of Homeland: Remembering the Civil War in El Salvador
the PDF version
The Massacre at El Mozote and Rufina
Amaya's testimonio (the story of many rural Salvadorans
during the eighties) have not been forgotten by many Salvadorans.
Numerous websites on the Internet generating information on
"El Mozote" attest to how the remembrance of that
massacre has been adapted to and transformed by new technologies.  More recently, Amaya's testimonio
has been reproduced in media forms such an “electroacoustic,”
ambient musical composition entitled “La Masacre del Mozote”
(JC Mendizabal @ 1999)
 and the film Homeland (Dir. Doug Scott, 1999),
both of which attempt to recuperate for a U.S.-Salvadoran
reception the primary trauma of that violent past and to recall
the memory of a war that cost the lives of over 75,000 people
and set off the great Salvadoran migrations of the 1980s.
For many Salvadoran immigrants, particularly new generations
of Salvadorans born and/or raised outside of the country,
El Mozote is a lost fragment of their history, the same history
that produced their diasporic condition today.
 Recovering the story of El Mozote and of the Civil
War in El Salvador, I argue, may enable an imaginary recuperation
of the Central American homelands for those people who have
little or no memory of the Salvadoran Civil War. Through a
reading of Doug Scott’s film Homeland and other texts,
I explore the transmission of the “memory” of war to diasporic
communities of Salvadorans through audio and visual-scapes.
of Rufina Amaya’s Testimonio
On 11 December 1981, the U.S.-trained
anti-insurgency Atlacatl Battalion of the Salvadoran Armed
Forces carried out "Operation Rescue," killing more
than seven hundred people in the village of El Mozote and
its surrounding areas in northern El Salvador. Only one living
person—Rufina Amaya—survived to tell the story of the massacre.
Amaya’s account of the violent demise of El Mozote circulated
in the Washington Post and the New York Times
as early as January of 1982, although the U.S. government
vehemently discredited these early news leakages of the event.  Despite the immediate cover-up of the massacre,  the story of El Mozote slipped
through the channels of misinformation, prompting the International
Community to take action. In her newspaper article of 14 January
2002, Alma Guillermoprieto, correspondent for the Washington
Post and one of the first international journalists to
reach El Mozote, described the macabre scene of El Mozote.
Guillermoprieto explains walking into a village "looted
of all contents" and reeking "of the sweet smell
of decomposing bodies. This was El Mozote."  All that was left of the people were "countless bits of
bones--skulls, rib cages, femurs, a spinal column—[that] poked
out of the rubble” (185). In an article published around the
same time in the New York Times, Raymond Bonner reported,
"it is clear that a massacre of mayor proportions occurred
here last month."  Both reporters would be forced
by U.S. government officials to retract their news stories,
and, in the United States, a silent uneasiness would permeate
news reporting on Human Rights violations in El Salvador up
through the end of the Civil War in 1992.
From the start, however, Guillermoprieto’s
and Bonner’s articles drew from the testimonio of Rufina
Amaya, as would Mark Danner’s feature article published in
The New Yorker on 6 December 1993 and his spectacular
book-length exposé entitled, The Massacre of El Mozote:
A Parable of the Cold War (1994).  Amaya’s testimonial narrative would also lie at the core of
the United Nations' Truth Commission Report, which
exposed Human Rights abuses in El Salvador, including the
massacre at El Mozote. Amaya's collective narrative of death
became primary evidence against the Salvadoran government’s
crimes of genocide, which were compiled in the Truth Commission's
publication De la Locura a la Esperanza: La guerra de 12
años en El Salvador (1993).  Various other print documents and visual documentaries
such as Bill Moyer’s "Portraits of a Revolution"
(PBS 1992) and “Denial” (Dir. Daniele LaCourse and Yvan Patry,
1993) also called on the eyewitness Amaya to (re)tell her
story. In the United States, a travelling musical theatre
piece written by Chilean writer, scholar, and professor Marjorie
Agosin entitled "Tres Vidas" (Three Lives) would
pick up Rufina Amaya’s story and set it parallel to the lives
of two other Latin American women—Mexican painter Frida Kahlo
(1907-1954), and Argentine poet Alfonsina Storni (1892-1938).
At the heart of all these texts
(and others to follow) lies Amaya’s chilling hour-by-hour
account of how government soldiers killed men, women, and
children, as she hid near-by in the bushes for eight nights.
 Amaya alone was left to answer
the question: "’¿Cómo fue Rufina?’" (What happened,
Rufina?). She remembers how
A las doce del mediodía, terminaron
de matar a todos los hombres y fueron a sacar a las muchachas
para llevárselas a los cerros. Las madres lloraban y gritaban
que no les quitaran a sus hijas, pero las botaban a culatazos.
A los niños que lloraban más duro y que hacían más bulla eran
los que primero sacaban y ya no regresaban.
[At noon, they (the soldiers) finished
killing all the men and then they took the girls to the hills.
The mothers cried and screamed not to take their daughters,
but they knocked them down with the butts of their guns. The
children who cried the loudest and made the most noise were
the first taken, and they did not return.]
Amaya describes waiting in the bushes,
escaping on hands and knees through pasturing cattle, and
hearing the children’s cries and recognizing her own children’s
voices among them: “’Mamá, they are killing us; Mamá, they
are choking us, Mamá, they are stabbing us!’” She recalls
telling herself, “’If I die, there will be no one to tell
this story. There is no one but me.’” She would begin telling
her story to the passersby who gave her shelter and the “international
people” who interviewed her fifteen days after the massacre.
