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Angie Tamayo Builds Ties of Solidarity with Survivors of War Using Pyschosocial Tools

In Chalatenango, Angie Tamayo (left) visited communities alongside Pro-Búsqueda staff and invited survivors to the delivery of a proposal for an Integral Reparations Law for Victims of the Armed Conflict.

October 12, 2017

Thanks to the funds from the Benjamin Linder Justice Award, I was able to travel to El Salvador for three weeks to support and learn about the work of Asociación Pro-Búsqueda, an organization that investigates cases of children who were disappeared or separated involuntarily from their families in the context of the armed conflict in El Salvador.

During the time there I met victims from the communities of Suchitoto, Arcatao, Santa Marta, La Conacastada and Chalatenango in different activities in which I participated.

I went to a historical memory workshop in the community of Aguacaliente, Suchitoto, to discuss a proposal for the construction of a park to commemorate the life of the children that have been disappeared. I led the psychosocial part of that workshop.

I also participated in a workshop where I met the group called “Reencontrados” (children that were taken away during the war and found by Pro-Búsqueda). Although, the purpose of the workshop was to help them find the necessary skills to communicate with the media, they expressed so many feelings of insecurity, sadness and lack of confidence that revealed the depth of the trauma they went through due to the separation from their families.

I spent a day of fieldwork with Margarita (a researcher from Pro-Búsqueda). I learned about the research process to locate families and children, which includes the use of DNA testing. In our fieldwork, we found Mrs. Bonifacia, the grandmother of Karina, a child that was taken away during the war and had to grow up almost alone. Although, the case is far more complicated, at least we were able to find another piece of the puzzle, all because Margarita is an amazing intuitive researcher.

I also went to the commemoration of La Conacastada, where we gathered with the community in a space where people say there is a mass grave. We then walked together, singing towards the community center where a priest hosted a mass to honor the life of the people killed during the war.

I participated in a meeting in the community of Arcatao with the Historical Memory Group of Arcatao and some members from the National Commission for Disappeared Children. Months ago, the commission that was leading the Serrano sisters’ case was able to exhume the remains of the children and won the case in the court. Now, it is time to give back to the parents, and the community, the remains of the children to be buried in the Arcatao. Our goal was to ask them what they wanted to do and coordinate with them the logistics of the activity.

I led two workshops for the main team of the organization, one about transgenerational trauma and another one about self-care and collective care.

I also was able to share and discuss with one of the lawyers and the psychologist from Pro-Búsqueda about the proposal I designed regarding the psycholegal methodology to support the victims while taking their case to the court.

25 years after the Peace Agreement, the victims did not see anything…I supported Pro-Búsqueda in different activities to promote the Integral Reparation Law for the Armed Conflict Victims. I participated in an academic forum at the Universidad del Salvador to discuss the role of the academia in the execution of the law. I traveled with the team to Chalatenango to invite the community to participate in the delivery of the proposal this law to the government. I accompanied them in different press interviews promoting the law. I marched with the victims, Pro-Búsqueda and other human rights organizations in the streets of San Salvador to deliver the law to Congress.

Being in El Salvador gave me the opportunity to listen the testimonies from the victims and understand from an academic perspective, the long-term consequences of human rights violations, even after a peace agreement was signed 25 years ago. After many years of the conflict, the needs of victims were never addressed and we are seeing new waves of violence because the Salvadoran society never had a chance to heal from the psychosocial trauma of the war.