A gripping documentary film based on the life and death of Jose Feliciano Ama will be shown Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Crabtree M10 at Mount Allison University.
The screening of Ama – The Memory of Time will be followed by a discussion with filmmaker Daniel Flores y Ascencio.
Ama was a spiritual grandmaster, leader and chief of the Izalcos, a Nahuatl-Pipil Nation in western El Salvador. The documentary is the story of his family and survivors of the 1932 genocide that followed a failed uprising and the forced elimination of Indigenous cultures from that small Central American country.
Don Juan Ama, nephew of Jose Feliciano, and Doña Paula, his daughter, provide a first-hand account to dispel historical inaccuracies and restore the dignity of the family and their ethnic group.
The film presents the legacy of these elders, allowing viewers to develop a better understanding of the 1932 revolution and its impact on Indian communities.
La Matanza (The Massacre) is how Salvadoreans refer to the deaths of an estimated 30,000 Indigenous people, peasants and workers in January 1932 at the hands of the army under Gen. Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez.
The event marked the beginning of a 13-year brutal regime and paved the way for military dominance for the next several decades.
For Indigenous people, La Matanza, was the last chapter in a series of policies and reforms beginning in the 1920s that sought to privatize ancestral/communal lands as El Salvador transitioned to an extractive economy based on coffee.
In El Salvador, indigenous people were already suffering a great deal of repression and land thefts in the late 1920s. The 1929 Crash had a very serious impact on the Salvadoran economy, negatively affecting the agricultural communities as well as indigenous culture and society. Hunger, as well as the fight for Indian land rights, proved the perfect catalyst for revolution, but the uprising of 1932 failed terribly.
The social organization of indigenous peoples was structured around the ancient communal system of land distribution–the “Chinamit.” The government labeled indigenous peoples and their leaders as “communist” and subjected them to a campaign of persecution. It created a wave of terror over the entire countryside; Indian people fell victim to the search-and-destroy tactics designed to protect the economic interests of the ruling families.
Most people in the rural areas fit the description of the suspects wanted by the government: persons carrying a machete, which was the traditional work tool and weapon used in the countryside; persons dressed as a campesino or in traditional clothing; persons having Indian features or speaking the native languages. Many innocent people were captured and, without any trials, executed by firing squads established by the National Guard.
Daniel Flores y Ascencio, a Salvadorean-Canadian, worked on this film at a time of escalating tensions and gang violence in the post-Civil War climate of El Salvador in the 1990s. It was a difficult project to complete, as he had to deal with personal security issues and also with a community that is not very open to outsiders because of a long legacy of repression and discrimination.
This event is sponsored by the department of Modern Language and Literatures. Flores’s tour of the Maritimes is organized by Breaking the Silence.