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.