Fr. Jon De Cortina ● With Solidarity, it's Different


A couple of days of rain again.
That's great comfort.
But for me, I like this type of gathering.
We are normal human beings.
Soccer games and a dance at night.
They can dance all night.

Rain, it relieves a lot of stress...war, and the stress of the day.

These are our people.
They left the community
so we might be able to stay here.

[Young men] as soon as they get 15, 16 years,
they join voluntarily, the FMLN.

For the military, every civilian is an enemy
until he proves he's a friend.
For FMLN, every civilian is a potential friend.

Last night I came back, took a boy who was wounded.
He told me stories. 'We have to respect things to do not belong to us.'
That's the big difference.
are bad days for everything.
I run around giving masses.
I can't find out anything.
You listen to the radio...
Farabundo, Guerilla Radio, Radio America,
at the end of day...try to make an average.
Three years here, only three years.

When Rutilio Grande was killed
I took his place in Aguilares
and fell in love with campesinos.
I visited refugee camps three times a week.
I have known the campesino people.
I have been shot at in my car three times.
Sniper fired ten bullets, different locations in 2 1/2 hours.
Threatened in Las Flores.
[        ] want to kill me and drink my blood.
18 bombs in our house. Only four exploded.
That has been usual.
Guacamonte Battalion.

I stayed in Guarjila just in case.
I had to get to the ranchos.
I have to go to Las Flores.
I can't stay because I was threatened.
I couldn't move alone.
I had to go with people from community
who protected me.
                                  Look, Jon—
         they came yesterday. 'What was priest's name?'
 Guacamonte Battalion. I couldn't move alone.       
         They don't like you. 'What was his name? the priest?'
          'Yes, you've got the priest here.'
         They don't like you.
That boy was nine years old, and he said that.

           If they come, they will not find you.
           Never. We will take you to mountains.
           We know the mountains better
           than any of them.

That has been usual...Threats on the phone.

1977...since he was killed [Rutilio Grande]...
I began working in Aguilares where he was killed.

They'll have to kill us all before they touch you.

That's how I feel about the campesinos.

Well, look, you are one of us.
We are going to protect you.
You are going to stay with us.
It is our responsibility, this solidarity.

Usually women, the old ladies are so fierce,
I can't tell you. Vamos a ir a los viejos...
Vamos...nice, really nice. Mainly campesinos.

Let's say they were unionists, labor unions...FECAS...
Quite strong in Aguilares. For them.
it was a revelation...Medellín, Columbia, 1968...
They found out it isn't God's plan that they be poor, nothing...Christian based communities.

To fight fight back,
they needed a little more political organization.
They were repressed...alone they were nothing. the end five groups...Bloque Popular...
beginning of FMLN...alliances...

I have changed myself from above...
Now I believe it comes from below.

We were threatened to death.
[  The threats ] gave us a month to leave the country.
You will be a military target if you stay.

[               ] ...a big flood...lots of people...
450 people from the slums.
I was in charge of feeding them.
At end...plot of houses could be built for them.

So then I thought, Something must be wrong in my training.

I had a ph.d...I had worked in Canada...
but I didn't know how to live in the slums.
I went and found the people.
I used to say mass.

Nine months working with us protection...
We were a dangerous people. To be invited to their homes was something.

I needed to know.

9th of March, 1977, Rutilio was killed.
Rutilio told me...   it is...
so good the university comes to peasants. University steps down.
Ever since, working myself with campesinos, I have changed.
Saved from above...[ unclear ] but over here it just doesn't work.
If something is going to come it must come from below.

That could be my conversion, my change...
eat with them, live with them...
Dance with them...No, I can't dance. I don't know how.
I am poor.

I would say that some people...they were theoreticians...
Ellacuría, Montes, some way it worked...
Go and share my experience...after with theoretical...
I am the lucky one. I lived the experience myself...
Sobrino feeds us theologically.
I try to put in black and white
what he says in Technicolor...

The way these people forgive...

Sobrino, he is my medicine.

[          ] tells one story. I tell it to Sobrino.
He writes afterwards theologically
what forgiveness is for these people.

Where's my flashlight?
Lights flickering. Oh, you have bright candles.
That is another thing. 10 o'clock.
Time to go to bed.
We are not going to have lights again.

Sobrino and needed...
for those who need to know about...

Molestado. That's why. They bothered them...

Life over here
has no value

Mozote massacre...
they would be...

They threw up the children
and received them with machetes...

The life of the poor...

The dogs of the wealthy, excuse me,
receive better treatment of the poor...

Problem of survival.
Dividing line is death.

Poverty is survival.
The struggle is survival
over places to reach a level
where you are not poor.

Before we can talk about God
we have to feed them.
It isn't a problem of ideology.
Not East-West...not Communist...Marxist...
They're starving, trying to survive.
Those who fight for the right...

What do we need?
We need everything.

So the best is money.
Much through SHARE...
We are thinking of development,
survival within war.

There is milk always for the sick.
And one day [a week] cows are communal property.
We don't need more cows now.
But we need something else.
Maybe to write for small projects.
That's what we think.

they weren't laying eggs.
It was a bad administration of our chicken farm.
We ate chicken for a few days.
We need to restart the chicken farm.
How to put it, I don't know.

Surgery is in my room.
Surgery was being carried out in Parochial House in open air.
Surgery works. Surgery under a tree.
We rarely get infected here.
What is your blood type?
All positive.
You are my men.

U.S. Aid? For us, whatever comes from solidarity is ok.
With solidarity it's different.

It's time to go to bed.
Thank you for being here.
Before you go to Ellacuría...
may I go have breakfast with you?
After my shower...
under a faucet.

[From a cassette made by Lisa Zeilinger. Personal copy of Mary Campbell, member of Wisconsin Delegation of 18. Mary Campbell works with Global Mission of ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church of America), Chicago.]

Transcription in lines and stanzas by Jim Bodeen
15 May 2010

Fr. Jon de Cortina, S.J, who escaped death 16 November 1989 by chance, created Pro-Búsqueda de Niñas y Niños Desaparecidos, in El Salvador by re-uniting families separated by violence. Fr. Jon de Cortina, Bilbao, Spain, December 8, 1934 - Guatemala City, December 12, 2005.

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