Victims of El Mozote Massacre Recognized in El Salvador

Human Rights Champion Jon Cortina Remembered

Marking the first anniversary since his passing, commemorative masses were held in San Salvador and Chalatenango to recognize the life of Jon Cortina, founder of the Pro-Busqueda Human Rights Organization. Cortina started the group to search for children who were kidnapped or otherwise separated from their families during El Salvador ‘s 12-year civil war (1980-1992). To date, the group has reunited 172 youth with their biological families and found another 90, whom have not yet been reunited. According to Pro-Busqueda, 453 remain to be located.

Events recognizing “Padre Jon,” as he was known to the people of Guarjila, Chalatenango, took place as part of the 25 th anniversary of the massacre at El Mozote. A mass, cultural program and concert was held there last weekend. Another event was held in Guarjila, where the Jon Cortina Museum was inaugurated, along with a monument in his honor.

Last Sunday, at the UCA, a number of commemorative events were held, including a mass, concert and a procession to the cemetery where Cortina is buried. A new book, “With Jon Cortina, God passed through Guarjila” honoring Jon’s accompaniment with the people of that community will be presented today (Dec. 12).

El Mozote Remembered, 25 Years Later
On Dec. 10, 1981 the Atlacatl Battalion of the Salvadoran Army—led by the now deceased SOA graduate Col. Domingo Monterrosa–entered the village of El Mozote, Morazán and commenced a two-day bloodbath that resulted in the summary execution of the town’s population. The town was then burned to the ground. When all was done, around 1000 poor campesinos had been murdered. Resulting excavations of the area unearthed the skeletons of 136 children under six.
There is one known survivor of the massacre, Rufina Amaya, who’s story is recounted in the book "The Massacre at El Mozote," by Mark Danner.

The act was perhaps the most gruesome of the 12-year civil war that gripped El Salvador from 1980-1992, but it came to symbolize a policy of collective punishment and human rights abuse exacted by the army against the civilian population. Despite this, no one has ever been tried or convicted of the horrendous acts that occurred in Mozote.

In honor of the 25 th anniversary of the massacre, the community held a commemorative mass and cultural event on December 9. The event was attended by thousands of Salvadorans and internationals.

The anniversary events fall as the Legal Protection Office of the Archbishop of San Salvador filed a legal motion for the El Mozote case to be re-opened. A court in San Francisco Gotera, the municipal capital of Morazán, received the filing. According to Office Director María Julia Hernández, the Archdiocese has all the proof necessary to re-open the case on charges of “Crimes Against Humanity,” which were not covered by a 1993 Amnesty Law. In addition to Monterrosa, the suit names ex-Defense Minister José Guillermo García, and the ex-Chief of State Mayor Rafael Flores Lima as defendants.