It was 24 years ago today, 16 November, 1989, that members of the Atlacatl battalion of the Salvadorian army entered the campus of the University of Central America in San Salvador and murdered 8 people.
They were Elba Ramos and her 16 year old daughter Celina Ramos, and 6 Jesuit academics, among them Ignacio Martín-Baró, the inspirational figure for Liberation Psychology.
We don’t dwell in the past, and thankfully El Salvador today has one of the better governments in Latin America, the FMLN, although the extreme right remains a powerful force, a threat limiting the pace of reform. However, it is important to remember those events, and to recognise that standing firm against oppression can have consequences.
Ignacio Martín-Baró has not been the only psychologist to have been killed as a consequence of his work and commitment. We fear that some young psychologists in Mexico met a similar fate last year. In Haiti, the community worker and human rights activist, also a psychologist, Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine was disappeared in August 2007. And there have been others. Elsewhere socially committed psychological workers are being sacked or otherwise marginalised as universities and other bodies strive to meet the requirements of the dominant system of value extraction and commercialisation.
In one more year it will be a quarter of a century since Martín-Baró’s death. What a fitting memorial it would be if in 12 months time we can show that the tide can be turned: that psychology can be a force for liberation, helping to construct new, liberatory social relations and a better world where people live in harmony with one another and the natural world.
There has been recent discussion on the openlibpsy discussion list about the possibility of
translation of more of Ignacio Martín-Baró’s works into English. Sadly this doesn’t seem to be an immediate possibility, but we have just posted two interviews from 1985 and 1987 on the documents page. [Initially there were some problems with the 2 files but this now corrected – 9/4/2013 3.16pm BST.] If you have any material in English by Martín-Baró then please do share it.
Why not join the discussion list and join in the discussion?
Revealed: Pentagon’s link to Iraqi torture centres | World news | The Guardian.
Why is this relevant to libpsy.org? Because the torture and counter-insurgency methods developed by the USA in Vietnam and perfected in Central America were later exported to Iraq and Guantanamo. This investigation traces some of the lineage. For psychology there have been at least three developments from this.
1) The Central American context of conflict, counter-insurgency, torture and impunity led to Martín-Baró’s proposals on liberation psychology, and of course his own death was the result of this terror complex.
2) The development of work on the recovery of historical memory, social-psychotherapeutic approaches, use of testimonies, commemoration, etc. in various locations in Latin America also has its roots in this nexus. These ideas are also of interest in other locations such as Turkey with its own legacy of State terror.
3) The “APA controversy” on the involvement of organised psychology and military psychologists in interrogation and torture again comes from this latest phase of the US use of organised terror.
Congratulations to the Guardian and BBC Arabic service for this investigation.
Of related interest, see this article by Victoria Brittain: Shadow Lives
How the War on Terror in England Became a War on Women and Children
From the Martín-Baró Fund website:
New Readings About Ignacio Martín-Baró:
Recently, several articles appeared in a special issue of Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology that remembered the life of Ignacio Martín-Baró, SJ and explored justice-related issues related to his social philosophy and his tragic death. We highlight them here as excellent background reading for learning more about Fr. Ignacio and his work.
by Joaquin M. Chavez (Trinity College)
by Almudena Bernabeu and Carolyn Patty Blum (Center for Justice and Accountability, San Francisco, California)
by Nelson Portillo (Universidad Centroamericana (UCA))
by Suzanne C. Ouellette (The City University of New York)
Thanks to Nelson for this link. I’ve posted this as soon as I got it and so far have only read Nelson’s own article which I can highly recommend.
This material also added to the Sources page.