El Mozote, El Salvador, December 2001.

Villalobos and his staff were hard at work planning an ambush for the town of Joateca, a few miles east of El Mozote. It was a well-planned ambush — they had devoted many hours to its preparation — but an unusual one: the guerrillas were planning to have the Army ambush them and thus "capture" a prize that they very much wanted Monterrosa to claim.

Dorila Márquez (second from the left) talks about losing her parents in the massacre at El Mozote.

El Mozote represented the climax of the era of the great massacres. It was not the last of them — most notably, in August of 1982 the Atlacatl, in an operation similar to that in El Mozote, killed some two hundred people at El Calabozo, in the Department of San Vicente — but after El Mozote the Army relied less and less on search-and-destroy operations that entailed large-scale killing of civilians. It may be that the guerrillas' use of El Mozote for propaganda and the controversy that followed in the United States led senior officers to begin to realize the potential cost of such slaughter. It may be that the highly visible denunciations in Congress finally lent the Embassy's habitual scoldings a bit more credibility. (Even someone as firmly contemptuous of congressional pressure as Elliott Abrams acknowledges that "the good-cop, bad-cop routine with Congress was very effective" and that "there was some positive impact there in reducing the killing.") It may be that the officers realized that lesser massacres — of forty people or fewer, say — could accomplish as much without attracting so much attention.

El Mozote, El Salvador, December 2001.

Here's the our members favorite photos of "". Upload your photo of El Mozote! The report prepared for the United Nations noted that there may have been a greater number of deaths in the sacristy, which was one of several sites mentioned by survivors as places where bodies would be found, since “many young infants may have been entirely cremated” (much of the village had been burned before the Atlacatl left El Mozote) and “other children may not have been counted because of extensive fragmentation of body parts.” Of the ten officers who, according to the report prepared for the United Nations, commanded the units participating in the Morazán operation, three are now dead, and four are still serving in the Salvadoran army. None has been officially charged on any count related to the massacre.

El Mozote, El Salvador, December 2001.

On December 10, 1992, eleven years to the day after the commencement of what has become known as the Mozote massacre (the largest number of those killed on that long December weekend were killed during the thirty-six hours spent by members of the Salvadoran army’s Atlacatl Battalion in El Mozote), four American forensic experts submitted to the United Nations Truth Commission the results of their analysis of skeletal remains and artifacts recovered by a team of Argentinian forensic anthropologists originally assembled to reconstruct evidence of their own country’s dirty war. Working exclusively with material exhumed from what had been the sacristy of the Mozote church, the Americans were able to identify the bones of 143 human beings, 136 of whom were children and adolescents. Of the remaining seven adults, six were women, one in the third trimester of pregnancy. The average age of the children was six.

El Mozote, El Salvador, December 2001.