In Parque Cuscatlán, with dozens of new faces, history hangs in the air. El Monumento a la Memoria y la Verdad stretches like a pavement, engraved with the names of civilian victims killed or gone missing during the 12-year Salvadoran civil war. In groups, we rake through the blackboard of “O's” and rolling “R's” in search of a single name. The task was completed after ten frustrating minutes, but for those families still searching, closure is a long way off. Our perspectives are stretched in the park that afternoon. The 30,000 names before us are just a handful, and when we pause to consider those who fought, those who have been forgotten, the whole massacres left out of official records, the 'true' figure rises like hot lava.
In the three months that we are here in El Salvador, work will be done in two communities, which in many ways experienced the civil war from opposite sides. Santa Marta was a site for strong guerrilla movements, whilst Santa Catarina has a history of military conscription. Yet, standing side-by-side in the sticky Salvadoran heat, a common denominator seems to swallow all else. Violence continues to be a given here, and leaves its mark upon the people of El Salvador indiscriminately. Despite our different backgrounds, we are all connected in the park that day by the shared desire to see change. The work we will do in the next ten weeks is just one piece of a much bigger picture, and the memorial reminds us of the importance of keeping a sense of perspective in mind.
Written by ICS volunteer Jessie Coleman