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11 December 1981 was the second day of the three-day massacre of the village of El Mozote, El Salvador.

Beginning on 10 December (the official date of remembrance in that Central American nation), US-trained and armed Atlacatl Battalion of the Salvadoran armed forces occupied that village. The following day, it tortured, raped and murdered the 900+ unarmed people of El Mozote. This was part of a larger military operation called Operación Rescate.

To date, no-one has been brought to trial for that atrocity. You may read more about it (in Spanish) here:

During my first trip to El Salvador shortly after the peace accords were signed, I spent time in Morazán Department. I interviewed people in several villages – including Perquín, Segundo Montes and, yes, El Mozote – about their experiences during the civil war.

I was one of the first to reveal that El Mozote was being repopulated. In fact, I arrived on foot to that village just as the returnees were cleaning the ruins, to begin anew.

This is the poem I was compelled to write at that moment, sitting in the scant shade of the silhouette statue.

And this is a report from a few years ago about the refound village:


L_caputoby Lorraine Caputo13 Dec 2014

A village deserted for so long
after such a horror:
Battalion Atlacatl, armed & trained in
torture & so-called low-intensity warfare
by the US of A, killed 1000 people here &
in neighboring villages in Operación

One December night in '81, the soldiers arrived and stayed.
The people of the village were forbidden to leave their homes.

The next morning, the soldiers gathered the people:
the men in one place...
the women in another...
the children in the convent.
First they interrogated/tortured/shot the men...
then they shot the women...
then the children...
The soldiers left their boasts on the walls of the now-empty homes
& laid torch to it all.

The campesinos & guerrilleros near saw the columns of smoke arising.
Some had heard the shots & shouts, the screams.
When they arrived all that was left was the bodies of 1000 people
being eaten by buzzards & dogs.

And now the air is disturbed
only by a slight breeze through the long-needled pines.
A silhouette sculpture of a family
man/woman/children holding hands
stands in the center of the village.
Roofless buildings--some with bullet & shell holes,
all with charred beams.

And from these ashes, from the debris of fallen roof tiles
you, the few survivors of that massacre
only six, with your new families]
arise like a Phoenix
to rebuild your homes & your community
still called El Mozote.

published in :
Red River Review (August 2001)