Indigenous peoples in the western Salvadoran town of Izalco commemorated the 78th anniversary of the slaughter of 30 thousand indigenous people and peasants, killed during the popular uprisings. On January 22, 1932, more than three thousand farmers, indigenous and political leaders protested low wages, unfair distribution of land and hoarding of wealth in the hands of a few elite Salvadoran families.
Indigenous peoples in the western Salvadoran town of Izalco commemorated the 78th anniversary of the slaughter of 30 thousand indigenous people and peasants, killed during the popular uprising of 1932.
During the dictatorship of General Maximiliano Hernández Martínez, the dissatisfaction with the unfair distribution of wealth caused a social uprising. The dictatorship struck back, with one of the worst massacres of the continent on occurring on January 22, 1932.
On this day, more than three thousand farmers, indigenous and political leaders in Izalco, Nahuizalco, Ateos, Juayua and other places, protested low wages, unfair distribution of land and hoarding of wealth in the hands of a few elite Salvadoran families. According to Salvadoran writer and historian Alirio Montoya, the military dictatorship justified the slaughter by linking communists to indigenous people as synonymous entities.
The killing, led by former President General Maximiliano, left almost thirty thousand dead, “the majority of whom were indigenous -who probably did not know [that the government considered them] communists- thus destroying much of a culture that now demands justice and recognition,” says Montoya.
“After this massacre, the Indian community was greatly reduced in the country, many of them changed their habits for fear of being killed and many customs gradually waned into oblivion” recounted the spiritual guide “Tata” Juan.
78 years later, in a place known as “El Llanito” where many victims of the slaughter are buried, an indigenous ceremony was held to “pay tribute to all the fallen who died innocently.”
“Naja nusan matiguagua su 1932 matachiwa,” [We will never forget the martyrs of 1932] exclaimed indigenous priests in Nahuatl.
The Salvadoran Indigenous Coordinating Council (CCNIS) and Ama Foundation coordinated these commemorations on January 22 and 23 in Izalco, asking the Salvadoran state to “repair the damages caused by this crime” committed nearly a century ago.
“We tell the government that it should not only apologize to [the survivors], but to help them; that would be a wonderful thing,” said the Mayor of Izalco, Robert Alvarado, during the event,.
“For years we have been fighting for the Salvadorean State to recognize the existence of indigenous peoples in the country through constitutional reform, and also to ratify international agreements, and also for our rights to be promoted and respected,” said Betty Perez, an indigenous woman CCNIS member.
“Also we want the new government [of Mauricio Funes] to develop public policies so that they recognize damage that the capitalist system has been wreaking on indigenous communities for years,” she added.
These requests and others were made during the indigenous ceremony, accompanied by the “ancestral snail shell” and “blessing of the sacred fire.”
Attorney for the Defense of Human Rights (PDDH), Oscar Luna, has expressed support and solidarity “with the struggle that indigenous communities have been undertaking on behalf of their legitimate constitutional rights”.
“The indigenous population in this country is a strong and substantial population, and therefore requires the support and recognition of their rights,” said Luna.
Indigenous peoples have the hope of achieving some of their demands with the new government of President Mauricio Funes, who has expressed support for this sector and has encouraged a rapprochement of the state with the indigenous population through the Social Inclusion Secretariat of the Presidency .
According to Henry Barillas, a member of the Communicators and Student Collective “Roque Dalton” (CERD), one one of the youth organizations participating in the commemoration, “78 years after the genocide, the problems that caused the Indigenous uprising of 1932 remain and have increased. This story requires us to remember and rethink the struggle. In this complex time in El Salvador, we need solutions that are complex but also practical, and that come from below.”
Barillas adds “It is important that new generations know the story, know the importance of learning from mistakes. Above all, we have to rescue what they have stolen. In this case, we promote and take back our cultural identity.”