After my father’s murder, and my mother and I had to flee, my grandfather ¨Papa Polo” was the main figure in my life. Grandmamá had one of the women to be responsible about my care, which was not the best but nevertheless made my character of a survivor all through my entire life. Because of Salvadoran history, I had to learn, very young, to become an adult.
It happened when I was five years old. The day started as usual, at least for me. For Papa Polo, it was a bad day. He had to go to a meeting of the town council, which he was a member of.
Everything was going as usual, neighborhood children came to visit and so on; however, as the time passed we saw Papa Polo walking briskly, which was unusual. He told the visitors to go home then turned to us and said, very sternly, to get in the house, use the heavy wooden piece across the door and make sure it holds the door closed.
He took his nickel plated 22 pistol and made sure it was loaded. We didn´t know what to think; my eighteen-month-old brother was very sick with a fever and a bad cold. We heard the voices out in the street: Kill, kill all of them! Then the machetes, beating against the door. Where to go? The people doing this were the same Mama Martina and Papa Polo helped when they needed help. However, this was the beginning of la matanza, the massacre of 1932.
Papa Polo took his gun and climbed on the roof of the house and started shooting over the rebels’ heads. We had to get my sick baby brother out of the house. Papa Polo pointed to me and said: ¨Amandita, go out the side door, have the girl wrap your brother well and get as far away as you can.”
It was at this time in my life when I felt that I was older than my natural age; I kept seeing myself as a tall girl who could be seven or eight years old. No matter, I took the maid with my sick brother; left by the side door, saw an old man going the same direction as we were, I asked permission to hide alongside his oxen cart and very slowly we made our way to the next corner of the block. All of that walk was done on a very uneven and rocky street full of holes. Once we reached the corner. We started downhill where I knew a dentist friend of the family lived and felt sure he´d get us some protection; however, as we were getting closer to the corner a bright spotlight hit us and I thought: Here is where we die! It was the National Guard, whom the dentist had called for protection.
We hid with the dentist, then ran into a corn field and spent the night out there. The rebels were poor campesinos who had been pushed to the brink. They had risen up with machetes. But the National Guard had machine guns. Within two months, the Guard had killed nearly thirty thousand poor people.
We survived. But my little brother, who had been sick, died a few days later. I picked up my life and, as the years passed, I reconciled to just keep on living, and never wanted to visit those times again.
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