Disappearance/Re-appearance

My friend Jamie Moffett is currently editing his new documentary about the legacy of the El Salvadoran civil war; it looks like his film is going to be a genuine work of discovery, rather than one of this non-fiction movies where everything seems decided in advance.  Philadelphia’s City Paper printed a story today about one of the unexpected and tragic stories the film-makers want to bring to our attention: the murder of Gustavo Marcelo Rivera Moreno, a teacher and community activist, whose disapperance and horrific death are associated with the people’s attempts at opposing the destruction of the land by mining operations.

‘Return to El Salvador’ asks why 700 Salvadorans leave their country every day; and aims to remind audiences why the fate of these people is intimately bound to the recent history of the United States and its people.  We’ll be able to see the film in November.  For now, the hope is that US politicians will be willing to support an investigation into Rivera’s death.  If you believe that we should take responsibility for the misdeeds of our predecessors, then it’s clear that we owe the people of El Salvador something more than we’ve been prepared to grant before now.  But I imagine that most of us don’t know much about this recent history; never mind what’s happening in El Salvador today.  Disappearance doesn’t just apply to the physical removal and killing of human beings; for we’re very good at hiding from ourselves the truth about our own complicity in the suffering of others.

We’ve been very good at ‘disappearing’ the murky parts of our own history; but denying the fact of the role played by the Reagan administration and others in destabilising Central American nations will not get us any closer to preventing the disappearance of more people like Gustavo Marcelo Rivera Moreno; nor in honouring the people he was trying to help. Hopefully ‘Return to El Salvador’ will contribute to a renewed engagement with these questions; questions that should never go away until they are answered.

(If you want to read more, Walter Lafeber’s ‘Inevitable Revolutions’ is a good way in to understanding how and some of the reasons why successive US administrations have kept Central America in a state of dependency; and Don Shriver’s extraordinary ‘Honest Patriots’ cuts to the heart of how we should face our own country’s past.)

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