Let's see why the war emerged. Perhaps – the majority say so anyway – because the Catholic Church gave a certain orientation. Perhaps the words of the Bible connected with a very deep injustice – they treated us like animals, it was slavery. In the Word of God, there was something that would touch you. In truth, we had been living as though the Word was in the air, when it was something to live within ourselves. I am grateful that there were such people, many of them now dead.
In response to intensifying political mobilization by campesinos and coffee mill workers for access to land and higher wages in Santiago de María in the late 1970s, Héctor Antonio Regalado, a local landlord and dentist, began to recruit young men to what appeared to be a Boy Scout troop. Members, who on one account may have numbered as many as a hundred, wore uniforms in marches through town. Rather than the usual scouting activities, however, members of Regalado's troop killed dozens of activists and suspected activists, including teachers, unionists, cooperativists, and students, not only in Santiago de María but in the cities of Usulután, Berlín, Alegría, Jucuapa, Villa El Triunfo, and Chinameca. In interviews at the end of the war, townspeople told stories of cadavers appearing at the edge of town, of a decapitated head found in a ditch, and other public displays of extreme violence.
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