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Guerrilla Ecotourism Teaches About War on a Lush Mountain in El Salvador

High upon a forested mountain that was a stronghold of FMLN guerrillas during El Salvador’s epic civil war, the president of a committee of local residents and former guerrillas shows Inter Press Service reporter Raúl Gutiérrez down into one of the notorious tunnels used for strategic advantage during the fighting.

“The first thing tourists ask about is where are the ‘tatús’,” says the guide, referring to the vast network of tunnels and underground shelters.

Gutiérrez describes these damp tunnels: They are “slightly over one metre wide, two metres high and several metres long. The tunnels are connected to small chambers and to breathing holes, which during the war were covered by vegetation.”

The reporter is not on some special media tour of the war zone. Locals hope to draw ecotourists to their particularily lush part of the world—then teach them something about their war.

Half a kilometre away,” Gutiérrez writes, is “‘el hospitalito’ (the little hospital), another underground site where up to 20 wounded could be held temporarily.

“The idea is to offer the tourist something simple but authentic, to show what happened in the war, while we bring in funds to maintain the forest, through a sustainable management program that benefits the people of Chalatenango,” says Francisco Mejía, the treasurer of the Representative Committee of Beneficiaries of La Montañona.

Gutiérrez explains that “the group obtained ownership of the 300 hectares after the January 1992 peace agreement put an end to the war that left 75,000 dead, at least 6,000 forcibly disappeared and some 40,000 disabled.

Source: Inter Press Service