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Forget Me Not

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The Story I am about to tell you is one that does not belong to me. It took place years before I entered into this world, for I am only sixteen years old, which the influence of society never allows me to forget. I am what many people consider to be in my prime; young, inexperienced, and incapable of making wise decisions. In the narrow eyes of society, my behavior is as untamed as a wild chimpanzee´s and my thoughts last no longer than a Goldfish´s three-second attention span. I am from a generation dominated by a culture where we teenagers pride ourselves on the amount of Facebook friends we have, and spend our days watching hours of music videos on MTV. This is a common perception that young people have become accustomed to hearing. Their is no doubt that as youth in the world today we are stereotyped as unmotivated accomplices to its deterioration. Maybe, to older generations, my life story seems microscopic compared to the adventures they have experienced.

Today I would like to think the best of my generation, and not spend too much time lingering on these limited stereotypical ideas. All I am able to say on my behalf is that as ¨young¨ as I am, at this time I do recognize the importance of such a story. I state for the record, that I have experienced this story as a second-hand witness, after having researched through countless articles and used books, conducted several in-person interviews and listened to the hidden memories of a community. Of all of the people I spoke with, I will never forget the one who offered me my first taste of the inspiration for this topic. The man who left me with a strong, lasting impression, and the motivation to learn more.

¨They changed our names from Guerrillas to Terroists.¨ Speaking with a broken Spanish accent, Fernando´s voice did not quiver as he clearly pronounced each word. His glare shot right through me, forcing my lungs to contract, making it difficult to breathe. At this moment, I was his main target, and his piercing brown eyes were focused on me. His intention was clear; to make me understand. To burn the information through the barrier of my skin and brand it permanently on my soul. Throwing out that heavily loaded word, terroist, seemed a strategy; he must have planned to drop it into my ears like an exploding bomb. Although the room was full of fifteen other women, it felt as though his story was soley intended for me to hear. In the vast open space of the empty room in La Mirador hotel in Juayua, El Salvador, the light from the sun beamed in through the surrounding windows, creating a spot-light on Fernando, who stood in the center. Dressed in a casual pair of light-wash blue jeans and a button-up , green short-sleve shirt, he looked like any average man. Most people would never suspect that this simple man with cafe colored skin was a Guerrilla in the 1980´s during El Salvador´s civil war.

After weeks of burying myself in research, I learned of the war's tragic nature, and its devastating effects on the country. Lasting almost twelve years, from 1980 to 1992, the war was one of the lowest points in El Salvador´s recent history. It was a battle between the Salvadoran government and the rebel Guerrilla groups, one of the most prominant being the FMLA (Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front). The United States played a large role in the war, pouring military and economic aid into the country on the side of the Guerrillas. In fear of a communist take over, the U.S equipped the military with the most advanced weapons, such as M-16 rifles and UHLB Helicopters. The fighting raged between the two groups and by the end of the war the death toll reached the height of 75,000. Most of the killings were reported to have been commited by the military and lives of many innocent civilians were sacrificed. The massace at El Mozote, which took place in December of 1981, was one of the most recognized massaces of the decade. It was a planned operation by the U.S. trained Atlacatl Battalion, where families were dragged out of their homes, women were raped, and children were brutally murdered. It was reported that approximally six-hundred people were killed here. This is only one of the hundreds of atrocities that El Salvador experienced during the decade-long civil war.

Listening to Fernando´s life story transformed the war in my mind from an imaginary tale into reality. Beyond facts, he told us his life story and the struggles he endured as a Guerrilla. He explained Guerrilla war tactics for dealing with torture; how they have a trick for running a movie in their mind while they are being abused. On a more personal level, he shared the loss that he felt when his compañera, who was a female Guerrilla, was found dead after a short battle. He told us about how he was shot five times, and how he no longer expresses his sorrow in the form of tears after so many years of fighting and sadness. I could see the desperation in his eyes. He wanted us to not only remember what he was sharing but also how it felt. Knowing that we could never truly feel these experiences he glanced around the room every few seconds, checking to see which girls had their ears and hearts open to receiving his story.

¨Life was better back the for youth, they had something to fight for. Now all they care about are cell phones and the rapper Daddy Yankee,¨ he remarked. Even though he was skeptical about how much we understood, being youth from the U.S, I could see that he had hope. He knows that without the understanding of the younger generation, the stories of his country would be lost. I wish now I could go back in time and tell him that I heard everything he had to say; that one more voice will carry on his words.





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