Welcome

The Unfinished Sentences Testimony Archive is composed of oral histories shared by 48 people who were residents of the community of Arcatao, in the department of Chalatenango, El Salvador, during the period of the Salvadoran civil war. More than 170 interview excerpts tell the story of the conflict from the perspective of people who experienced it first-hand. The testimonies are organized into thematic chapters that focus on different aspects of the conflict in roughly chronological order. Click "View More" to the right of each chapter to see more videos and historical context. Click "Search" to browse all testimonies. Click "More Information" for resources for users and instructors, including Lesson Plans for use in the classroom.

Due to the nature of the experiences discussed in the testimonies, users may find the contents of the archive disturbing: topics include rape, torture, death, and severe hardship. On the other hand, the archive also features narratives of resilience, survival, and mutual assistance in triumphing over adversity.

Development of the Testimony Archive is ongoing. Please report any technical issues to info@unfinishedsentences.org

Chapter 1 - Pre-war & The Origins of the War

El Salvador’s civil war has its roots in the deeply unequal social structures established during the 16th century Spanish colonization of Central America.

Chapter 2 - Rural Organizing & Repression

The 1970s saw escalating tensions and growing violence in El Salvador.

Chapter 3 - The Years of "Guindas"

During the 1980s, thousands of people were displaced from their homes by violence in rural El Salvador.

Chapter 4 - Refugee Experiences

Faced with overwhelming violence, displaced populations faced difficult decisions about whether to leave El Salvador, and when to return. Some people sought safety elsewhere within the country.

Chapter 5 - Guerrilla Experiences

Salvadorans who supported the guerrilla groups had a wide range of reasons for doing so, and varied experiences in the movement.

Chapter 6 - Resettlement & the "Desembarco"

Many Salvadorans returned from refugee camps in Honduras in the late 1980s, but faced continued repression upon their return. Refugees were stigmatized as guerrilla supporters.

Chapter 7 - Peace Accords & Post-War

El Salvador’s civil war officially ended in 1992, but the country continues to experience deep divisions and ongoing issues of inequality, insecurity, violence, and lack of access to justice.

Chapter 8 - The Struggle for Justice

Today, survivors of grave human rights violations committed during El Salvador’s civil war continue to struggle for truth and justice.