A report came out on October 4th, that the offices of a well respected Human Rights monitoring organization in San Salvador, Tutela Legal, were closed by its governing body, the Archdiocese of El Salvador. Contained in these offices are the archives of the organization dating back to the late 1970s when El Salvador’s US backed dictatorship was terrorizing the civilian population as a response to the cold war. Tutela Legal’s archives document disappearances and abuses which were recorded in hundreds of case files compiled from testimonies of witnesses and survivors.
Currently, the records remain in the hands of the Archdiocese, which has safely housed the organization since the state terror period as a continuation of Archbishop Oscar Romero’s vision of human rights and liberation. In the mid-1990s, University of Colorado at Boulder Archivist Bruce Montgomery funded a mass reproduction of Tutela Legal’s archives in order to store facsimiles outside of the country at his institution. During that period, an amnesty law was passed making any future legal convictions regarding war crimes or crimes against humanity during the conflict period illegal in El Salvador. Effectively, ‘it’s been dealt with, now go away.’ The eventuality of records destruction or alteration in human rights organization records outside the archival sphere makes collaborative projects like this between CU Boulder and Tutela Legal a reminder of the tenuousness of grassroots organization archives as well as the necessity for outreach from archivists to solidify networks of information solidarity.