In an attempt to escape the war, Amaya fled to and lived for
seven years in the refugee camp of Colomoncagua in Honduras,
which housed up to eight thousand Salvadorans during the war.
Through it all, Amaya reminded herself that “What they did
was a reality and we must be strong to tell it.”
Recalled, remembered, and reiterated
in other texts, Amaya’s story of what happened to her family,
friends, and community at El Mozote replays the primary trauma
of war for many Salvadoran nationals, Salvadoran exiled and
diasporic communities, and international spectators. The story
of El Mozote, and by extension that of the nameless and countless
disappeared in El Salvador, forms the referential corpus (the
missing but not forgotten bodies) in many texts. Together
these texts function as “irruptions of memory,” or symbolic
acts that recall and trigger traumatic memories associated
with a nation’s recent but unresolved history, as is the case
of other countries that have undergone periods of war, dictatorship,
and many forms of institutional violence. Examining the case
of Chile, Alexander Wilde identifies the public acts and performed
symbols of memory of the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship, which
surface periodically in the form of “official ceremonies,
national holidays, book publications, discovery of the remains
of disappeared persons, [and] the trial of an official of
the dictatorship—which remind the political class and citizens
alike of the unforgotten past.”  While Wilde cites “a series of expressive
ceremonies” sponsored by the Chilean post-dictatorship authorities
and public institutions and covered by the media to commemorate
the dead and the disappeared during the Pinochet reign of
terror, much less can be said for state-sponsored collective
“healing” events in El Salvador.
and Popular Acts of Memory in El Salvador
Since the signing of the Peace Accords
on 16 January 1992, in El Salvador, public acts recognizing
and memorializing the Civil War have been few and far. The
official imperative has been toward national “reconciliation”
and “reconstruction,” and the production of a “culture of
peace.” In El Salvador, hence, very few public acts commemorating
the war and the disappeared have been sanctioned by the pre-
and post-war ARENA government. As part of the post-war national
reconstruction effort, in 1991 the Ministry of Education in
El Salvador founded Concultura with the directive to implement
cultural politics and projects that would promote a reunified
Salvadoran national identity. Its mandate was to aid in the
reconstruction of the "national patrimony," the
promotion a cultural heritage, and the recuperation of Salvadoran
folk traditions much under attack during the war and lost
with the lives of peasants and rural folk who perished. The
main objectives of Concultura were "to research, foment,
promote, and disseminate culture, and valorize the arts"
["investigar, fomentar, promover y difundir la cultura
y valorar las artes"] in a post-war agenda. Material
cultural projects involved preserving folk-culture, restoring
the arts and traditional cultural expressions, and building
innocuous monuments. Under the auspices of Concultura, the
monument dedicated to El hermano lejano, or the Salvadoran
emigrant, materialized as a public works project associated
with this official program.
 The familiar and colloquial term, “los hermanos
lejanos” (the distant relatives) is used in El Salvador to
refer to Salvadoran emigrants. For El Salvador especially,
immigrants represent great symbolic and material capital,
as immigrants routinely send generous remittances to their
families. An important component of the Salvadoran economy,
family remittances now surpass the total value of El Salvador's
exports, including coffee, and exceed economic aid received
from the United States.  In El Salvador the more significant
“irruptions of memory” that challenge the official program
and agenda of national “reconciliation” and “reconstruction”
are less public, yet more popular, as they are organized by
religious, grass-roots, and non-governmental organizations,
and the Salvadoran people themselves.
An article entitled “Salvadoreños
conmemoran 15 años de la masacre de 1.000 campesinos” (Salvadorans
commemorate 15 years of the massacre of 1,000 campesinos),
which was published on 9 December 1996 in La Prensa
of San Pedro Sula, Honduras, covered a popular commemoration
ceremony that took place in El Mozote fifteen years after
the massacre. The writer described how, "Cientos de salvadoreños
observaron ayer con actos culturales y religiosos el décimo-quinto
aniversario de la masacre de 1.000 campesinos, llevada a cabo
por un batallón del ejército entre el 11 y 13 diciembre de
1981" [Yesterday, hundreds of Salvadorans commemorated
with cultural and religious acts the fifteenth anniversary
of the massacre of 1,000 campesinos carried out by a government
battalion between 11 and 13 December 1982].
 Seeking to bury the past, to gain amnesty for offending
government officials, and to rebuild the country, Salvadoran
authorities have left the remembrance of the war up to civil
sectors, as is the case of non-governmental agencies and projects
such as the “Museo de la Palabra y La Imagen” (the Museum
of the Word and Image). The Museum has been dedicated to preserving
the memory of the war and to fighting "contra el virus
de la desmemoria" (against the virus of de-remembrance).  In its few years of existence, the Museum
has amassed a collection of items such as photographs, testimonios,
posters, recordings, video, print items, and other objects
of material culture, which document the memory of El Salvador.
The museum is in the process of digitizing its collections
on CD-ROM, but its “virtual gallery” is open for viewing at
the Museum’s web site. Beginning with the publication of its
inaugural book, Luciérnagas en El Mozote (1996),
 the Museum has produced texts on themes of vital
importance to the history and memory of the Civil War, has
organized traveling installations throughout El Salvador,
and has plans to open a permanent museum and library space
in the future. According to the Museum’s current director,
Carlos Henríquez Consalvi,
Hemos lanzado nuestra primera publicación:
Luciérnagas en El Mozote (Testimonio), que integra
testimonio e investigación periodística sobre la mencionada
masacre ejecutada en 1981, y que fuerzas poderosas trataron
de borrar de la memoria latinoamericana, primero negando su
existencia, luego obstaculizando su investigación. Nuestra
intención era dejar memoria escrita sobre hechos que no deben
olvidarse, precisamente para que jamás se repitan.
