by neema mbeyu
Published on: Oct 31, 2003
Type: Short Stories

It is possible to live in El Salvador as if poverty, repression and war did not exist. The expensive shopping malls, wealthy residential districts and hotels paints a face which makes you forget of the past terrible reality. El Salvador is a small country in Latin America. Majority is poor and 65% of the rural population is landless. Sacrifice for a true and just medium in journalism is rare virtue, but it takes courage and humility to give absolute truth.

“Truth is not absolute truth, so we have to search for it,” says Carlos Henrique Consalvi, founder of Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen words and images in En Salvador. He bravely talks of his days as a director of an underground radio "Radio Venceremos, linked with a opposition political party (FLMN) Farabundo Marti for National Liberation.

The history of El Salvador digs its root way back with 36 years of the civil war till 1992 when the peace accord was signed. Many Salvadorians acknowledge and admire the Catholic Church’s commitment and dynamism for helping in the liberalization. "We have in him a concrete model of what a bishop, with a gospel faith, ought nowadays to be like, an example of how important it is for a bishop to make that faith effective for liberation' quotes Jon Sobrino. El Salvador’s martyr Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was shot on 16, April 1980, is a significant figure showing the role played by the Catholic Church in advocating human rights and fight for the poor, corruption and violence.

Earlier on another martyr a Jesuit Priest Rutillo Grande SJ was gunned beside an old man and a boy on their way to EL Paisnal for the Eucharist on March 12 1997. The intense oppression of the war awakened a feeling to inform, trigger and denounce the human violation done by the paramilitary. This led to the birth of a radio in the highlands on January 10 1981.

Why an underground radio? "Wealthy people thought that the popular voices would disappear, with this era of polarization and prosecution of media, there was a need to make a communication medium.’was the answer. Despite interference of the radio waves through a numerous attempts of bombing the radio stood still for 11 years.

In a hideous mountainous region there stood a campsite of 30 people, but 14 died during that period. Local peasants, priests and other people who shared their ideal worked with them. The radio transmitted four times a day for 11/2 hours, packaged with broadcasting news, daily editorial with a political stand, soap operas. It played a major role trying to convince the US of the tense and military situation in El Salvador. The last transmission was heard on January 16 1982, for the first time they came down from the mountains and put the antenna on top of the Cathedral in order to inform the world that the war was over and open up for a new era. He recounts how in the 80's journalists were killed by police squads and the newspapers were in the hands of wealthy people.

The signing of the Peace Accord in 1982 marked the beginning of Independent Media which did not tolerate Propaganda. His attitude towards this move conflicted with his colleagues so he was painfully expelled.

Carlos commends the new leg journalism has taken in the fight against impunity, injustice and the thirst of transparency in playing a significant social role. He passionately applauds to how the freedom of expression has created room for more community radios and does not regret leaving the radio station as the young generation looks promising.

A brief walk in his 6 year old museum full of black and while and colored photographs tells a tale of El Salvador without words. In a separate adjacent air-conditioned room all the 4000 recorded tapes are safely tucked away.

He cheerfully chats of his cultural exhibitions, with 5 moving around the country, Invisible women, and Roque Dalton. The museum also sells books, videos, expositions in University and exhibitions. "All sacrifice was worth, to gain the right of life is a worthy-full gain and the picture images of war existing no more.” says the 55 year old man. Nowadays, he gives private lectures, workshops in San Salvador, Colombia and other places.

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