Page 8


OPEN MONDAYsATuRDAY 10-6 AND OPEN SUNDAY 10-1 WATSON & COMPANY BOOKS E 502 W. 15th Street Austin, Texas 78701 REALTOR Representing all types of properties in Austin and Central Texas Interesting 8 unusual property a specialty 477-3651 FROZEN MARGARITA IRISH COFFEE 9 AM UNTIL MIDNIGHT HOT DOGS HAMBURGERS STEAKS CHICKEN RESTAURANT 511 RIVERWALK ACROSS FROM KANGAROO COURT SAN ANTONIO. TEXAS 225-4098 how much they brought with them. “Nothing.” Bethany House has a long common area with bedrooms running off it. The floor is clean linoleum. The furniture is from the 1950s, and the decorations are big plants in macrame hangers and posters of Martin Luther King, Jr., the rebel zones of El Salvador, a Nicaraguan scene, and, in the kitchen, “Nutrition at a Glance.” Jennifer shows me to a room. It used to be a nun’s room. There is a sewing machine and a built-in chest of drawers. On the nightstand is a picture of Jesus. The bed is neatly made and at the sink in the corner are clean towels and a little wrapped bar of soap. The door next to mine bears two index cards, hand lettered in Marks-a-Lot, “Lucas” and “Catalina.” These, Jennifer tells me, are the Salvadoran grandparents. He is 83 and she is 44. In the chapel at the end of the building live their son, Ernesto, who is 28, his wife, Edith, 20, and their two-year-old daughter and nine-year-old son. I meet them in the sitting area, with a translator. Don Lucas and Dona Catalina, as they introduce themselves, are each about five feet tall. He has thick grey hair and eyebrows. They both wear knit caps and the clothes of the poor plastic shoes, a pink gingham dress, polyester pants. Their son, Ernesto, is slight and has a big mustache and a face scarred by acne. He wears tennis shoes and blue jeans. We eat carrot cake from plastic plates. Edith and Alma, the baby, leave after a few minutes. Luis, the nineyear-old, is in the next room. We can hear the tv program he is watching. I ask them why they are here. Lucas speaks very slowly, pausing often. A cuckoo clock on the wall ticks, and a Xerox machine in another room churns. “It is a very difficult and lamentable thing to have to tell,” Lucas begins. “We were forced to leave El Salvador because the army was looking for us. The National Guard invaded our house. They said it was a house where Communists lived. As the army moved towards our town, people warned us, and Ernesto and Luis fled. Catalina and I were left in the house. We had had Bible study meetings there, so we had been watched by the authorities. Before this, the death squads had come at night and killed all the catechists and forced the priest to flee to Mexico. “The Guard appeared at our house and beat us. They tied our thumbs and searched the house. They tore things down. They found a picture of Romero [the assassinated Salvadoran Archbishop] above a closet and said it was proof that we were subversives. They beat us and threatened us with their rifles for two hours. They stomped on the picture. “They took us to the jail at the National Guard post, where we were more savagely beaten. At one point I lost my senses. We were both covered with blood. The night they took us to jail, they burned down our house. “After four days two men from the death squad came to the jail wearing civilian clothes. They walked past the guards and said to us, ‘We’ll free you.’ We knew who they were and we refused to go with them. Blacklisted “We were taken to a larger town after a week. We went before a judge who released us. But we couldn’t go home. We had been photographed many times and were on the blacklist, which is distributed to authorities all over the country. “Our younger son came and got us. For ten months we moved about in the country, hoping we wouldn’t pass through army road blocks. We stayed at friends’ and relatives’ houses. “Worse has happened to thousands. Many faced a worse fate and were shot with machine guns. . . . The day after the guards came to our house they came back and killed a member of the church, Salvador, while he was sleeping. Members of the church were accused of being Communists. They were killed because they were called subversives . . . because they believed in the principles of Romero. We said, ‘We aren’t Communists!’ But here you have a picture of Romero,’ they said. . . . Castro of Russia there’s none of that there. What’s there is the poverty the people have lived.” Ernesto begins to speak. “There was a time when two people could not walk together especially [high school] students.” Their town had about 20,000 people. “In 1979 there were eleven National Guardsmen there. As political organizing gained territory and the church became more active, eighty or a hundred were stationed there. You could see five Guardsmen on almost every street corner. If they saw a youth or student worse they stopped them and asked, ‘Where’ are you going? Are you going to church? To meet with the catechists? To hear the words of Father Walter?’ Often they would beat them in public.” Lucas gets quiet as Ernesto talks. He pulls himself in and crosses his legs and arms. “Many teenagers were killed killed in plain daylight THE TEXAS OBSERVER 19