To gain knowledge of a civil war, one must take time to develop understanding of the cause and the different perspectives on it. One way to do this is by reviewing testimonials. My paper provides historical research and the value testimonials have by challengingthe narrative portrayed by the elite and serve as a form of resistance and activism. I focus on the exploration and surfacing the perspective of El Salvador’s civil war through the eyes of poor indigenous groups by forming the analysis based the formalistic and historical approach. The analysis of Civil War in El Salvador will consist of text, “Microbus to San Salvador,” by Manilo Arugeta, which tells the story of genocide in the Central American country which reveals deeper meaning of daily dangers of life in the region and the lethal consequences of telling a controversial story. My endeavor is to give value to testimonials as it relates to speaking up on real life experiences of being a target and unwanted on the land your ancestors walked on prior to colonization
With any civil war, the most vulnerable are the poor and indigenous people; thus, creating a traumatic, economically unstable, and dangerous state of life. In the testimonial fiction, And We Sold the Rain, “Microbus to San Salvador,” Manilo Argueta discusses what life was like in San Salvador, El Salvador during the country’s civil war an indigenous person. I will be utilizing formalistic and historical approaches to breaking down the literary structure and historical context of the story. The story, “Microbus to San Salvador,” showcases the form of testimonials in the 1st person through exposing controversial voices of the indigenous people by shining light on the historical aspects of the Salvadoran Civil war, the use of testimonials, the extremes the main character/speaker goes to survive the genocide of her people, and the Salvadoran government targeting the indigenous population by using physical and psychological warfare. El Salvador is beautiful country in Central American which has been corrupted by the government to push out the indigenous people and poor which created a hostile environment for the country’s own people.
A twelve-year civil war took place throughout El Salvador, between Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (fought for social revolution and democracy) and the Salvadoran government who fought for government control and right-wing ideals in 1980-1992. The point of the civil war was to abolish left wing policies, communism, and the indigenous population. In the article “El Salvador’s Elusive Peace: Twenty-Five years after a U.N.-backed peace deal ended El Salvador’s civil war, violence persists. Can a political economy of peace stop the spiral?,” by Joaquin M. Chavez, shares in the article the travesty of the war and the conditions of crime and violence during and after the war. When discussing the aftermath of the war the article states, “The war…claimed the lives of 75,000 civilian and thousands of combatants- this in a country with a total population of just five million. At the same time, nearly one million people were either forcefully displaced within El Salvador or became refugees in Central American, Mexico, the United States, and other countries” (Chaves 209). The significance of the quotes is to express the magnitude of innocent lives taken over politics and selfishness for power. Therefore, knowing historical aspects of the Salvadoran war is vital to able to understand Argueta’s text because many indigenous died for being deemed as communist and a problem to society due to not wanting to lose their land, culture, and dignity by assimilating. Thus, the indigenous were dehumanized and massacred in a land they lived in for thousands of years prior to colonization. In addition, by knowing the facts, can aid in understanding the emotions and imagery of the testimonial in which the author wants the reader to feel with the narrator of the story. The tragic event of El Salvador is shared in the solemn, distressed, and painful text which exposes the truth through the eyes of a poor civilian living in San Salvador, El Salvador during the civil war. Argueta states, “It’s time to wipe out poverty. They say it in a way that makes it sound pretty…They’re after us. They murder us. The most common cause of death for someone like me is decapitation. Dismemberment. Just as the conquistadors did five hundred years ago. They used to threaten you with jail” (Argueta 177). The quote exemplifies the hatred and rage the authorities and government had on the poor and indigenous people. The elite and powerful scapegoated the problems they had by blaming the poor and indigenous people by creating a negative perspective of them being monsters and a threat to society. Furthermore, Argueta uses an allusion in the quote by referencing the conquistadors who took over El Salvador and all of Latin America. By using this literary device gives the enragement and frustration of civilians and indigenous people being constantly under attack in their own country. The words of imagery like the ways of torture and murders is what demonstrates the relationship of tone and mood to the story. The words and perspective of genocide from the poor and indigenous population is important to account, even though a fictional testimonial.
