Today was a bit of a lighter day given the amount of energy that we expended yesterday. We started off the morning with pancakes for breakfast, then a 2 km walk into the town of Perquin (all uphill) and a visit to the Museum of the Revolution.
The museum was fascinating and was very well put together given the limited resources that are inevitably available here. We were shown through exhibits which progressed logically from the causes of the war through history of the war and the various massacres which occurred. One room featured posters and news headlines from around the world condemning the outside involvement in the war. There were also a huge variety of weapons on display from both sides – the government weapons being almost entirely US-supplied. It was also interesting to note that much of the rebel financing came from the USSR, but equipment was from a variety of countries including several western European nations.
An interesting statistic was that the rebels were getting money in the range of a million dollars per month, while the government forces were being financed at a million dollars per day.
We were also told a story about a general Monterossa who was in charge of purging this district of rebels and rebel supporters. The general was particularly brutal and was directly responsible for several numerous massacres of innocent civilians, including El Mozote. He wanted a trophy, and the rebel propaganda radio station was a particular thorn in his side. The rebels realised this and so they arranged a setup where they made it seem as though they were forced to abandon the transmitter after retreating from a fierce firefight. The government soldiers, knowing how the general felt about the radio station, radioed him and told him what they had recovered. He immediately ordered them to leave it in place and rode a helicopter to the site to recover the transmitter. He even made sure to have several dignitaries, reporters, and even a bishop present for his crowning achievement. The rebels, meanwhile, were watching this unfold from nearby mountains and unbeknownst to anyone but them, the “transmitter” left behind was also loaded with explosives.
After arriving at the site, the general immediately ordered the transmitter loaded into his helicopter and he took off to return to his headquarters. As the helicopter passed El Mozote, the rebels detonated the explosives, instantly killing the general and causing the helicopter to crash in the forest.
I’m sure there’s a bit of exaggeration in this story, but I’ve got to say, it would make a great movie – it’s a shame that Hollywood would never make it!
The next part of the museum was a recreation of various aspects of a guerrilla camp – lots more weapons and many tunnels and bridges. I have to admit that I was/am a little concerned with the fascination that some of the boys had with the guns and other weapons… I’m still not sure that they understand exactly what they are setting and why it’s important and not “cool.”
Following this we made our walk back to the hotel, though this time it was downhill, so the walk went far more quickly and was about a thousand times more enjoyable!
After a late lunch the group headed to a beach on a river that borders Honduras where there was a spectacularly beautiful waterfall and everyone had a lovely time. I spent the afternoon relaxing in the room I shared with Lu and Vanessa – started reading a new novel and worked to complete some blogging.
After everyone returned and had some supper, we watched a video detailing the events of the massacre at El Mozote. There were not many dry eyes in the room after hearing Rufina Amaya’s testimony. Tomorrow will be interesting as we visit the massacre site.