[We have launched our first publication,
Luciérnagas en El Mozote (Testimonio), which includes
testimonials and journalistic research about the massacre
executed in 1981, and that powerful forces tried to erase
from Latin American memory, first by denying its existence,
then by preventing research on it. Our intention is to leave
written memory over deeds that should not be forgotten, precisely
so that they are never repeated.] 
For Argentine scholars of memory
construction, Elizabeth Jelin and Susana G. Kaufman, the Museum
of the Word and Image would represent one of the “public memory
sites” or locations of “memory struggle,” where negotiations
occur in the construction of collective memory.
 In “Layers of Memories: Twenty Years After in Argentina,”
Jelin and Kaufman explain that spaces consecrated to memory
such as museums are also “attempts to make statements and
affirmations; they are facts and gestures, a materiality with
a political, collective, public meaning” (41). These sites
of memory construction are political spaces. Museums such
as the one in El Salvador give space to testimonios
and testimonial literature, which continue to record past
violations and present cases of impunity. That is why it is
not surprising that the Museum of the World and Image plays
special homage to Rufina Amaya’s first-person and collective
narrative, especially in its first publication entitled Luciérnagas
en El Mozote (1996). Amaya's narrative and the general
story of the War would haunt policies of the Peace Accords,
which were signed on 16 January 1992.
Memories of War and Immigration
In "Irruptions of Memory: Expressive
Politics in Chile's Transition to Democracy," Alexander
Wilde identified the need of Chilean victims to deal with
the “unresolved issues of historical memory” (19). He identified
the victims of Human Rights violations in Chile as all those
who suffered great losses during the Pinochet dictatorship,
including “the survivors of the dictatorship’s worst infamies
and the families of the disappeared” (19). In regards to countries
such as Argentina, Paraguay, Colombia, South Africa, Cambodia,
Vietnam, Guatemala, Panamá, El Salvador, and so forth, more
localized and specific types of victims must be identified.
Wilde makes a suggestive observation that might be applicable
to the case of Salvadoran immigrants, when he states that
It is they
[the disappeared] who bear the deepest wounds, but the victims
of that harsh time are far more numerous than this tragic
group. They include the tens of thousands unjustly detained
and tortured or relegated to internal exile or terrorised
in the sweeps of the slums that continued through the dictatorship’s
final decade, the more than one hundred thousand exiles, the
uncounted citizens that waited for the knock on the door in
the night or that still cannot find the means to discuss these
years with their children. (Wilde 18)
I would like to draw parallels between
the Chilean experience of terror and exile and that of the
Salvadoran experience of terror, displacement, and migration.
As Wilde explains for Chilean victims of State terror, Salvadorans
too feared the knock at the door. Many fled to refugee camps
in Honduras (as did Rufina Amaya after the massacre at El
Mozote); to other regions of El Salvador where war was not
being waged openly; to neighboring countries of the isthmus,
or to countries farther away such as the United States, México,
and Europe. The victims of the war were also those who had
to emigrate, never to return, never to reconcile themselves
with their war memories, and incapable of passing them on
to their children. The victims, hence, too include the children
of the war and migration, who, born in other places, are disconnected
from the history that set off their own diasporic condition.  For diasporic Salvadoran communities,
the recovery of historical memories is part of a collective
healing process and an active recuperation of the Salvadoran
imaginary homeland for those generations whose parents “still
cannot find the means to discuss these years with their children.”
 Indeed, in their Introduction to Genocide, Collective
Violence, and Popular Memory: The Politics of Remembrance
in the Twentieth Century (2002),  David E. Lorey and William H. Beelzey suggest
there is no consensus, all seem to indicate that when memory
is passed from one generation to the next, from the generation
intimately involved with violence to one that has not experienced
the same degree of violence, an important peace with the past
can be achieved. Complete and lasting reconciliation may not
be possible in the generation originally affected. But a younger
generation perhaps can help the older generation come to terms
with the past. (xxviii)
Doug Scott’s film entitled Homeland
represents an imaginary recuperation of war memories and the
possibility of generational, national, and transnational reconciliation
between those Salvadorans who stayed in El Salvador and those
who emigrated to other lands.
The film Homeland
is a post-war, diasporic narrative produced at the intersection
of Salvadoran transnational cultures and the disparate locations
that Salvadorans have come to inhabit in their migrations.
As the war expelled many from El Salvador--their first homeland--,
Salvadorans ventured toward often-makeshift homes in poverty-ridden
areas of the global cities such as New York, Los Angeles,
Houston, and Washington, D.C. The protagonist of the film,
Adrian Santos lives in New York City after arriving there
with his mother at the age of four; he has never returned
to El Salvador for his legal status remains undocumented although
he has grown up in the United States. By the time the film
starts, Adrian Santos has become involved in street gangs,
and on one fateful day he is caught in the line of fire in
which a youth is killed. Accused of being an accomplice to
murder and fleeing the scene of the crime, Adrian is deported
to his “homeland”—El Salvador of which he has little memory
and in which he has little connections. He returns to El Salvador
as a “convicted felon,” “inmate number 874361,” and an “illegal
alien.” The Salvadoran customs officer greets him with his
new label: “Ese es el deportado” [He is the deportee]. At
first, El Salvador is nothing but an inhospitable place for
the deportee, the failed immigrant that Santos has become.
