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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