General Maximiliano Hernandez

El Salvador 1931-1932

San Salvador, 1931: Farabundo Marti


General Maximiliano Hernandez

Two years ago Farabundo Marti returned to El Salvador. On the streets of the capital he found ox carts of the people mingling with Pierce Arrows and Packards of the oligarchs. The price has dropped out of the coffee market, and unrest among the workers is spreading. Military repression increases and Marti leads a protest march. He is arrested and sent to the Central Penitentiary where he begins a month-long hunger strike. Massive demonstrations in his support force the government to release him. He emerges as a national hero and symbol of the opposition to the repressive conditions. Protest demonstrations increase and the police and military kill dozens of protestors. The government is chasing Marti all over the countryside because they hold him responsible for all their trouble. In a military coup General Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez comes to power. He believes it is worse to kill an ant than a human being. He will soon act on that belief.

Robert Armstrong and Janet Shenk, El Salvador: The Face of Revolution, 21-25


Salvadoran Countryside, 1932: La Matanza


Farabundo Marti

The insurrection is planned for January 22. The authorities find out and arrest Farabundo Marti on the 18th. Mass arrests begin. In the countryside the peasants do not know and so the revolt moves forward. Years, generations, and even centuries of abuse create the long fuse that is finally lit. The rebellion is strongest in the coffee growing areas, the indigenous leading the way. Mostly armed with machetes and stones, they are up against rifles and machine guns. “Red Julia” leads a force of five thousand near Sonsonate. Martinez mobilizes his forces to crush the rebellion. The rebels’ arms are no match for the weapons of the army, but they fight on for days. Wave after wave brave a hail of bullets. Finally, they are defeated.

The ruling class is outraged and cries for vengeance, and the Matanza begins. In Izalco, groups of fifty, thumbs tied together, meet their death against the wall of a church before a firing squad. Victims dig mass graves, and when they are finished a machine gun fills their bodies with lead and the graves with bodies. Miguel Marmol, one of the leaders in the Salvadoran Communist Party, later writes: General Ochoa… made everyone who had been captured crawl on their knees to where he was seated in a chair in the courtyard of the fort and he said to them: “Com here and smell my gun.” The prisoners pleaded with him in the name of God and their children, having heard the intermittent shots before entering the courtyard. But the General insisted. “If you don’t smell my pistol then you are a communist and afraid. He who is without sin knows no fear.”

The campesino smelled the barrel of the gun, and in that instant, the general would put a bullet in his face. “Bring the next one in,” he said.

The Salvadoran ruling class and military kill thirty thousand people-two percent of the population.

Robert Armstrong and Janet Shenk, El Salvador: The Face of Revolution, 28-30