While his immediate family remains in New York, Santos only
has his Tía Leticia in El Salvador, who takes him into her
home. During his first few weeks in El Salvador, Santos confronts
his new reality, and must establish some connections with
the country if he is to remain alive. Santos is the incarnation
of the Salvadoran and Central American diaspora. Having escaped
from the war into the United States as a child, Santos cannot
elude his history, which pulls him back to the homeland, an
impoverished country where he barely speaks the language and
knows few people.
During the last decades of the 20th
century, many Central Americans were displaced in and from
their homelands due to local political, military, and socioeconomic
crises, but none more so than Salvadorans in such a compressed
span of time. By 1989, over one fifth of the total Salvadoran
population had been displaced, and as many as one million
Salvadorans had been forced to immigrate across the isthmus
and over wide expanses to the United States, Mexico, Canada,
Australia, and Europe.
 The U.S. Census calculated that, by 1990, 1,323,830
Central Americans resided in the United States, of these well
over 565,081 persons came from El Salvador.
 In an often-cited study, Nora Hamilton and Norma
Stoltz Chinchilla claimed that Salvadorans account for almost
seventy-five percent of the Central American population in
the United States.  Both the National Council of La Raza (NCLR)
and the Tomás Rivera Policy Institute have reported that of
the thirty-two million Latinos living in the U.S. in 1999
thirteen to fourteen percent were from Central and South America.
 After Mexicans, Salvadorans and other Central Americans
comprise one the fastest growing subgroups of foreign-born
Latinos in the United States.
In a reverse migration, Salvadorans
are also returning to their country, and many of them are
not returning by choice. They find themselves forcefully returning
“home,” as deportees, in a reverse diasporic route
that few critics have charted up to now. Deportees from the
United States are undocumented immigrants / border crossers
who, once apprehended by INS, are returned to their countries
of origin. Most recently, the Illegal Immigration Reform and
Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 broadened the definition
of “deportable crimes.” Both documented and undocumented immigrants
have been expelled from the United States on charges of “deportable
crimes,” which are defined by INS and the State. Under Section
350 of the 1996 law, criminal aliens are to be deported for
grievous felony charges. The law also states that along with
other crimes “[o]ffenses of domestic violence and stalking
are ground for deportation.” Finally the law states that an
“alien [who] is a danger to the security of the United States,”
or an “alien who has been convicted of an aggravated felony
(or felonies)” will be deported. Stricter law enforcement
measures in states such as California are attendant to the
deportation crisis that is afflicting not only Central American
immigrants, but Latinos in general. As documented by various
sources, deportation is reversing somewhat the flow of migratory
patterns and has become the source of new transnational identities
and cultures repatriated to countries such as El Salvador.
A child of migration and reverse
migration (deportation), Adrian Santos of the film Homeland
represents the displacement, dispersal, and resettlement of
over one million Salvadorans across the world. Criminalized
and penalized for "deportable crimes" (vis-à-vis
the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility
Act of 1996), deportees are changing the face of Salvadoran
national culture; they are re-patriating, or re-constructing
the patria and traditional notions of what it is to
be Salvadoran and (Central) American in El Salvador. In a
sense, they are children of an initial diaspora that begins
with the wars of the 1980s and they are subjects of another
diaspora that continues with their expulsion from the U.S.
in the 1990s. They are forced returnees to a country with
which they have various degrees of familiarity and affinity.
As José William Huezo Soriano, Director of Homies Unidos (an
NGO working on gang prevention and intervention in El Salvador)
and a deportee himself, explains,
 deportees are "permanent visitors" in
El Salvador. Deportees are the cast of new transnational identities
and cultures that are reshaping the Central American / Salvadoran
A failed immigrant,
 Adrian Santos becomes the protagonist of a narrative
that is only becoming too familiar to many immigrants in the
United States—the narrative of deportation, or reverse migration.
Upon arriving in El Salvador, he finds a people still at war
among themselves over limited economic resources and unresolved
issues. In his first days spent in a jail cell in San Salvador,
a drunken inmate warns Santos, that for him, “the war is just
beginning, little brother.” The prison of the first scenes
serves as a metaphor for the “tiny country [of] El Salvador
[that] is like a huge prison,” as the wise drunk tells Adrian.
Santos finds that in that small prison country he can find
the same extended network of gangs he knew in the States—the
MS, the 13, and the 18, now armed with AK-47s, M-16s, and
grenades. In El Salvador, he encounters violence, hunger,
poverty, and homelessness. In the small country, he also finds
his history, his extended family, and himself.
