scorched earth campaign, returning to El Salvador at 13 years old to learn basic nursing skills while treating wounded guerrilla and civilians during the war, and then organizing her people in the refugee camp Colomoncagua to return home.

Today, Yolanda has helped found the Morazán Women’s Network, to empower women throughout the department to demand respect for their rights. In March 2012, she was elected a member of the City Council of Meanguera, Morazán.

Yolanda’s Mujeres de la Guerra Portrait

Despite having been unable to attend even first grade because of the violence in her hometown, Yolanda clearly explains the root causes and consequences of injustice and inequality in the 1970s and ‘80s, and the injustice that continues today. In her own words, excerpts of Yolanda’s story follow:

Before the war, my family lived in the community Ojos de Agua, in Torola. My mom was a housewife, and my father a day laborer.  We lived off of the work that my father did. He planted a field, and that’s how we survived. At that time, there was great social inequality, there wasn’t democracy, there wasn’t freedom of expression. And so rural farmers, including my dad, got organized. They began a new form of life for rural families. Rural farmers begin to unite in groups; they begin to carry out collective work.

The oligarchy of El Salvador began to see these uprisings of people, of rural farmers, in organized life, uniting more and more. And they began to say, ‘Communism is coming. These are subversives, terrorists.’  They began to say, ‘[t]hese people can’t live.  We can’t let them multiply,’ because it was a danger for the oligarchy.

And repression in communities began.  Where I lived, they start to persecute people.  They captured people, and many people were disappeared.  In 1980, the armed forces launched an operation called the scorched earth campaign. In that operation their goal was to kill all living things.

Around ‘79, we didn’t sleep in our home anymore. People went to the mountains to sleep. We built shacks out of tarp or weeds, and people slept there.  No one could live in their homes, because there was so much risk. Because the people that were found there were killed.  Or they were taken captured to be tortured, until they were killed. There wasn’t anything to eat.  When that repression began, we couldn’t work the land anymore.  You couldn’t work, just fleeing.  Fleeing.

My grandmother was hung.  They hung my grandma.  And they shot her.  She was buried by my mom, more or less, on the spot. And my mom, too.  They found her with eight kids in a house.  My mom was tied up, all her teeth were broken from being kicked, she was blindfolded and beaten. They tried to kill her by beating her.

I think we have achieved things for women.  Maybe there are places where that’s not true, but in our community, it is.  Here, women participate. Women are very active, and today, there is more awareness.  The goal is to empower women and feel equal in work, in decisions.  I think that as a community we’ve achieved a lot.

We are in favor of justice, and it hasn’t happened yet.  Justice hasn’t come.  So we have to keep fighting.  That’s the challenge.  We need to strengthen our organization. Because it’s a lie that things will happen just because, or because the big people want them.  The effort has to be from the people.

These are real things, these aren’t things from a movie, but things that we have lived.  And things that haven’t been easy. Our struggle has been of a lot of sacrifice, of blood, of so many martyrs that have given their lives in this history.  We will construct our future together.  The problems that we face in our country aren’t just here; the crisis is on the global level. And everywhere, even in the United States, there are people that are organized and fighting against injustice.

Read more about the Mujeres de la Guerra project and the stories of the women at http://www.indiegogo.com/mujeresdelaguerra. And please support this great project!

3 thoughts on “Women of the War, Stories of El Salvador”

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