Welcome to the Latin America Working Group’s new blog—the LAWG Blog (sorry, we couldn’t resist the name). We’ll be bringing you updates on U.S. policy towards Latin America, inspiring stories from Latin American human rights activists, tips for what you can do to make change—all in the service of building a more just U.S. policy towards our neighbors to the south.
As we launch this new initiative, I’ve been reflecting upon what brought me to the LAWG and to this rather quixotic profession. Like some of you out there, my life was affected by the U.S. wars in Central America. As a young woman making my way in the world, I would go to my regular job in New York City during the day, and at night I listened to public radio, stories about the Salvadoran army killing men, women and children as they ran through the fields to hide, about the Nicaraguan contras ambushing and brutally killing the doctors, teachers, and agricultural experts who were helping to bring services to the countryside. It disturbed me deeply that my government, my government in which I believed and still believe, was supporting and funding these unjust wars.
I began to get involved, as a volunteer. I used to call up the Central America Working Group’s hotline, a message recorded on a little tape recorder, and it would tell me an action that I could take. Little did I think that one day after many other adventures I’d be on the other end of the tape recorder, and that the tape recorder would become e-alerts, and now a blog.
Books and movies also set me on this journey. Still in high school, I read the passage in Garcia Marquez’s A Hundred Years of Solitude where José Arcadio Segundo witnesses the massacre of banana workers by the army.
“There must have been three thousand of them,” he murmured. “What?” “The dead,” he clarified. “It must have been all the people who were at the station.” The woman measured him with a pitying look. “There haven’t been any dead here, “ she said. “Since the time of your uncle, the colonel, nothing has happened in Macondo.”
In the story, the military denies that the massacre took place, and it drops out of history like a stone in a pond. “You must have been dreaming,” the officers insisted.
When it first came out, in 1985, I saw an Argentine film called The Official Story that has haunted me ever since. A woman reluctantly finds out how she came to have her adopted daughter and begins to face a horrifying truth about her family, and her country.
Or the gripping La Noche de Tlatelolco, in which Elena Poniatowska painstakingly pieces together an oral history of the day in Mexico City when the Mexican security forces killed several hundred student demonstrators (exactly how many is still unknown).
In all of these the easy path is forgetting—forgetting that these abuses ever occurred, forgetting who was responsible.
Somewhere along the way I decided to become one of the people who would not forget. Who would help tell the stories so the truth would out.
And if you are reading this, then you are one who cares and remembers, too. I hope this blog helps you connect with our work—and that of our partners in the U.S. and Latin America. If we continue to work together, to tell each other’s stories, and to listen, I know that we’ll finally be able to achieve some of the changes in U.S. policy we’ve been dreaming about for years. Do check back for new posts regularly!