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March 13, 2002
OSWEGO -- El Salvador may be far removed from a SUNY Oswego classroom, but that didn't stop two members of the college community from learning there earlier this year.
Dr. Leonardo Hernandez, assistant professor of history, and graduate student Vincent Intondi spent 10 days in the Central American country in January.
"As a joke, I said, 'Does anybody want to go down there?'" Hernandez recalled with a laugh. "And Vinnie took me up on it."
For the last two years, Hernandez has been helping the country reconstruct its National Archives -- an effort that only recently received government funding. It was the first visit for Intondi, whose project involved interviewing people about the country's upheaval in the 1980s.
"I took 'Modern Latin American Revolutions' with Dr. Hernandez," where El Salvador is used as a case study, Intondi said. "Before I took the class, I had an interest in revolutions and social movements, as far as what makes some succeed and why they do."
Since the 1930s, Hernandez said, El Salvador has been ruled by a military dictatorship. In the 1970s, "people from all social classes became fed up with the control the government exercised" as well as corruption, oppression and violence, he said.
Intondi said that the opposition included "a church-based movement, college students and peasants seeking a better life" who found they couldn't work within the system to make improvements.
His goal, Intondi said, was to determine through field research whether the country's 12 years of civil unrest qualified as a revolution, or if it was a social movement. He studied the economy and interviewed a range of people -- young and old, rich and poor, city and provincial. "I had a chance to make my own observations," he said. "I was able to come up with my own conclusions."
His verdict? Intondi said he thinks it was more of a civil war than a revolution, judging that it wasn't quite a success. "Things definitely have improved, but there was a lot of bloodshed and a lot of atrocities" on both sides, he found.
The country has been rebuilding, slowly, following a 1992 peace accord, Hernandez said. "The National Archives were, along with other institutions, robbed, bombed and destroyed" during the unrest, he explained. His work as a consultant there is ongoing.
Hernandez also has worked to help the University of El Salvador add a history major. "Until last year, El Salvador was the only Latin American country whose central university system did not include history as a major," he said. "Because they have endured a 12-year civil war, it's very important to remember what happened and why it happened."
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