El Salvador peace accord turns 30. Who remembers the civil war?

San Salvador, El Salvador

Laura Quinteros, a seventh grade teacher at a private school, noticed something missing from her class reading list: Salvadoran literature.

So she additional “Fireflies in El Mozote,” a first-person account of a 1981 massacre when soldiers killed nearly 1,000 unarmed civilians. Although her students are too young to remember the days when El Salvador was in the midst of a civil war between the U.S.-backed Salvadoran government and a left-wing guerrilla insurgency, she didn’t want the lessons and realities of the war to end with those who lived it.

“Historical memory should be revived,” Ms. Quinteros says. 

Why We Wrote This

Amid political polarization and an increasingly authoritarian government, teaching about El Salvador’s violent past may be meaningful now more than ever. Civil war survivors and NGOs hope to fill that educational void.

But not everyone here agrees.

On Jan. 16, El Salvador marks 30 years since the government of the day and rebel guerrillas signed a peace accord to end a 12-year civil war. El Salvador, like many in the vicinity, is nevertheless grappling with how to come to terms with its dark past. During the civil war, the military and death squads sowed terror by murdering nuns, priests, and peasants, and disappearing political dissidents and student leaders.

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