|On 17 October 1992, as a consultant to the Commission on the Truth for El Salvador, I visited the village of Corinto to collect stories of ‘grave cases of violence’. Situated in the remote and poor province of Morazán, Corinto is as far as it gets from the central areas of this Central American republic. But the war—i.e., El Salvador’s civil war between 1980 and 1990—had taken its toll also up here in the peasant-dominated rocky uplands.
This paper is written for the research project entitled “Beyond Words: Implementing Latin American Truth Commission Recommendations”. The research project is based at the Chr. Michelsen Institute, Bergen, Norway, is funded by the Research Council of Norway (2015-2017) and headed by Elin Skaar.
I remember the trip well, in a UN-provided jeep, two consultants and a driver, on ever poorer roads through lush, green scenery that became progressively drier as the road climbed. Halfway up the hills, we made a stop at a place known as ‘Burnt Car’ ( Carro Quemado ), which was where a battle between the army and the guerrillas had taken place ten years earlier. After the battle, the road remained closed for several days to clear it of heaps of blackened and twisted metal. The episode had left memories strong enough to rename a stretch of the road. Burnt Car spoke about much suffering but also, for visiting Europeans, it told a story about a war that looked like a real war, with organised groups fighting for territorial positions.
In Corinto, we were received by a local lawyer. The trip had been arranged after he had visited our regional truth commission office, a week earlier, in the town of San Miguel down in the lowlands. The lawyer had given us his testimony regarding four extrajudicial killings and added that the violent events he reported were of general knowledge in Corinto. There were also many other similar stories so if we could come and collect them h