Indigenous people of El Salvador remember the Massacre of 1932

Over a two-week period, the military attacked rural areas, executed people by firing squad, hung innocent victims, and buried them in mass graves. Official reports estimate approximately 30,000 people were killed, mostly indigenous Salvadorans.

  • 3 months ago
  • February 15, 2023
2 min read

IZALCO, El Salvador ꟷ In the early 1930’s in El Salvador an international crisis impacted the export of coffee produced primarily by indigenous communities. At the same time, a fraudulent election stoked tensions amongst marginalized people. An uprising amongst what was referred to as the peasant class ensued. The government and the military struck back harshly. In retaliation against the uprising, military forces perpetrated what came to be known as the Indigenous People Massacre of 1932.

Over a two-week period, the military attacked rural areas. They executed people by firing squad and hung innocent victims. Then, they buried the bodies in mass graves. Official reports estimate approximately 30,000 people fell victim to the massacre, mostly indigenous Salvadorans.

Read incredible stories of heroism, culture, and tragedy from indigenous communities from around the world.

An annual remembrance

The indigenous community remembers the victims annually in January in the area known as El Llanito. The location contains the common graves of their ancestors. The commemorations begin on January 22 with a pilgrimage and an ancestral purification. Members of the community perform dances, share testimonials from survivors of the massacre, and place flowers for the victims. They recall the history of the attack.

In 1932, the people rose up to fight for equality and an end to exploitation. The government decided to “neutralize the threat.” President Maximiliano Hernández Martínez gave an order: kill anyone who looks indigenous. In fear for their lives, the people tried to hide their identities. They hid their clothing, language, and customs, hoping to survive. It did not matter.

The military massacred them anyway. As a result, many Indigenous Salvadorans consequently joined the civil war from 1980 to 1992. The war resulted in the Chapultepec Peace Accords and the establishment of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) political party. The FMLN and Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) have dominated elections. However, many people say they use the massacre as propaganda.

The ceremony that took place this January in El Llanito is a way for the community to honor their ancestors and remember their history.

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