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Perquín

Some of El Salvador’s most turbulent history was played out in the beautiful hills around Perquín, and there are plenty of poignant reminders of the terrible atrocities of the Revolution, none more revealing than the country’s most significant museum, situated right in the heart of the former war zone.

Between 1980 and 1992, leaders of the FMLN, the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front, based themselves in the mountains around Perquín while battling the El Salvadorian military. The military, which forcefully tried to quell the FMLN rebellion, also instigated a ruthless massacre in the nearby town of El Mozote.

Now, former guerrilla fighters lead wide-eyed visitors around the remarkable exhibits, offering fascinating tales of the part they played in the revolution as they point to pictures of their comrades in arms in the surrounding hills.

The museum is filled with interesting photos from the conflict, along with posters and propaganda from various countries, particularly Germany, which openly opposed then U.S. president Ronald Reagan’s financial support of the El Salvadorian government. Also on display are many different types of artillery, including a surface-to-air missile and launcher, several kinds of curious homemade bombs, including mines with electric triggers and simple ball bombs, and a range of different guns, all of which were used by the FMLN and some of which were taken in battle from the Guardia Nacional. There is graphically detailed information on the tragedy of the 1981 El Mozote massacre (the most horrific of the many that took place during the conflict) in which 900 men, women and children were brutally slain. There is now a monument to the tragedy in El Mozote, which can also be reached, with a little effort, from the town of Perquín.

On the museum grounds, you can also see the remains of a downed helicopter, blown up by a FMLN bomb that was hidden in a stolen radio. The explosion killed all the occupants, including Lt. Col. Domingo Monterrosa, the head of the Atlacatl Batallion who instigated the El Mozote massacre. This site was also one of the broadcasting locations for Radio Venceremos, "We Shall Prevail Radio." and the makeshift studio, complete with egg cup soundproofing painted with revolutionary declarations, is still in its original condition, just a few meters away from a giant bomb crater which shows how close it came to being destroyed.

Behind the museum sits the small hill of Cerro Perquín, once the site of hideouts and fighting, but now a peaceful park with forested paths, stunning views, and plenty of scars from the past just waiting to be discovered.

On the way up towards the summit clearing are some of the camping places of the guerrilla leaders, gashes in the ground where trenches were dug as hiding places, a clearing where a heliport once stood, a bomb crater and a cave entrance through which tunnels led to hideouts and escape points.

Atop the hill there is a fantastic viewpoint with a 360 degree vista of the wide mountain landscape. Peaceful now, it is an impressive sight with picturesque scenery, making it hard to imagine the atrocious attacks that occurred here just a brief time ago.



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