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221 In 1981, while I was working in an ice cream shop and getting my GED after being kicked out of high school, the countries of Central America were enduring the worst of their civil wars. People there, especially young men and women my own age, were choosing, or being forced to choose, which side they were on and what they were willing to do for it. Meanwhile, my government was spending billions of dollars to support the sides it had chosen.1 In El Salvador and Guatemala, it sided with the governments against armed rebel groups that had coalesced into the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) and the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity (URNG). In Nicaragua, the United States created an opposition rebel group based in Honduras, the contras, to fight the revolutionary Sandinista government, which had overthrown the country’s longtime U.S.-­ backed dictator in 1979. This was not a new foreign policy or a mistake. Since 1800, the United States had invaded and intervened in Central America dozens of times, including sponsoring several coups. These actions were typically organized to rescue U.S. business interests from attempts by nationalist or indigenous forces to reclaim natural resources for domestic benefit. Colorado Awakenings I was a resistant child and a poor student. Raised in a Catholic home, I lost the faith at age six and have since considered religion a cruel hoax. My family relocated six times before I was fourteen as my father moved up the corporate ladder, finally settling in Philadelphia. When I moved to Boulder, Colorado, in the early 1980s, to work as a horse wrangler and attend the University of Brigadistas and Revolutionaries Health and Social Justice in El Salvador MichaelTerry with LauraTuriano Chapter 13 222 Michael Terry with Laura Turiano Colorado, I was basically apolitical. But the campus and the town itself had very active antiwar and feminist groups, and the campus newspaper regularly covered social justice issues. After attending a talk sponsored by the local sanctuary committee on the history of Central America, I immediately began volunteering for a variety of tasks.2 The first Central American I met was a young Salvadoran woman on a speaking tour. Our sanctuary group was protecting and supporting her while she applied for political asylum. She had been kidnapped and tortured by the Salvadoran military after witnessing the abduction of a neighbor, even though she was a teenager who was not involved with the opposition. After several weeks of torture, her father managed to get her released on the condition that she leave the country. After arriving in the United States she had gotten married , only to have her husband deported to El Salvador and disappeared. I was deeply affected by her story. Now I knew someone who was a victim of torture and that person was a woman even younger than me. She was putting her own asylum case at risk by speaking publicly about her experiences.3 Seeing a face on the problem, I felt a sense of outrage. From that moment on, there was no stopping me. I only worked at paid jobs enough to survive. The beginning of my activism was the end of my student career. I plunged into political work, getting involved with the Rocky Mountain Peace Center and becoming vice chair of the local chapter of Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES). From mass mailings to newsletter production, I would do any needed task. I had always been a joker and storyteller so I joined a political theater group and coproduced a talk show on the local community radio station that featured guests discussing radical politics . I felt successful for the first time. People thought my contributions were valuable, and the radio show won public acclaim. I had an instant group of friends with whom I shared common values and goals. In the small city of Boulder, the same crowd of activists worked on multiple issues. We organized demonstrations against Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) recruitment on the University of Colorado campus, which led to hundreds of people being arrested for blockading the career services center and ended CIA recruiting there.4 We protested the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant. We threw blood at Colorado senator Bill Armstrong’s office for voting for aid to the contras and Salvadoran military. In a campaign resembling a clandestine guerrilla operation, I hiked several times with a few other activists deep into the Nevada Test Site to try...


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MARC Record
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