A “fish out of the water,” as his
Aunt Leticia calls him, Santos by the end of the 30-minute
film has found his sea, or his homeland. His sea is an El
Salvador that he could only recover through identifying and
intersubjectively merging with his only living family member,
Leticia, whose character, as we shall see through a chain
of memories of a massacre in a village, is based on the figure
of Rufina Amaya. Dedicated to Rufina Amaya in the final credits,
the film suggests that Leticia’s memories are Amaya’s memories,
which are passed on to Adrian as he hears his aunt tell the
story of her massacred family, his people. It is through the
telling of Leticia’s / Rufina’s story, then, that Adrian Santos
acquires a memory that is not technically his, for he did
not grow up in El Salvador. His parents did not tell him about
the War in El Salvador that sent them looking for sanctuary
in the United States. At Leticia’s side, witnessing her memories
of the massacre that killed her husband and children, Adrian
becomes her surrogate child and he is transfused with the
collective history of the Salvadoran family. Through the background
rapping of the transplanted gang that invites Adrian to join
them, the deported youth discovers a new anthem for his country:
“Saludando a mi patria y a mi gente nativa. Me dejo caer con
una historia de guerra que arruinó a mi país doce años” [Greetings
to my homeland and my people. I was brought down with the
history of war that ruined my country for twelve years].
 Like many Salvadoran diasporic subjects, Adrian
carries the violent history of displacement, which Scott’s
film seems to suggest can only be resolved by reconciling
with the past and present condition of El Salvador. Adrian’s
breach of having left the “homeland” by force can only be
sutured by re-membering, or reconnecting himself, with the
people of El Salvador, a unification represented by Adrian
and his aunt in the last scenes of the film. The physical
embrace that joins Leticia and Adrian toward the end of the
film represents the bringing together of Salvadorans who remained
in the isthmus and those who live in other sites.
Visiting her war dead and memories
in the cemetery, Leticia tells Adrian, “I was hoping that
you would find me.” At the gravesite, Leticia tells Adrian
about the massacre (at El Mozote) and about how she “wanted
to forget everything … [but] God kept me alive so I wouldn’t
forget.” Leticia’s memories reappear as flashbacks that Adrian
and the viewer now witness; Leticia’s images have been transmitted
to Adrian's consciousness: people being rounded up; screaming
children being pushed into a house; women being shot at; and,
finally, one women being chased and hiding in the bushes.
This is the memory of Rufina Amaya, Leticia, the Salvadoran
people, and, finally, of Adrian Santos. After transmitting
her memories to Adrian and embracing him, Leticia warns her
reincorporated son, “If you forget the past, you can never
change your future.” She reminds Adrian that Salvadorans must
not forget El Mozote, because history has the power to change
the future, or to repeat itself. The film ends with Adrian
and Leticia fishing in a lake in El Salvador. Adrian’s “reality”
and history are now "Salvadoran." While he used
to be a fish out of water when he arrived, by the end of the
film he swims in the collective turbulent waters of Salvadoran
society. As Leticia forecasts, “a big storm is coming, I can
feel it.” Although the war in El Salvador is far from over,
as the film suggests, the reintegrated Salvadoran community
is ready to weather new storms.
Speaking about the Argentine Dirty
War and its disappeared, Elizabeth Jelin and Susana Kaufman,
in “Layers of Memories: Twenty Years After In Argentina,”
analyze how Argentines remembered or disremembered their “conflicted
and painful past,” which unlike the Salvadoran case was not an
era of full-blown war, but “a period of extreme political
violence and of state terrorism,” lasting from 1976 though
the 1980s.  Jelin and Kaufman are concerned
with the construction of memory, its omissions, its silences,
its conflicts, its layerings or condensations, and its inscriptions
in the collective consciousness of a people (32). In the film
Homeland, Leticia (vis-à-vis Rufina Amaya) echoes the
phrase, “Remember! So as to not repeat!” With those words,
she turns memory into an act of volition, reclamation, and
confrontation with the past of El Salvador. In the case of
Argentina after 1983, Jelin and Kaufman claim assert that
there was a reclamation of public space (Las Madres and Las
Abuelas taking back La Plaza de Mayo, for example), and a
flurry of publication of first-hand personal narratives (testimonios,
theatre, fiction, paintings, etc.) (33). As the narratives
about the period came out, many people were forced to confront
their own memories that had been silenced or repressed: “[I]t
was hard for the general population to realize and believe
that these unbelievable stories were part of a very recent
and, for most people, silenced past” (35). In Argentina, justice
came in the form of trying and prosecuting military leaders
and other perpetrators of violence; hearing the testimonials
of victims; (re)opening cases of Human Rights violations;
and building community and collective memories through various
forms of witnessing (36-37).
In their exploration of the construction
of memories in Argentina, Jelin and Kaufman take into account
that not only do people remember differently, but the temporal
and physical distances in relation to a traumatic history
shape the memory of it. This consideration proves useful in
thinking about how Salvadoran diasporic communities transmit
memories across space, time, and generations. Most generations
after the immigrant generation (the one that traveled and
experienced the violence first hand in the country) would
not “remember” the past, in this case the war in El Salvador,
because for them there was no “previous process of engraving,
of fixing something in memory” (48), as Jelin and Kaufman
explain. Instead, successive generations with no direct experience
of fear, violation, and repression carry, as Jelin and Kaufman
claim, “a presence of the absence": Adrian Santos carries
a lapse in memory where the memory of war and migration should
be. He must rely on his intersubjective relationship with
Leticia to fill this gap in memory, to recover as Jelin and
Kaufman say, “the representation of what was once there and
no longer is, the representation of something that has been
erased, silenced or denied” (48). To gain access to the deferred
experience, knowledge, and memory of war, successive diasporic
generations must turn to the immediate carriers of memory—parents,
older siblings, extended family, and people who remained in
El Salvador, as well as classes, books, photographs, films,
music, testimonios, and other instances of material
For Jelin and Kaufman, the transmission
of memories is always “an intersubjective relationship” that
would fill (in) the gap in memory, which has been induced
by separation and distance. They explain that
forgetting is also a collective intersubjective affair. It
implies a social cleft, a rupture between individual memory
and public and/or collective practices (that may become ritualized
and repetitious), or a faulty line in the intergenerational
process of transmission… Interpretations and explanations
of the past cannot be automatically conveyed from one generation
to the next, from one period to another, from those who experienced
the events to others who did not. As Yerushalmi notes, the
past has to be actively transmitted to the next generation,
and that generation has to accept that past as meaningful.
