Remember their names

Too often when we write about the murders which happened 30 years ago on November 16, 1989, we just refer to the "6 Jesuits, their co-worker and her daughter." As people around the world commemorate them this weekend, let us remember these martyrs of El Salvador's civil war by name:

  • Father Ignacio Ellacuría, 59, was since 1979 rector of the UCA, and an internationally-respected intellectual and advocate for human rights and a negotiated solution to the Salvadoran civil conflict;
  • Father Ignacio Martín-Baro´, 44, was the vice rector of the UCA, a leading analyst of national and regional affairs, the founder and director of the respected polling organization, the Public Opinion Institute, former Dean of Students, Dean of the Psychology Department, an internationally renowned pioneer in the field of social psychology and pastor of the rural community of Jayaque;
  • Father Segundo Montes, 56, was Dean of the Department of Social Sciences and a sociology professor at the UCA, and the founder and director of the Human Rights Institute at the UCA (IDHUCA), who did extensive work on Salvadoran refugees in the United States during the period of the Salvadoran conflict, including providing documentation and advice to United States Members of Congress on refugee issues;
  • Father Amando López, 53, was a philosophy and theology professor at the UCA, former director of the Jesuit seminary in San Salvador, and served as pastor of the Tierra Virgen community in Soyapango, a poor neighborhood in the periphery of San Salvador;
  • Farther Juan Ramón Moreno, 56, was a professor of theology at the UCA, former novice-master for the Jesuits, and a tireless pastoral worker and spiritual guide;
  • Father Joaquín López y López, 71, was one of the creators of the UCA and the founder, organizer, and director of Fe y Alegrı´a (Faith and Joy) to address the lack of education in El Salvador, which opened 30 educational centers in marginalized communities throughout the country where 48,000 people received vocational training and education;
  • Julia Elba Ramos, 42, was the cook and housekeeper for the Jesuit seminarians at the UCA and wife of Obdulio Lozano, the UCA gardener and groundskeeper;
  • Celina Mariset, 16, had finished her first year of high school at the Jose´ Damian Villacorta Institute in Santa Tecla, El Salvador, and was staying with her mother the night of November 15, 1989.


Tom said…
Thank you Tim.
Greg said…
Thank you for this reminder, Tim.

Father Ellacuria was perceived by some senior officers in the Salvadoran military as an "enemy". Enemies did not always carry weapons. Enemies were also those who were spokespersons of note who spoke out against the government and its policies.

At the time of the murders, a war crime, the UAC was framed as a general target for the military. Meaning there was reason to believe the UAC provided safe haven for supply and weapons caches, field hospitals for the guerrillas involved in the ongoing offensive in the city, and other guerrilla logistic and manpower assets. Father Ellacuria was the primary target as selected by Colonel Benevides, among others to include Colonel Leon, then the commander of the Atlacatl battalion.

The mission became to "clean out" the UAC.

This series of meetings occurred roughly two weeks before the operation.

Major Eric Buckland, a U.S. Special Forces officer and then assigned to the U.S. MilGrp in San Salvador, was privy to the meetings taking place and what was being planned. He did not report this knowledge until after the killings. The information went to the then MilGrp Commander, Colonel Menjivar, who met almost immediately with Colonel Ponce of the ESAF. Buckland's account was refuted; he was ridiculed by the Salvadoran High Command as well as by U.S. State/Department of the Army. He was removed from his position at the MilGrp and returned to the United States.

He was interviewed by Special Agent Paul H. Cully for two days. Transcripts of those interviews can be found in Congressman John Moakley's archives, also known as "the Moakley Papers".

I knew and served with Eric Buckland when he was a captain. In reading his interview I have no reason not to believe his account. That said, his account had to be discredited because it meant, despite his not coming forward sooner, that a U.S. Army officer was fully aware of the plans and who was making them / and going to carry them out regarding the murder of Father Ellacuria and the others who became "collateral damage".

Protecting the war effort, as occurred after the massacre at El Mozote, and again after the murders of the four Dutch journalists, by the Reagan Administration and its State Department, was paramount.

At the same time Buckland's assessment of the UAC as a basing area for the FMLN during the final offensive was accurate. Another American, this one a civilian and church worker by the name of Jennifer Casolo, traveled often and freely due to passes she received from Colonel Ponce to the UAC. She transported, in the van provided her by the organization she was representing in San Salvador, people, arms, and munitions to those cache points in preparation for the offensive. Although, upon being arrested, she denied all charges the truth is both on video tape (which I have seen) and in her letters and diary which were found buried atop munition storage barrels in the backyard of the small home she was renting.

The story of her conversion from church worker / peace activist to guerrilla logistics provider and member of the FMLN ERP in San Salvador is fascinating.