To witness one of the most creative, miraculous moments of the 20th century, the signing of the peace accords between the Salvadoran government and the FMLN, was a privilege that really belonged not to me, but to the most humble of the Salvadoran people.
In recognition that the building of the peace was and will be a shared task, the FMLN had invited dozens of Salvadorans and internationals to be present--popular leaders and church and humanitarian aid representatives who in some way had stood firmly by the poor and the oppressed throughout the war. We packed away years of paranoia about nearing any representative of the armed struggle, accepted the honor, and embraced a new reality.
The Mexican government seated us as though it were a wedding. Across the room, I looked into the faces of members of the legislative assembly, the president's cabinet, and the high command of the Salvadoran armed forces. We were present, guests of "the bride and the groom," to celebrate a historical union and to commit ourselves to accompany a new relationship among a people.
The vows/accords signed that day had been written with the blood of 75,000 people. All around me, I watched civilian leaders and FMLN commanders whose fate had been worse than my own: death threats, electric shocks, "the hood," beatings, death-squad disappearances of loved ones. They shook hands and exchanged embraces with the representatives of the government and military. Bathed in hope, I grasped the hand of Gen. Mauricio Ernesto Vargas. "Congratulations, Colonel," I blundered, the time lapse since our last meeting made apparent by his higher rank.