In memory of our friend Rufina

The following is an excerpt from the book "Cry of the people" by Penny Lernoux, published by Penguin. We remember her as she passed from this world this week.

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Mozote: Crucifixion of the Salvadoran People

More than 1,000 men, women and children were killed on December 12 and 13, 1981 in the massacre at Mozote, in the Department of Morazán. The massacre was committed by the Atlacatl Battalion, an elite Army unit trained in counterinsurgency by the U.S. government.

The following is the testimony of a 41- year-old woman, Rufina, the only witness to the massacre.

I believe I am the only survivor of the Mozote massacre. The village was filled with children because the people in the surrounding area had fled their homes to take refuge there. That is why the Army was able to kill so many people.

The soldiers from the Atlacatl Battalion came at seven in the morning. They said they had orders to kill everyone. Nobody was to remain alive. They locked the women in the houses and the men in the church. There were 1,100 of us in all. The children were with the women. They kept us locked up all morning.

At ten o'clock the soldiers began to kill the men who were in the church. First they machine-gunned them and then they slit their throats.

By two o'clock the soldiers had finished killing the men and they came for the women. They left the children locked up. They separated me from my eight-month-old daughter and my oldest son. They took us away to kill us.

"My God!" l prayed, "Almighty God, do not let us die here! You know that we have committed no sin."

As we came to the place where they were going to kill us, I was able to slip away and hide under a small bush, covering myself with the branches. I watched the soldiers line up twenty women and machine gun them. Then they brought another group. Another rain of bullets. Then another group. And another.

The women screamed and pleaded: "Don't kill us!"

"We haven't done anything!"

"Why are you going to kill us?"

The soldiers replied, "Stop crying! Don't scream, or the devil will come and take you away!" They continued to kill. I was right there at their feet, hiding.

When the soldiers finished killing the people, they sat down and talked. I heard them say that they had been sent to kill us because we were guerrillas. I watched as they burned all the bodies. When a baby cried out from the midst of the flames, one of the soldiers said to another, "You didn't finish killing him." So the other soldier shot the baby and the crying stopped. When the flames died down, another soldier said, "They're all dead now. Let's go and kill the children."

They killed four of my children: my nine year-old, my six-year-old, my three-year-old and my eight-month-old daughter. My husband was killed, too. Only my parents and two of my daughters who lived further away are alive.

I spent seven days and nights alone in the hills with nothing to eat or drink. I couldn't find anyone else; the soldiers had killed everyone.

It has to be God's will that I am still alive. God allowed me to live so that I can testify how the Army killed the men and women and burned their bodies. I didn't see them kill the children, but I heard the children's screams.

April 1987