Broadcasting the Civil War in El Salvador: A Memoir of Guerrilla Radio

Broadcasting the Civil War in El Salvador: A Memoir of Guerrilla Radio

Broadcasting the Civil War in El Salvador: A Memoir of Guerrilla Radio

Broadcasting the Civil War in El Salvador: A Memoir of Guerrilla Radio

Synopsis

During the 1980s war in El Salvador, Radio Venceremos was the main news outlet for the Frente Farabundo Marté para la Liberación Nacional (FMLN), the guerrilla organization that challenged the government. The broadcast provided a vital link between combatants in the mountains and the outside world, as well as an alternative to mainstream media reporting. In this first-person account, "Santiago," the legend behind Radio Venceremos, tells the story of the early years of that conflict, a rebellion of poor peasants against the Salvadoran government and its benefactor, the United States.

Originally published as La Terquedad del Izote, this memoir also addresses the broader story of a nationwide rebellion and its international context, particularly the intensifying Cold War and heavy U.S. involvement in it under President Reagan. By the war's end in 1992, more than 75,000 were dead and 350,000 wounded--in a country the size of Massachusetts. Although outnumbered and outfinanced, the rebels fought the Salvadoran Army to a draw and brought enough bargaining power to the negotiating table to achieve some of their key objectives, including democratic reforms and an overhaul of the security forces.

Broadcasting the Civil War in El Salvadoris a riveting account from the rebels' point of view that lends immediacy to the Salvadoran conflict. It should appeal to all who are interested in historic memory and human rights, U.S. policy toward Central America, and the role the media can play in wartime.

Excerpt

What follows is the story of a rebellion by poor peasants against the government of El Salvador and its benefactor, the United States. The peasant rebels were outgunned, outmanned, and outfinanced, and they ultimately failed to achieve their goal of overthrowing the Salvadoran state. But, remarkably, they fought the Salvadoran Army to a draw over eleven years of war (1981–1992), and they had enough bargaining power at the negotiating table to achieve some of their key objectives, including democratic reforms and an overhaul of the Salvadoran security forces.

The author of the memoir is Carlos Henríquez Consalvi, more commonly known by his nom de guerre, “Santiago.” He was a central figure in El Salvador’s civil war, although he was neither a peasant nor a Salvadoran. He was a Venezuelan who came to El Salvador to support the rebel cause and who lived and worked for the entire eleven years of war in the remote northeast of the country, in Morazán department.

Throughout the war, northern Morazán was the stronghold of the People’s Revolutionary Army (Ejército Revolucionario del Pueblo, ERP). It was one of the five guerrilla factions that made up the Farabundo Martí Front for National Liberation (Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional, FMLN), the guerrilla army that formed in October 1980 to fight the Salvadoran government.

Santiago was not a fighter, although he did sometimes carry a gun and he lived through numerous battles and aerial bombardments. Rather, he was a radio announcer, the main voice for the FMLN’s clandestine radio station, Radio Venceremos (Radio We Will Win). For eleven years, he and his fellow team members broadcast news and variety shows from a mobile radio transmitter in Morazán, oftentimes on the run or under bombardment. The Salvadoran Army and its U.S. ally called Radio Venceremos a propaganda tool and a weapon of war, and, indeed, sometimes it was. But it also provided the primary alternative to the mainstream media sources, which provided an unvarying progovernment viewpoint. Radio Venceremos became one of the army’s highest priority targets.

What you are about to read is Santiago’s journal of his first four years of . . .

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