Jelin and Kaufman recognize that
no memory can be implanted or interpellated in another subject
without that subject making that memory hers or his, without
becoming an “open receptor” (49), willing to identify with
what is relevant to her or him and to build new interpretations
out of that memorial material. In the film, Homeland,
Adrian Santos returns by force to El Salvador. As a deportee
barred from reentering the United States, Santos suffers another
trauma of separation from the U.S. “homeland” he had known
all this life. This trauma of deportation is metonymically
linked to the first trauma of migration and regressively to
the trauma of displacement and war, which, I believe, make
him receptive to Leticia’s memories that soon become incorporated
into his own mental schema. As suggested by Jelin and Kaufman's
work, between Leticia and Adrian there is an active, intergenerational,
and, I would add, transnational transmission of memory. By
the end of the film, Adrian Santos has recovered from the
trauma of separation, migration, deportation, and the double
loss of the homelands forced upon him by geopolitical forces.
El Salvador has become “meaningful” to him, and he has gained
new meaning in his life.
Amaya, Rufina. "Solo me embrocaba
a llorar." <http://www.serve.com/Mario_Villalta/Embrocaba/htm
> (14 March 2002).
Amaya, Rufina, Mark Danner, and
Carlos Henríquez Consalvi. Luciérnagas en El Mozote.
San Salvador, ES: Ediciones Museo de la Palabra, 1998.
Anjali, Sundaram and Geroge Gelber,
ed. A Decade of War: El Salvador Confronts the Future.
New York: Monthly Review Press, 1991.
Bonner, Raymond. "Massacre
of Hundreds Reported in Salvador Village.” The New York
Times. Reproduced in Mark Danner, The Massacre at El
Booth, John A. and Thomas W. Walker.
Understanding Central America. Boulder, CO: Westview
Cadaval, Olivia. Creating a Latino
Identity in the Nation’s Capital: The Latino Festival.
New York and London: Garland Publishing, 1998.
Córdova, Carlos B. “Undocumented
El Salvadoreans in the San Francisco Bay Area: Migration and
Adaptation Dynamics.” Journal of La Raza Studies 1
no. 1 (Fall 1987): 9-37.
Comisión de la Verdad, 1992-1993.
De la locura a la esperanza: La guerra de 12 años en El
Salvador. San José, CR: Editorial Departamento Ecuménico
de Investigación, 1993.
Danner, Mark. The Massacre at
El Mozote: A Parable of the Cold War. New York: Vintage
Dunkerley, James. The Pacification
of Central America: Political Change in the Isthmus, 1987-1993.
London: Verso, 1994.
Guillermoprieto, Alma. "Salvadoran
Peasants Describe Mass Killing; Woman Tells of Children's
Death." The Washington Post, 14 January 1982.
Reproduced in Mark Danner, The Massacre at El Mozote.
Hamilton, Nora and Norma Stoltz
Chinchilla. “Central American Migration: A Framework for Analysis.”
In Challenging Fronteras: Structuring Latina and Latino
Lives in the U.S., edited by Mary Romero, Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo,
and Vilma Ortiz. New York: Routledge, 1997. 81-100.
Hamilton, Nora and Norma Stoltz
Chinchilla. Seeking Community in a Global City: Guatemalans
and Salvadorans in Los Angeles. Philadelphia: Temple University
Homeland. Directed by Doug Scott, 30 minutes. Indio
Productions, 1999. Videocassette.
Jelin, Elizabeth and Susan G. Kaufman.
“Layers of Memories: Twenty Years After in Argentina.” In
Genocide, Collective Violence, and Popular Memory: The
Politics of Remembrance in the Twentieth Century, edited
by David E. Lorey and William H. Beezley. Wilmington, DE:
Scholarly Resources, 2002. 31-52.
Lorey, David E. and William H. Beezley,
ed. Genocide, Collective Violence, and Popular Memory:
The Politics of Remembrance in the Twentieth Century.
Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 2002.
Mahler, Sarah J. American Dreaming:
Immigrant Life on the Margins. Princeton: Princeton University
Mahler, Sarah J. Salvadorans
in Suburbia: Symbiosis and Conflict. Boston: Allyn and
Mendizabal, JC and Trip Tech. La
Masacre del Mozote. BlackNote Music compact disc, 1999.
Menjívar, Cecilia. Fragmented
Ties: Salvadoran Immigrant Networks in America. Berkeley:
University of California Press, 2000.
Pinderhughes, Raquel, Carlos Córdova,
and Jorge del Pinal. “Central and South Americans.” Our
Multicultural Heritage: A Guide to America’s Principal Ethnic
> (16 March 2002).
Repak, Terry A. Waiting on Washington:
Central American Workers in the Nation’s Capital. Philadelphia:
Temple University Press, 1995.
Sklodowska, Elzbieta. “The Poetics
of Remembering, the Politics of Forgetting: Rereading I,
Rigoberta Menchú.” In The Rigoberta Menchú Controversy,
edited by Arturo Arias. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota
Press, 2001. 251-269.
