Visiting Politicians Discuss War & Peace in El Salvador

Oscar Santamaria, Moakley Institute Director Beth Bower, Gerson Martinez, and Associate Dean Sebastián Royo


Salvadoran politicians Gerson Martinez and Oscar Santamaria visited Suffolk University in October to discuss the events that brought El Salvador to war in the 1980s.

While the two men belong to opposing political groups, both began their stories with the 1932 government massacre of tens of thousands of anti-government protesters that ushered in four decades of repressive military regimes.

Martinez, a member of the Salvadoran Assembly, belongs to the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), which began as a guerrilla group and continues as an opposition party today. As one of the eight founding members of FMLN, Martinez changed his name to Manuel Orlando Quinteros Aguilar for security purposes.

Santamaría is a member of the incumbent Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) party.

Personal recollections of civil war

They spoke with students, faculty, staff and members of the Boston-area Salvadoran community, describing their experiences during the civil war and their efforts to forge the peace agreement that ended the war in 1992.

The visit was sponsored by the Moakley Institute at Suffolk University. The late Congressman John Joseph “Joe” Moakley led a U.S. investigation into the murders of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter in El Salvador in 1989, uncovering government involvement. The Institute maintains ties with the people and issues of El Salvador in its efforts to preserve his legacy.

Students to visit El Salvador

Among those attending the discussion were students and faculty who will travel to El Salvador during the spring semester as part of a course on Latin American history.

“The stories touched the students deeply and allowed them to connect faces to the events they are reading about in preparation for our January trip,” said Assistant Professor Christopher Rodriguez of the History Department.

Martinez and Santamaria were visiting Boston as part a Salvadoran delegation to the three-day international conference “Truth and Reconciliation Commissions: Do They Do Justice to Justice?” at the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy Studies at UMass-Boston, co-sponsored by the Moakley Institute.

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