Rufina Amaya

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Rufina Amaya (1943 – March 6, 2007) was the sole survivor of the El Mozote massacre on December 11 and December 12, 1981, in the Salvadoran department of Morazán during the Salvadoran Civil War. Her testimony of the attacks, reported shortly afterward by two American reporters[1] but called into question by the U.S. journalism community as well as by the U.S. and Salvadoran governments,[2] was instrumental in the eventual investigation by the United Nations Commission on the Truth for El Salvador after the end of the war. The investigation led to the November 1992 exhumation of bodies buried at the site and the commission's conclusion that Amaya's testimony had accurately represented the events.[3][4][5]

Hidden in a tree to which she had run while soldiers were distracted,[6] Amaya watched and listened as government soldiers raped women, then killed men, women, and children by machine-gunning them, then burning their bodies.[7] Amaya lost not only her neighbors, but also her husband, Domingo Claros, whose decapitation she saw; her 9-year-old son, Cristino, who cried out to her, "Mama, they’re killing me. They’ve killed my sister. They’re going to kill me."; and her daughters María Dolores, María Lilian, and María Isabel, ages 5 years, 3 years, and 8 months old.[8] The only one of her children with Claros who was not killed in the massacre was their daughter Fidelia, who was not in the village at the time.[8]

Following the massacre, Amaya became a refugee for a time in the neighboring country of Honduras, where in 1985 she married fellow refugee José Natividad, with whom she had four children,[9] divorcing within two years after the marriage.[8] She returned to El Salvador in 1990 and became a lay minister for the Roman Catholic Church.[8] By March 2000, Amaya was living near the Morazán village of Segundo Montes, Morazán,[9][10] established by fellow repatriated exiles in memory of a Jesuit priest and scholar killed during the war in a mass assassination of priests by government forces at the Universidad Centroamericana "José Simeón Cañas" (UCA).

Amaya died of a stroke in a San Salvador hospital at the age of 64, on March 6, 2007, following a long illness.[8][10] She was survived by her daughter Fidelia; her daughter Marta, from her second marriage; and by an adopted son, Walter Amaya.[8]


  1. ^ "Massacre of Hundreds Reported In Salvador Village". New York Times. January 27, 1982.
  2. ^ Mike Hoyt. "The Mozote Massacre: It was the reporters' word against the government's," Columbia Journalism Review, January/February 1993.
  3. ^ The UN Truth Commission report on El Mozote Archived 2005-04-05 at the Wayback Machine (excerpts)
  4. ^ Tim Golden (October 22, 1992). "Salvador Skeletons Confirm Reports of Massacre in 1981". New York Times.
  5. ^ Mark Danner. "The Truth of El Mozote," Archived 2012-11-04 at WebCite The New Yorker, 6 December 1993. Retrieved 2008-05-04.
  6. ^ Amaya, Rufina; Danner, Mark; Consalvi, Carlos Enríquez (1998). Luciérnagas en El Mozote [Fireflies in El Mozote]. San Salvador, El Salvador: Ediciones de Museo de la Palabra y la Imágen.
  7. ^ From Madness to Hope: The 12-Year War in El Salvador, Part Four ("Cases and patterns of violence"), Chapter Three ("Massacres of peasants by the armed forces"), El Salvador Truth Commission Report, from the United States Institute of Peace. Retrieved 2008-05-04.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Douglas Martin. "Rufina Amaya, 64, dies; Salvador survivor," March 9, 2007. Retrieved 2008-05-04.
  9. ^ a b Christian Guevara. "'Aún no puedo dormir por las noches'" ("'Even now I cannot sleep at night'"), El Faro, December 13, 2004 (in Spanish). Retrieved 2008-05-04.
  10. ^ a b Scott Wright. "At the foot of the cross: Rufina Amaya -- Presente!", Voices on the Border, March 2007.


  • Amaya, Rufina; Danner, Mark; Consalvi, Carlos Enríquez (1998). Luciérnagas en El Mozote [Fireflies in El Mozote]. San Salvador, El Salvador: Ediciones de Museo de la Palabra y la Imágen.
  • Danner, Mark (2005). The Massacre at El Mozote. Granta Books. ISBN 1-86207-785-1.

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