Tomás Rivera Policy Institute. “Latino
Facts.” < http://www.trpi.org
facts.htm > (16 March 2002).
Wilde, Alexander. “Irruptions of
Memory: Expressive Politics in Chile’s Transition to Democracy.”
In Genocide, Collective Violence, and Popular Memory: The
Politics of Remembrance in the Twentieth Century, edited
by David E. Lorey and William H. Beezley. Wilmington, DE:
Scholarly Resources, 2002. 3-29.
Winschun, Thomas. ¿Por qué se
van? La emigración de salvadoreños a los Estados Unidos.
San Salvador, ES: Fundación Heinrich Böll, 1999.
 To access links on “El
Mozote," visit <http://www.cepaz.org.sv/CEPAZ2000/Mozote%20enlaces.htm>
(15 March 2002).
 In this article, I will
not be examing “La Masacre del Mozote” (JC Mendizabal @
1999), but I explore that text elsewhere.
 For a working definition of "diapora,"
see James Clifford, "Traveling Cultures," in Cultural
Studies, ed. Lawrence Grossberg et al. (New York: Routledge,
1992). Although many definitions of diasporic culture have
been developed, an early general definition by Clifford
works well here. According to Clifford, diasporic studies
must recognize "that travelers move about under strong
cultural, political and economic compulsions and that certain
travelers are materially privileged, others oppressed"
 See Mark Danner, The
Massacre at El Mozote: A Parable of the Cold War (New
York: Vintage Books, 1994), for a book-length account of
the findings of the massacre. A number of original documents,
newspaper articles, and communiqués are compiled as appendices
to the book.
 For a retrospective look
at how journalists Alma Guillermoprieto and Raymond Bonner
were censored for writing about the massacre, see Mike Hoyt,
“The Mozote Massacre: It was the reporters’ word against
the government’s,” Columbia Journalism Review (January
/ February 1993) <http://www.cjr.org/year/93/1/mozote.asp>
(15 March 2002).
 Alma Guillermoprieto,
"Salvadoran Peasants Describe Mass Killing; Woman Tells
of Children's Death," 14 January 1982, reproduced in
Mark Danner, The Massacre at El Mozote, 185.
 Raymond Bonner, "Massacre
of Hundreds Reported in Salvador Village," reproduced
in Mark Danner, The Massacre at El Mozote, 188.
 Mark Danner, “The Truth
of El Mozote,” in The New Yorker (December 6, 1993),
50-133; and The Massacre at El Mozote.
 The Truth Commission's
Report has been published as Comisión de la Verdad 1992-1993,
Informe. De la Locura a la esperanza: La guerra de 12 años
en El Salvador (San José, Costa Rica: Editorial Departamento
Ecuménico de Investigaciones, 1993).
 “Tres Vidas” has been
performed at many university venues, such as MIT, Suffolk
University Law School, Wellesley University, Jacksonsville
University, Sonoma State University, and the University
of the Pacific in Stockton, California. The three women
in the performance are played by Georgina Corbo, who is
accompanied by the Core Ensemble, a chamber music ensemble
comprised of cello, piano, and percussion. A press release
can been read at the Web site <http://www.uop.edu/conservatory/calvidas.html>
(15 March 2002).
 The direct quotes that
follow and my translations of quotes into English are from
Amaya, "Solo me embrocaba a llorar."
 Alexander Wilde, “Irruptions
of Memory: Expressive Politics in Chile’s Transition to
Democracy,” in Genocide, Collective Violence, and Popular
Memory: The Politics of Remembrance in the Twentieth Century,
edited by David E. Lorey and William H. Beezley (Wilmington,
DE: Scholarly Resources, 2002), 4.
 See Decree No. 55, Diario
Oficial, Vol. 313, No. 206, San Salvador, 4 November
1991; Noticoncultura 1.2 (1992); Claudia Allwood de Mata,
"Mensaje de la presidenta de Concultura ," La
prensa gráfica, 3 november 1993, insert.
 Juan José García V. "¿Hacia dónde
va El Salvador?: El futuro de las remesas familiares"
Tendencias 52 (1996): 14. García states that family
remittances continue to increase annually, from $300 million
in 1990 to more than $1,000 million in 1995. See also Manuel
Orozco, Rodolfo de la Garza and Miguel Baraona, "Inmigración
y remesas familiares," Cuadernos de Ciencias Sociales
98 (1997), and Rómulo L. Leal, "Solidaridad con el
hermano lejano," San Salvador, El diario de hoy
15 September 1995.
 See “Salvadoreños conmemoran
15 años de la masacre de 1.000 campesinos” in La Prensa,
San Pedro Sula, Honduras, 9 December 1996, <http://www.laprensahn.com/caarc/9612/c09001.htm>
(15 March 2002).
 Visit the Museum of the
Word and Image <http://www.museo.com.sv/indice.html>
(15 March 2002).
 Rufina Amaya, Mark Danner,
and Carlos Henríquez Consalvi, Luciérnagas en El Mozote
(San Salvador: Ediciones Museo de la Palabra, 1996).
 See Carlos Henríquez Consalvi,
“Las palabras,” <http://www.museo.com.sv/opinion.html>
(15 March 2002).
