About the Our Parents’ Bones Campaign
The Our Parents’ Bones Campaign seeks the truth about our parents’ forced disappearances. We hope and work to secure their remains and give them a sacred burial. We believe that the violence perpetuated in the past and present in El Salvador is rooted in the failure to face our past, confronting the legacy of trauma that we carry across borders and generations. We believe that only when we tell our stories and lift up models of truth and reconciliation, will we be able to resurrect our collective historical memory and heal our collective trauma. We seek support from communities and governments at local, state, national, and transnational levels to confront and reconcile our past.
The Our Parents’ Bones Campaign is powered by the courage and strength of a network of volunteers and one part-time staff person. We truly rely on the time and commitment of relatives of the Disappeared and our allies to move our work forward.
Read about the history of our Campaign below. We invite you to join us in fighting for our Disappeared and defending human rights in El Salvador in any of the following ways:
- Sharing your story,
- Collaborating with us on a local action like getting your city to recognize our Disappeared (read more here [INSERT LINK to new Blog Post by Eric]), or hosting a virtual or in-person (per local safety guidelines) event to discuss our campaign and supporting human rights in El Salvador. If this interests you, please contact us!
- Joining our List Serv
- And of course, by supporting our growing work with a donation
History of the Our Parents’ Bones Campaign
In 2013, our co-founder Alexandra Aquino-Fike joined the Board of Directors of the SHARE Foundation, a Berkeley, California, based nonprofit that has long advocated for human rights in El Salvador. In the first meeting as a Board, we were asked to explain what had drawn us to SHARE. For the first time in her life, Alexandra met another young person whose parent had also been forcibly disappeared during the Salvadoran Civil War. They began sharing their experiences of growing up with a disappeared parent, the impact on their families and their lives. They began to wonder: “There must be more of us.”
In 2014, with Alexandra and her mother Sylvia Rosales-Fike, a long-time and well-known human rights leader both in El Salvador and the U.S., along with the support of a small advisory committee, launched a campaign to find the remains of Disappeared relatives, like Alexandra’s father Mauricio. What began as a personal journey, soon became a collective movement as more relatives of the Disappeared, including other daughters and sons, mothers and fathers, grandparents, siblings, and more, came forward and told their stories. The group now spans generations of Salvadorans and Salvadoran Americans.
Since our inception over seven years ago our coalition, which includes eleven human rights organizations in the U.S. and El Salvador, has won some solid victories.
Soon after, also in 2016, the sitting Salvadoran president (former Salvadoran President Salvador Sánchez Cerén) acknowledged the forced disappearance of adults during the Civil War. And, in 2018, we witnessed the official opening of the Commission for the Search of the Disappeared Adults during the Armed Conflict (CONABUSQUEDA), the first Salvadoran government-sanctioned commission charged with investigating cases of our disappeared relatives. This was a huge milestone for the Our Parents’ Bones campaign and was the culmination of years of hard work led by the Mauricio Aquino Foundation and in collaboration with a network of human rights organizations in El Salvador and the U.S.
Our campaign also gained support from members of the U.S. Congress. In 2016, Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Congresswoman Norma Torres (D-CA) led 26 Members of Congress calling for President Obama to declassify records of the disappeared in El Salvador’s war. Click here to read the full text of the letter to President Obama. In addition, 21 Members of Congress signed a letter for El Salvador’s President Sánchez Cerén asking him to open the military files and create a commission to investigate Forced Disappearances. Click here to read the full text of the letter to President Sánchez Cerén.
These letters were a direct outcome of the Campaign’s first advocacy visit to the U.S. Congress in April 2016. During our April visit, Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission and the House Central America Caucus hosted a briefing on Capitol Hill with Salvadoran and Salvadoran-Americans whose mother, father or uncles disappeared during the civil war. Attorney David Morales, the then Salvadoran Human Rights Ombudsman, was also a panelist at that briefing. Click here to learn more about this briefing and the testimonies provided.
Our Campaign is grateful to these members of Congress who so poignantly wrote to El Salvador’s leader,
“Mr. President, we believe establishing a commission to investigate and resolve cases of the disappeared would be an important and positive step in relieving the suffering of so many Salvadoran families and communities, and for Salvadoran society as a whole…We also believe that it would advance your own priorities to promote reconciliation, strengthen justice and rule of law, and consolidate peace in El Salvador.”
More recently, our campaign achieved historic wins by securing the recognition of our Disappeared loved ones and the ongoing trauma and impact on the Salvadoran diaspora communities in the U.S. from this human rights crime. In August and September 2021, the city councils of Los Angeles, Berkeley, and San Francisco unanimously passed resolutions declaring Aug. 30th the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances in El Salvador as a special tribute to many Salvadorans in those communities. The United Nations established August 30th as the international day to recognize and honor the victims of enforced disappearances. To this day, this international day of remembrance is not recognized by El Salvador’s government. The support for these resolutions demonstrates the victims’ families continued search for truth and reconciliation nearly 30 years after the end of the Salvadoran Civil War that forcibly disappeared over 10,000 Salvadorans. These are the cities that received the largest number of Salvadoran immigrants, most fleeing the violence of the armed conflict, and these are the cities that the majority of Salvadoran Americans call home. For the Salvadoran diaspora and the families of El Salvador’s disappeared, the recognition and solidarity by these U.S. cities was incredibly meaningful and powerful.
As we look ahead, we will continue to build channels to confront our collective trauma, reckon with our past, resurrect our historical memory and create a brighter future for Salvadorans in the US, abroad and in El Salvador.