The government started to kill people.: Becoming Minnesotan

Mario Duarte, 2011. Minnesota Historical Society, Oral History Office files.
  • Name - Mario Duarte
  • Age at interview - 72
  • Gender - Male
  • Generation - First Generation American / Immigrant
  • Date of Interview - 09.17.2010
  • Mario Duarte as a young man in El Salvador. Minnesota Historical Society.

    Latino, Oppression, War, Work

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    Essential Question

    Life in the Old Country: What makes a country a person’s homeland?

    Politics & Government: How are other systems of government different than the U.S. government?

    Words to look for


    Background Information

    In El Salvador political unrest following a disputed presidential election led to a military coup in 1979. Revolutionary guerrilla movements, including students and workers, formed to fight against the ruling military junta and the landowning oligarchy, and civil war broke out in 1980. Fighting lasted until 1992 when the Salvadorian president and five leftist guerrilla groups signed a peace agreement.

    To learn more about Latino history and culture, visit our Latino Community page.

    • Chapter 1

    Download Mario Duarte 1
    3:1 Minutes | 2.89Mb


    Narrator: Mario Duarte (MD)

    Interviewer: Lorena Duarte (LD)

    LD: During this time, the political situation in El Salvador was getting worse, correct?

    MD: The political situation in El Salvador started about 1975, 1974-1975. People wanted to see changes in the system. So the government, you know… We had a dictator for years and years and years, so they didn’t want to do any changes. People, students, teachers, labor people, they start to asking for changes in many ways, social, economic, and everything. So the government started to kill people, you know. They don’t want to pay attention. They were thinking that killing people, they were going to solve the problems. The problem became worse and worse and worse. There started to be a lot of violence in the country, shooting, kidnapping, bombing, robbering. That was the beginning, again, in 1975, 1976, and we were right there.

    I worked for a corporation, one of the largest corporations in El Salvador for twelve years. So me and the manager, the general manager of the company, traveled. The company had their own plane. We had to travel to those places and I traveled a lot. Sometimes, we had to spend the night in there, because we heard on the radio that there has been confrontation with the army and the guerrillas by the airport, and everything was closed. That was, again, risky, you know. The manager said, “No, we are going to here. We’re going to come back tomorrow. You have to call your home.” And I call my home. So, sometimes I spent the night in Guatemala, and the next day we came back to El Salvador.

    There were so many problems in San Salvador during that part of the civil war because many times if you were traveling, driving from home to the place you work, then you are in the middle of shooting between the army and the guerrillas. Many times, cars are stuck on the main road from downtown San Salvador to the place where I work for hours! You can hear all the shooting and bombing. What you can do? Many people were killed in those circumstances. It was a very risky situation all those years.

    Related Glossary Terms


    Noun:  The conditions surrounding an event.


    Noun: A ruler with total power over a country, typically one who has gained power by force.


    Noun: A soldier in a small independent group, fighting against the government or regular forces by surprise raids.


    Adverb:  Concerning or related to politics, the art and process of governing.


    Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access].
    nid: 2169