In 2005, on a spring trip to El Salvador, I wasn’t expecting to find Easter. It’s definitely a “Good Friday” kind of country, one that has carried the cross for a long time. However, on Easter morning I found myself heading up a gravel road into the mountains of Morazán near the Honduran border, to the site of the El Mozote massacre.
In December 1981, soldiers of the Salvadoran army’s elite, School of the Americas-trained Atlacatl Battalion surrounded the village of El Mozote and murdered more than 900 men, women, and children. “As far as is known,” wrote Alma Guillermoprieto, who broke the El Mozote story in The Washington Post, “this was the single largest massacre to take place in this hemisphere in modern times.”
As we drove past the Rio Sapo and into the village, a few children approached the car. They were eager to show us the memorials and take us to the pits where the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Unit had unearthed bodies and bone fragments with strips of cloth still attached. Especially they wanted to show us the plaque placed over the mass grave of 140 children and take us through the rose garden planted in their memory. There is also a rough curved stone wall, not too far from the church, on which the names of the dead are written. It’s watched over by the iron silhouette of a family.
There was nothing, I was convinced, of resurrection in this place. It was 100 percent Good Friday crucifixion, unmerited suffering brought on by the sins of the world. I was tempted to ignore the Sunday scripture readings while in that place and only focus on Christ’s passion. But something told me to trust a little more in Easter.