Gunfire on His Heels

Growing up in El Salvador in the 1970s and 1980s, Eusebio felt the effects of two major wars on his family.

Even before the Salvadoran Civil War, Eusebio’s family was still dealing with effects from the 1969 ‘Soccer War’ between Honduras and El Salvador. The war lasted for only 100 hours, but its effects were long lasting. His mother’s family was separated; some stayed in Honduras, while others were sent back to El Salvador.

In 1980, Civil War erupted between the El Salvadoran government and Farbundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) forces.”. The war was brutal. Eusebio lost 3 uncles and 8 cousins, along with numerous friends and neighbors. Some were lost to war, some disappeared under government forces.

The total number of disappearances during the war is still unknown. Thousands of families reported their loved ones missing, especially students and teachers who protested the government. Disappearances were almost indiscriminate, and the culture of fear trickled into Eusebio’s family. Many others found refuge “in a UN refugee camp called Mesa Grande, located in the town of San Marco in Ocotepeque, Honduras.”

Eusebio knew his parents “…always lived with the fear that [he would] be recruited into the army or the guerrilla forces.” Grieving his own losses and trying to protect his parents, Eusebio felt he had to leave El Salvador before the war claimed his life. His brother Abelino had moved to the US five years prior and returned to El Salvador to help Eusebio and his older brother Luis begin their journey to Toronto.

From the start “the aim…was to get to Canada” where Augustin, another brother, had been living for 2 years. With that idea the three brothers started what would be an arduous yet fast-paced journey north.