 Elizabeth Jelin and Susana
G. Kaufman, “Layers of Memories: Twenty Years After in Argentina,”
in Genocide, Collective Violence, and Popular Memory:
The Politics of Remembrance in the Twentieth Century,
edited by David E. Lorey and William H. Beezley (Wilmington,
DE: Scholarly Resources, 2002), 41.
 For studies on Salvadoran
immigration to the United States, see Carlos B. Córdova,
“Undocumented El Salvadoreans in the San Francisco Bay Area:
Migration and Adaptation Dynamics,” Journal of La Raza
Studies 1 no. 1 (Fall 1987): 9-37; Sarah J. Mahler,
Salvadorans in Suburbia: Symbiosis and Conflict (Boston:
Allyn and Bacon, 1995) and American Dreaming: Immigrant
Life on the Margins (Princeton: Princeton University
Press, 1995); Terry A. Repak, Waiting on Washington:
Central American Workers in the Nation’s Capital (Philadelphia:
Temple University Press, 1995); Nora Hamilton and Norma
Stoltz Chinchilla, “Central American Migration: A Framework
for Analysis,” in Challenging Fronteras: Structuring
Latina and Latino Lives in the U.S., ed. Mary Romero,
Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo, and Vilma Ortiz. (New York:
Routledge, 1997), 81-100, and Seeking Community in a
Global City: Guatemalans and Salvadorans in Los Angeles
(Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2001); Olivia Cadaval,
Creating a Latino Identity in the Nation’s Capital: The
Latino Festival (New York and London: Garland Publishing,
1998); Thomas Winschun, ¿Por qué se van? La emigración
de salvadoreños a los Estados Unidos (San Salvador,
ES: Fundación Heinrich Böll, 1999); and Cecilia Menjívar,
Fragmented Ties: Salvadoran Immigrant Networks in America
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000).
 Clifford, in "Traveling
Cultures," recognizes that travel, as a term used to
qualify disaporas, is problematic: "It ['travel'] risks,
however, downplaying the extent to which the mobility is
coerced, organized within regimes of dependent, highly disciplined
labor. In a contemporary register, to think of cosmopolitan
workers, and especially migrant labor, in metaphors of 'travel'
raises a complex set of problems" (107).
 Alexander Wilde, “Irruptions
of Memory," 18.
 David E. Lorey and William
H. Beelzey, “Introduction,” in Genocide, Collective Violence,
and Popular Memory: The Politics of Remembrance in the Twentieth
Century, edited by David E. Lorey and William H. Beezley
(Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 2002), xxviii.
 James Dunkerley, The Pacification of
Central America: Political Change in the Isthmus, 1987-1993
(London: Verso, 1994), 46.
 The population breakdown
by countries is as follows: 565,081 from El Salvador; 268,779
from Guatemala; 202,658 from Nicaragua; 131,066 from Honduras;
92,013 from Panamá; and 57,223 from Costa Rica. See Raquel
Pinderhughes, Carlos Córdova, and Jorge del Pinal, “Central
and South Americans,” Our Multicultural Heritage: A Guide
to America’s Principal Ethnic Groups <http://www.sfsu.edu/~urbstu/rp/arti/art3.htm>
(16 March 2002).
 Half of the current Central
American population in the United States arrived seeking
refuge and asylum under various immigration laws such as
the 1980 Refugee Act, which made provisions for the official
classification of refugees and political asylum seekers,
and the 1986 Immigration and Control Reform Act (IRCA),
which granted legal resident status to Salvadoran immigrants
showing evidence of having lived in the U.S. prior to 1
January 1982. Subsequently with the arrival of a large number
of undocumented immigrants in the 1980s, new legislation
such as Temporary Protected Status (TPS), Deferred Enforced
Departure (DED), and the American Baptist Churches (ABC)
ruling sought to gain permission for temporary and extended
stays for immigrants. It is estimated that half of the Central
American population currently living in the United States
arrived as of the 1980s. See especially Nora Hamilton and
Norma Stoltz Chinchilla, “Central American Migration: A
Framework for Analysis,” in Challenging Fronteras, and
Seeking Community in a Global City: Guatemalans and Salvadorans
in Los Angeles.
 Consult Tomás Rivera Policy
Institute, “Latino Facts,” <http://www.trpi.org facts.htm>
(April 21, 2001); National Council of La Raza “Twenty of
the Most Frequently Asked Questions About the Latino Community”
 A transcript of an NPR
interview with Mr. Huezo can be read at <http://www.radiodiaries.org/radiodiaries/weasel.html>
(15 March 2002).
 Most recently the stories
of deported youths to El Salvador have been documented in
Mother Jones (August 1999), the Los Angeles Times
(November 1999), and a full length autoethnography entitled
Solidaridad y violencia en las pandillas del gran San
Salvador: Más allá de la vida loca (San Salvador: Universidad
Centroamericana, 1998), which is based on collaborative
research and interviews conducted by mara (gang)
members, Homies Unidos, and Save the Children. Homies Unidos,
a gang prevention and intervention organization in San Salvador,
offers various services for deportees from Los Angeles and
other U.S. cities.
 The labor of Central Americans
in other locations is mythologized in the figure of the
hermano lejano, whose tall tale overshadows the story
of the deportee.
 It helps to know that
the National Anthem of El Salvador begins with the line,
“Saludemos la patria orgullosos …” [Let us proudly greet
the homeland …]. The youth in the film offer their own salutation
to their version of the Salvadoran nation.
 Elizabeth Jelin and Susana
G. Kaufman, “Layers of Memories: Twenty Years After in Argentina,”
Copyright © 2003