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Las Aradas Memorial construction site, El Salvador (c) Surviving Memory in Postwar El Salvador

Memorialization from below in Guatemala and El Salvador

The latest miniseries of the Justice Visions podcast focuses on the current debates and discussions surrounding memorialization as the fifth pillar of transitional justice. The miniseries foreground innovative grassroots memorialization efforts from a wide array of contexts dealing with impunity, revisionism and lack of political will. This episode focuses on the vibrant memorialization landscape in Guatemala and El Salvador where victims-survivors and civil society organizations are actively constructing memory and dignifying the victims after mass atrocity.

In this episode, Prof. Tine Destrooper brings into conversation Gretel Mejía Bonifazi and Prof. Amanda Grzyb, about working together with victims-survivors to undertake memorialization efforts in Guatemala and El Salvador respectively. Amanda discusses the Surviving Memory in Postwar El Salvador project, which applies a participative methodology involving documentation, research and commemoration initiatives that “reject an extractive model of research and focus instead on public facing projects… and that aim to recognize how community-based research and co-creation can count as research”.

In the same vein, Gretel talks about the new research project that focuses on memorialization from below in the Ixil region. Gretel and Tine will work with Ixil survivors and grassroots actors who are currently mobilizing to create a Museum of Memory. The museum aims to both commemorate the victims of the genocide and to recover the cultural heritage of the Maya Ixil. In line with a participative and collaborative approach, the project looks at working with “victims-survivors according to their needs and worldviews, and to contribute to their ongoing memorialization efforts”.

According to local actors and partners, engaging in bottom-up memory collaborations holds great importance. For Felipe Tobar, a Salvadoran survivor and local founder of the Surviving Memory project, the significance of the project lies in “facilitating and strengthening the organization of all the survivors and relatives” who are now more involved in the different initiatives. It has allowed the communities to have access to “health programs and psychosocial attention for the first time, which has helped them to heal the wounds” and work for the non-repetition of human rights violations.



Prof. Amanda F. Grzyb, is Professor of Information and Media Studies at Western University, where her primary teaching and research interests include state violence, genocide studies, social movements, and memory studies. Her edited books, articles, book chapters, public reports, and research-creation projects focus on Central America, Nazi-occupied Europe, Rwanda, and Sudan. Dr. Grzyb currently serves as the project director for Surviving Memory in Postwar El Salvador (a SSHRC and CFI-funded community-based research partnership committed to documenting the history of the Salvadoran Civil War and preventing future violence.

Felipe Tobar is a survivor of the Sumpul Massacre and the El Alto Massacre. During the war, 18 members of his family were murdered. Throughout the war, he was displaced with his family, fleeing in the mountains and suffering the inclement weather, hunger, diseases and the persecution of the repressive forces of the government until the signing of the Peace Agreements in 1992. Don Felipe is the President of the Board of Directors of Asociación Sumpul, an organization of massacre survivors in Chalatenango, and former mayor of San José Las Flores, Chalatenango, El Salvador. Felipe is one of the founders of the Surviving Memory project and a key collaborator on many sub-projects, such as the memorial at Las Aradas, the massacres map, workshops, testimonies, amongst other projects.


Voiceover: Luis de León Agosto

Cover photo: Las Aradas Memorial construction site, El Salvador (c) Surviving Memory in Postwar El Salvador

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