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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Burning Memory : Amnesty Against Justice? Historical Memory and Continued Polarization in Postwar El Salvador

  • Author(s): Horton, Megan Rose
  • et al.

This study looks at the different collective memories towards the human rights violations that occurred during the Salvadoran Internal Armed Conflict. I argue that these divisive memories have contributed to ongoing polarization and a lack of reconciliation in postwar El Salvador. Utilizing Maurice Halbwachs' term and theory of collective memory, in El Salvador these memories have grouped along Civil War lines. Those who adhere to the right-wing discourse, and were generally in favor of the Armed Forces during the war, have tended to adhere cling to the "forgive and forget" option of transitional justice. Those who are left-wing, and may have either been in favor of the FMLN guerrillas during the war, or who were victims or family members of the military's atrocities, have tended to champion the "prosecute and punish" option. This study analyzes perspectives and memories of and towards the victim, the victimizer, as well as outside forces that were a part of the Armed Conflict. This study is based on 5 weeks of intensive interviews and participant observation in San Salvador, El Salvador, as well as continued monitoring of Salvadoran news throughout 2014 and 2015. Through this analysis, I found that despite polarization, there are no clear-cut lines of who falls into each category, and collective memory still remains entrenched in the Armed Conflict

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