Keeping the story alive

By: Emi FitzGerald Email
By: Emi FitzGerald Email

SHERMAN, TX -- The El Mozote massacre may not be a familiar topic to most Texomans, but it is one of the worst ever recorded in the Americas. Some members of the Austin College community members want it to be long remembered. They held a screening of a documentary featuring the only survivor from that incident.

Rufina Amaya has spoken out about for 25 years about what happened to her and her family during the massacre. In March, she died of medical complications, but because an Austin College student received a grant, her story will live on.

As Rufina Amaya tells her story, she recalls horrifying events where here family and friends were killed.

“She kept her faith 26 years after everything happened to her she watched her 4 children be killed so an incredible amount of faith," says Robert Thomas Quiring, a former Austin College student.

Rufina’s inspiration drove Robert Thomas Quiring to apply for the grant to pay for the documentary. He visited El Salvador and met Rufina, the lone survivor of the El Mozote massacre.

On December 10, 1981 thousands of her village members were murdered by a Salvadoran battalion trained by US forces. History shows even the US government did not believe the massacre ever occurred, but Rufina spent years recalling the incident. She even testified to legislatures in both the US and Central America. Her efforts led to an investigation and eventually and exhumation of more than 3,000 people.

“She’s a huge inspiration and that fact that such a humble person had that strength and that courage to speak out that truth and to struggle to make that truth known and to continue to tell that story, even thought it caused emotional stress, it was her mission and she carried it,” says Wenday Wallas, filmmaker on the project.

Now Austin College students make regular trips to El Salvador, visiting communities that suffered similar devastation.

"When I saw how devastating massacres are, I met with massacre survivors 10-20 years later, but it effects their spouses, it effects their children in every area of their lives and I want people to know what happened so we can stop it from happening again," says Sophia Kuiper, a senior at Austin College who has made trips to El Salvador.

Wallas says Rufina had a lot of input in the project, choosing what would stay and what was edited from the film. Even though she died before the premier Monday night, her story will live on.

"She felt like she was silenced her whole life but she kept continuing to tell her story,” Quiring says. “That's what this is about, to tell her story now that she has passed."

One of Rufina's daughters who also survived the massacre, Marta, is in medical school in El Salvador. The proceeds from the DVD sales will go to a scholarship fund.

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  • by steve Location: medford oregon on Jun 17, 2008 at 05:03 PM
    I was there. We were not told the truth. I will forever beg forgiveness for my part in this occurrance, I still love my country and am proud to have served in the USMC, We went in under false pretenses and followed orders. To my squad, Semper Fi. To the innocents, Lo Siento.
  • by ix Location: seattle on Dec 20, 2007 at 03:48 PM
    I also entered GPS points of El Mozote on Google earth and they are there now. El Mozote is now in High Rez. Also, it is spelled MOZOTE never MAZOTE! To combat the historical erasing of this event we at least need to spell it right. Another good book is Leigh Binfords the Massacre at El Mozote: antropology and Human Rights. ON AMAZON_I took some fotos in the book since Lee and I were the only ones americans there for the 1994 vigil and reburial of the 134 found exhumed from the convent. I also have that event on video and will be posting soon on the net along with FIERA..
  • by ix Location: seattle on Dec 20, 2007 at 03:43 PM
    Rufina Amaya was not the only survivor in El Mozote, A youth named Wilson Guevara also survived and his testimony is in the 1994 movie. LA FIERA CON TODAS SUS GARRAS, DENIAL by ALTERCINE
  • by cat Location: Sherman on Dec 4, 2007 at 09:03 PM
    Emi Fitzgerald's story about El Mozote is the most accurate AND heart felt news story about Rufina Amaya and the Salvadoran reality I've ever seen on a United States telecast. Friends from around the Americas have been emailing me this link all day. Congratulations and thanks to Emi, and KXII.
  • by Sharmin Location: Dallas on Dec 4, 2007 at 07:23 PM
    In my work as the assistant director and chaplain at Center for Survivors of Torture in Dallas, I have had a chance to work with and visit many of those involoved, in addition to the readings on the subject. About John: Forensic Anthropologist, not archiologists. The 3,000 number refers to those killed in that part of El Salvador in about a week of intensive scorched earth policy. There were other survivors of El Mazote in that there were people who were from the pueblo, but who were not there that day (at market, visiting family in other areas), but they are not considered survivors in the same way as Rufina who was a witness to the actual killing and an intended victim who escaped, as she told me, by the grace of God who struck the soldiers "blind" as she escaped.
  • by Marie Location: IL on Dec 4, 2007 at 02:02 PM
    To sceptical: Yes, it's a jumbled mess, but don't think there is no truth there. You are right, the number murdered at El Mazote is closer to 1,000. Rufina Amaya fled to Honduras after the massacre. She eventually remarried and her daughter is from that marriage. Ms. Kuiper was talking about massacres (plural), not just El Mazote, when she spoke of talking to survivors. The sad fact is that there were many such massacres in El Salvador; El Mazote had the largest single death toll. Whole villages that happened to be smaller than El Mazote were routinely wiped out by the Salvadoran military.
  • by John S. Moore Location: VA on Dec 4, 2007 at 06:15 AM
    For a detailed account, read :The Massacre at El Mazote" by Mark Danner, 1993, Vintage Books, a chilling, gripping, reconstruction of this event. He includes a list of the victims, the report of the forensic archeologists and the Commission of the Truth. Very objective, thorough, and honest. Describes actions of key US Govt people, some of whom incidently, are still employed by the Bush administration today.
  • by sceptical Location: Durant on Dec 4, 2007 at 04:59 AM
    A quick google reveals that from 700-1000 people were killed at El Mozote. A tragedy to be sure, but a bit short of the 3,000 inferred above. If the daughter also survived, her Mom wasn't the only survivor, unless the daughter wasn't there. That would mean we all survived it who are older than 27. And Ms. Kuiper talks in one breath about the lone survivor and then talking to survivors 10-20 years later. This story is a jumbled mess. And isn't the pro-socialist anthem Sunday Bloody Sunday about the tragedy there? Hard to say it's not familiar, except by the name of El Mozote.
  • by I'm Apalled Location: Texomas on Dec 4, 2007 at 04:41 AM
    Here's a link for those who may be more interested.
  • by Dawn on Dec 4, 2007 at 04:34 AM
    I have never heard of this before now. I will buy the DVD. What a sad thing for this woman.
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