Perquin, close to the Honduras border, was a hot bed of guerrilla activity during the El Salvador civil war. Our road trip to Perquin began, as they often do with a tip from fellow cruisers, Jeff and Judy, as we enjoyed drinks in the Bahia del Sol Marina. They recounted their visit to the Museo de Revolucion and La Mazote, a village that was massacred during the war. Sobering stuff after our tours of Mayan ruins and coffee plantations. To add to the challenge we decided to rent a car and make the five hour drive into the mountains ourselves. After a couple of wrong turns around San Miguel, we arrived at Perkin Lenca, our hotel perched on a hillside. We lined up our guide Sebastian, a former guerrilla, for the next day and learned our collective Spanish would be put to the test as he spoke no English. Our Perquin visit was a poignant mix of current day hospitality and recent dramatic history, of which the United States played a part.
The hand carved chair backs reflect the hotel’s attention to detail.
View from Hotel Perkin Lenca. The mountain ridge forms the Nicaragua-Honduras border.
A portrait of our guide, Sebastian, as a young guerrilla. He is to the left. This picture hangs in the Museo de Revolucion.
Our first stop, was the village of La Mazote. Government soldiers rounded up and massacred 800 to 1,000 villagers based on the suspicion that they supported the guerrillas. Sebastian explained that the presence of a child on either side of the parent symbolizes that the family is dead. Names of known families are inscribed on plaques behind the statue.
One of the few villagers who survived asked to be buried at the memorial when she passed away.
The children were separated from their mothers and executed and buried at this site. The mural behind them honors their memory.
The plaque explains that 146 people, 140 less than 12 years old were buried here and are now buried at the monument pictured earlier. El Mazzote Nunca Mas, means “Mazote Never Again.”
A colorful mural, of which this is a small part, recounts Mazote’s story.
Outside the memorial, Sebastian pulled out a guitar given to him by a peace Corps volunteer and played us a number of songs focused on El Salvador’s future. He mused that music was God’s gift to him and that God spared him during the war so that he could share his music and story.
On our return trip to Bahia del Sol, we stopped in Zacate for lunch and provisioning. This vibrant mural of contemporary El Salvador echoed the haunting El Mazote mural and showed an El Salvador moving forward as in Sebastian’s song.
For those traveling through El Salvador, you can reach Sebastian at firstname.lastname@example.org. For those interested in a short account of the El Salvador Civil War as seen through the eyes of an aid worker from the U.S., see Perquin Musings by Ron Brenneman.