This was a densely populated area before the war. The hills surrounding the town was dotted with local farms. All this changed when the war started. Most of the people left the area to avoid being killed by the army.
The people of Cinquera did not return until near the end of the war. The surrounding farms however were not recovered. Over the intervening years, a forest had grown up around the town. During the war, this forest became a haven for the FMLN.
It is now 12,000 acre shrine commemorating the struggle.
The Cinquera Forest
The forest is only 35 years old, but it is impossible to find evidence of the farming community that existed here before the war. It is owned and protected by the community. It is a source of fresh water and one of the only nature reserves in a country that is 90% deforested.
We spent the afternoon hiking through the forest. It is wild and beautiful. While the forest has certainly taken over the farmland, there is evidence of the war everywhere.
This is the stove used by the FMLN in the hills surrounding Cinquera.
It is modeled on similar stoves used by the Vietnamese during the war
against the United States. It is designed to hide the smoke from
cooking so as to not alert hostile forces of your location.
We walked with our guide for hours through the forest. She showed us rare trees native to Nicaragua, even rarer Salvadoran trees, trenches used during the war and finally a full FMLN camp. The camp included a medical treatment area, a small school, a meeting area and a quick escape route. The camp could have been home to over 30 insurgents during the conflict.
a section of the FMLN forest camp
This is a really beautiful place. It really shows that the human spirit cannot be suppressed even by years of brutal repression, torture and murder.
Some of the people of Cinquera have returned and have rebuild their town and have created a natural wonder. The town has also developed a hostel, restaurant, a butterfly farm, a lizard and iguana farm, a youth center and a fruit dehydrator run off of solar power - See more at: http://www.share-elsalvador.org/2011/12/cinquera-historica.html#sthash.Xq5y3zgl.dpuf
I was again struck by the natural beauty of this place. It doesn't take away from the horror, but it gives me hope that we can overcome the brutality of the civil war.