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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Rosita and Ieda, Cinquerra, El Salvador

I just had the opportunity of a lifetime to travel with five wonderful women and four just-as-
wonderful men in El Salvador. We had many great adventures and learned a lot about the country and ourselves.

There is one day that stays with with me, the day we toured the village square of Cinquera and
heard stories of the war from Rosita, a slight, beautiful woman with a staggering family history.

We stood in the hot square staring at a painted mural documenting the 12-year struggle. Rosita,
in Spanish, calmy and forthrightly told the story of some of the people of her town. Prominent in
the mural was the face of a young woman, Ieda. A young parish worker, Ieda was passionate
about her work, telling the story of the gospels, carrying her bible as a talisman of justice and
good work.

Ieda's beliefs did not go over well with the army and government that viewed the
bible and the gospel as revolutionary tools of the people.

Ieda's mother still lives in Cinquera. Rosita related the mother's story. One day at their
farmhouse, the army truck pulled up and dragged the young woman from the house, stuffing
her in a coffee bag. There was no recourse for Ieda's mother who watched helplessly as
her daughter was taken away.

Over the course of a number of days, the young woman was interrogated and tortured. She was raped and mutilated, all attempts to kill and humiliate the human spirit. The noonday sun beat on our heads as Rosita related the details of Ieda's humiliation and torture. The ravaged bodies of Ieda and a young man, another enemy of the state, were dumped on the bridge just outside of town, for all, including Ieda's mother, to see.

The mutilated bodies were a message of fear and retaliation for anyone speaking out for justice.
The brave people of Cinquera quickly claimed the bodies and buried them before the army
returned. They took their own back.

All of this was related to us in the blazing sun, in Rosita's calm, measured voice. As she spoke,
a butterfly landed on the face of Ieda. This was not lost on us. We watched mesmerized.

Rosita brought us to a wall that commemorates the names of the fallen rebels, including her
father and two brothers. Another brother killed himself after the peace agreement, ravaged by
the war and what he had witnessed. We went to Rosita's modest home and saw a homemade
mural that chronicled the family's participation in the struggle and the fallen brothers' faces. As
we milled around the mural, Rosita's five year old son and friend played peacefully under the

Rosita's gentle handshake and delicate face belied a will and spirit of iron. She walked quietly
away from us in the afternoon sun, cell phone dangling in her hand, ready to continue the rest of
her day's work.

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