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Week 10 Binford

Week 11 Binford

Week 12 Oppenheimer

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Week 13 Oppenheimer

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Final Paper


Victoria Kline
Anthropology 582: Mesoamerican Cultures
November 10, 2004
Dr. Ramona Perez

El Mozote Massacre Part II

An investigation into the allegations of abuse and slaughter by the military led to a report by the United Nations Truth Commissions in March of 1993 that laid out the evidence, in a cool an unemotional way, the results of the study and exhumation of alleged mass graves, leaving the emotional response to the reader. The reaction to this report by the military and government was of condemnation accusing those responsible for the gathering and analysis of evidence and the creation of the report of bias, of being communist, of being foreigners of questionable reputation, in other words, stating that accusations of slaughter based on forensic evidence was not to be trusted, that it was a ruse by the left to hinder the peace and tranquility of El Salvador that the military had helped to insure. 

Chapter 8: A Reformed Military? Because of the decline in numbers of mass murders and public tortures from the early 1980s to the early 1990s, the Salvadoran government and the US government viewed this as proof that the Salvadoran military now responded differently to their mission and took the rights of individuals into account. The military had turned over a new leaf and was now more sympathetic and sensitive to the suffering of the people.

In actuality, the military simply revised their strategy for dealing with peasants they thought were involved with the guerillas. New methods involved arrest of suspected individuals and application of torture that would not leave marks that could be inflicted within the 15 day (!) grace period allowed by law at the time. The suspects could be held for 15 days without access to legal council. The new strategy involved “low-intensity conflict doctrine” (144). That meant no more open massacres as international attention to human rights violations had been turned towards El Salvador. Because of these violations and in order to continue receiving funding from the United States for the war against terrorism and communism, the Salvadoran military had to be more discreet about their tortures and killings.

Also included in the low-intensity strategy were air attack bombings. Training and supplies were provided by the United States for this action. The bombings were directed at civilian holdouts, those who would not leave their homes within longtime conflict zones. The rational for the bombings was to rid the area of any support the guerilla forces may be receiving. That civilians would remain in the conflict zones was proof of their collaboration with the FMLN and therefore they became legitimate military targets.

Chapter 9 History and Memory: after the publication of the Truth Commission findings and recommendations, some (government officials and military) wanted to essentially eliminate memory of the past. Forget about it and start fresh, so the recommendation goes, would be better for “national reconciliation” (171). For victims, this was unacceptable. They would be reminded everyday of the violations they had suffered. They needed some form of “public accounting of the El Mozote massacre” (172). Presently there are two forms of public remembrance employed by those affected by the massacres and their supporters. One is the yearly memorial at the site of the massacre; the other is documentation of the events in the form of a public museum.

El Mozote, because of the media exposure to the human rights violations committed has become a tourist attraction. The author warns a human guide is a must, to gain an understanding of the events that transpired there. Otherwise, your just looking at a bunch of razed buildings with no connection to the people and lives shattered (178-180).

El Mozote also began to be repopulated and rebuilt in February of 1992, following the signing of the Peace Accords between the Salvadoran government and the FMLN (181-182, 213). Binford briefly describes the return of three sets of persons to El Mozote and their reasons for doing so. Land ownership is the primary reason for returning. Ability to work for oneself, the security once found in El Mozote (something to strive for in the future), and leaving the vices of city life were other reasons of explanation for returning to El Mozote in the wake of the tragic and horrific events that had transpired. Truly, they had to really trust that the war was over to be able to return to the country in which numerous atrocities had occurred.

In the final chapter Binford thinks anthropology should not be necessary. People should be able to speak for themselves. However, since anthropology is still a legitimate career he says that anthropologists must cease being apolitical, neutral illustrators of culture. The anthropologist must become aligned with the people he elucidates, learn to defend and aid them in making improvements in their lives, and not just describe them for the purposes of publication. Binford seems to be a fan of liberation theology, and desires anthropologists and others working with marginalized persons, to side generously on the side of the poor in all correspondences in order to bring more equality into their lives. Binford is no fan of capitalism and pretty much blames the rise of global capitalism as the force behind the greater and greater gap in access to resources between well to do or not.  



Binford, Leigh
            1996    The El Mozote Massacre. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.

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