So I arrived in Perquin on Friday afternoon. I decided to come here as I wanted to visit the war museum and memorial here. Everything was closed by the time I arrived so I went to find myself a room for the night. There wasn`t much choice, only 2 or 3 places, 2 were expensive and one was cheap. Mindful of my budget I went for the cheap option... the room was a bit grubby but I`d seen worse... until I clapped eyes on the bathroom facilities! There I found the grimiest shower I`ve seen so far on my trip! A leaky pipe with a barrel placed underneath from where you`re supposed to scoop the grey green slimy water over yourself! I decided I`d probably stay cleaner without a shower!
The next day I got up early and made my way to the tourist office to find out about trips to nearby El Mozote, a village which fell victim to possibly the most brutal massacre during the civil war in El Salvador. Turned out there was only one public bus a day and I`d missed it. Not wanting to spend $25 on private transport I booked myself a guide for the following day and made my way up to the war museum in Perquin. The museum displayed photos of fallen guerrilla and revolutionaries. They also had examples of homemade weaponry used by the guerrilla, US supplied weaponry used by the army, uniforms and clothing from both sides, remains of downed aircraft, bomb craters and a recreated studio with equipment used by the rebel radio. It was extremely interesting. I had learned a little about the civil war in ES when i was at school in Guatemala but not as much as I learned about the Guatemalan civil war, so it was good to find out a bit more. There`s nothing like this in Guatemala. No museums or war memorials. Probably because there is still a lot of fear of speaking out due to the fact that people have been assassinated for doing so long after the end of the war. The fact that Rios Montt, the 80s dictator responsible for the majority of the genocide is still one of the most powerful men in Guatemalan politics, is no coincidence I`m sure.
Anyway, after the museum I made my way up the hill to get a view of the town from above and see some more remnants from the war.. some craters, a helipad and numerous trenches. At the top I bumped into an american guy named Greg. We got talking and it turned out he had been studying Spanish in Xela about the same time as me. We were both alone in this quiet little town so we kept each other company for the day. The one thing I don`t like about travelling alone is eating alone so it was really good to have a companion for lunch and dinner. We didn`t plan it that way we just got along very well and didn`t run out of things to talk about! Greg only had a couple more days left in Central America before heading home to the States so he had treated himself to the posh hotel just outside of town. Hearing my slimy shower plight he let me use his... proper hot water and everything, not just a dodgy electric heater wired haphazzardly to the back of the shower head! Aaah it was so welcome as Perquin was surprisingly hot and sticky for mountain town!
So I said goodbye to Greg early evening and made my way back to my scratchy bed full of insects. I needed an early night cos the bed bugs kept me awake the night before and I had to meet my guide first thing to catch the one and only bus to El Mozote.
I awoke with a few extra bites to add to my collection (the soles of your feet are always the worst!) and met my guide outside my hotel. We took a pick up and a bus to El Mozote. The memorial was immediately apparent as we arrived. A cast iron cut out of a family stands in front of the names of the families who died. My guide began to tell me the story of the massacre. It was in spanish so I might have missed some details but here`s the basic outline. On the 11th December 1981, without warning the El Salvadorian army invaded the town of El Mozote. They entered by force every house and dragged the men, women and children to the town square where they separated the people into groups of men and teenagers then women and babies. The men were shot first in view of their wives and children. Then they gathered the women together, dragged their babies away from them, sexually assaulted them before killing them as well. Then the children and babies were taken to an area beside the church where they were shot too. The youngest was just 3 days old. One woman somehow survived. She managed to crawl into the woods and hide. I read an extract from her account and she described how she hid in the trees and heard the voices of her own children calling out for her to save them. But there was nothing she could have done. She hid out in the woods for days with no clothes, food or water. She managed to get to a nearby village where people she knew took her in and nursed her.
The army`s justification for the attack was that the community was supporting the guerrilla by supplying them with food. The village had no connection with the guerrilla forces what so ever. Even if they had it would have been no justification. The army`s moto at the time was that in order to kill the fish (the guerrilla) you have to remove the water (the people). This was the justification for genocide in Guatemala and El Salvador.
My guide took me to the garden at the side of the church. The church was destroyed during the attack. It was rebuilt in 96 and the garden was made into a memorial for the children who died there. Their names are listed in age order on the side of the building. There are still blood stains on the ground. I thought about the time that this happened. It was shortly after my second birthday. I looked at the list of 2 year olds. I felt horrible. We then walked down an old street, where there are still bullet pocked buildings, into the woods where I saw the ditches where the women were killed. There were still torn remains of clothing.
I couldn´t really take in anymore but we still had a couple of hours to wait for the bus back to Perquin so we walked down to the nearby Rio Sapo. It wasn´t all that pretty but it was an ok spot for a swim. It was a welcome relief from the heat and helped me clear my mind of the information overload. Even after a swim we still had a long wait for the bus. Luckily as we walked back up towards El Mozote we managed to hitch a ride in a pick up all the way back to Perquin.
I said goodbye to my guide, had some lunch and caught the bus to Honduras. It was time to be reunited with Carmen Coconut bum! It was a long slow bumpy ride accross the boarder to Honduras and there was no way I was going to make it all the way to the capital Tegucigalpa. So I stopped over night in a small town called Marcala. There was really nothing there but I met a trio of super friendly Poles who invited me out for dinner with them... which was lovely!
Aaah, and to my relief the one and only hotel had hot water and cable tv! No more bathroom slime!!! ...at least for a little while!