Testimonials are commonly used to speak on an event which occurred by using fictional characters and storyline. Fictional Testimonies are just as important because they derive from actual events, such as war, and shares it from a perspective of fictional characters through possible research or the author being there themselves. In the article, “Erik Ching Stories of Civil war in El Salvador: Battle of Memories,” by Leigh Binford describes Ching’s values of “collecting and analyzing life stories, stories in which the focus is on the individual “I” and their goal to reveal “something about the person’s life,” (Binford 894). Therefore, testimonials are very important and necessary when speaking on a targeted group to bring their voices to the light, whether they are living or not. In addition, using “I” in testimonies or life stories can also be interpreted as a group of people with likeness of the narrator, such as Beatriz speaking for herself and her people. However, writing a testimonial going against the words of the elite and the government comes with repercussions. In the text, “Microbus to San Salvador,” is written in first person point of view and the speaker uses an alias to represent and expresses the dangers of using an actual name which could lead to execution or exile. The text provides an example of how a testimonial typically begins and the purpose of sharing biographical information, “My alias is Beatriz. Ticha is my nickname. Age: twenty-four. Peasants background” (Argueta 175). Using testimonial biographical statement exhibits the nature of the circumstances and information on the speaker. Testimonials are necessary and vital to history to understand different perceptions of war.
"The elite and powerful scapegoated the problems they had by blaming the poor and indigenous people by creating a negative perspective of them being monsters and a threat to society."
When sharing testimonials, different perspectives are revealed to go against the words of the elite, wealthy politicians (foreign and local), and military leaders who control the voices of the oppressed. The testimonial of “Microbus to San Salvador” exemplifies the misinformation and corruption of the military groups in El Salvador to portray the indigenous as the problem and monsters to society. The purpose of the text is to spread the experiences of the poor during a violent time and to give the indigenous men, women, and children a voice. For example, “We’ve learned to survive. That’s why I use an alias” (Argueta 178). The quote expresses the need to survive, so by changing one’s name to speak out represents the difficulty, stress, and desperation to show others how the oppressed in the Salvadoran war were treated. Thus, the author’s intent of composing a fictional testimonial is to share a narrative of what is the speaker’s “truth” and their “reality” of a traumatic event. In addition, testimonials are a form of activism by sharing one’s story, thoughts, and position during the event. In this case, Beatriz was with her people who lived liked her and witness the massacres of family, friends, and neighbors. War brings trauma due to seeing the genocide of one’s people, mistreatments, and the sacrifices made.
During times of war, there are many different ways to divide and conquer. During the civil war in El Salvador, many impoverished and indigenous people were under attack as previously mentioned; however, for most the simple act of leaving their house was dangerous. There was no mercy or remorse to people who were born in the country before colonization and some were divided to go against their own people. In the article, “How Did the Civil War in El Salvador End?,” by Joaquin M. Chavez, shares the conflict of power and negotiations which lead to the ending of the civil war by explaining the involvement of military action on the streets of cities. The author states, “On the night of November 11, FMLN fighters launched simultaneous attacks of government forced in San Salvador and other cities…In turn, the Salvadoran military bombed and shelled Soyapango and the northern periphery of San Salvador in an attempt to regain control over the rebel-occupied areas” (Chaves 1789). In depth, the quote shares insight on the attacks carried out by both sides, however, leaves out descriptions of how the common people are treated, tortured, kidnapped, raped, and killed. Therefore, in the text, “Microbus to San Salvador,” shares the different ways the Salvadoran military terrorized and tortured innocent people. The text describes an incident on a microbus is significant as it represents a traumatic event for the speaker occurring during a deadly invasion of military officials. For example, the campanero of Beatriz was killed in the microbus, “It’s an awful experience running into them. You never know what they’ll do next. They told the driver to pull over” (Argueta 183). The tortures and deaths of the civilians were often occurred in front of family and friends to cause fear and prevent rebellion as it posed as an example of the authority and power the military and politicians had. The repercussions of executions and massacres are historical trauma, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and fear of speaking out. The importance of sharing the descriptive horror and deaths of the character’s loved ones was to give a visual of the extermination of people in El Salvador as it relates to ways the elite obtain power and control. Literature like Argueta’s is necessary as it gives the reader more understanding of testimonials as it gives life value of being recognized, standing up for what a person believes in, and doing what it takes to survive.
As a political writer from Central America, Manilo Arueta writes a controversial and contemporary fictional testimonial through the eyes of Triche, a peasent living in war torn El Salvador. Although the text was written after El Salvador’s Civil War, the writing was influenced by providing a civilian’s perspective of the war and genocide ordered by the military government. Due to writing against Salvadoran authorities the consequences were death threats by those the Salvadoran government and their supporters. The significance of the story is to bring attention to the narrative of those whose voice cannot be heard in fear of deadly consequences, valuing one’s truth and realities of a tragic and traumatic event, and address the revolutionary activism of speaking against those who oppress. Therefore, understanding our history, as well as others, can help identify and understand literature in a deep perspective and can aid in analyzing purpose and usage of structure and wording. People’s perceptions of events, especially in critical traumatic experiences, gives significance to the voice of the targeted and should not be threatened by a powerful toxic force.