Interactive Map Places of memory related
to serious human rights violations

Commemoration of Indigenous People Massacre in 1932

Theme: Genocide and/or Mass Crimes


El Llanito


El Salvador





Theme: Genocide and/or Mass Crimes

Purpose of Memory

To commemorate the victims of the killing in January 1932, as retaliation for the indigenous uprisings of January 22 of the same year.

Known Designation

Commemoration of Indigenous People Massacre in 1932

Date of creation / identification / declaration


Public Access


Location description

Every January 22, the indigenous community remembers, in the place known as “El Llanito”, located in Salvadoran city of Izalco, the killing of thousands of people in 1932. There is a pilgrimage, cultural activities, forums, an ancestral ceremony of purification, reading of testimonies, greeting to the four cardinal points, and floral offerings are left on the site where the victims are buried. On site, there is a memorial composed by a plate and a grotto in commemoration of the massacre of 1932.

In El Salvador, on December 2, 1931, a coup staged by the military led by General Maximiliano Hernández Martínez overthrew the constitutional government of Arturo Araujo

El Salvador was then an agricultural nation with a population that was mainly rural and poor. The western area of the country was distinctive for a strong indigenous presence and the cultivation, almost exclusively, of coffee. One of the consequences of the international crisis of 1929 was the decrease of El Salvador export product prices, coffee among them, which was the main means of survival of the already impoverished indigenous populations. 

The legislative and municipal election of January 1932 was considered fraudulent, to the extent that the Directors of the Communist party chose in favor of the uprising. Before the insurrection, several communist leaders were captured. On January 22 1932, after some uprisings, thousands of peasants of the western area rebelled and directed their attacks to the points where the local power was focused: municipal offices and elite houses. For three days, they occupied some villages until the army, that outnumbered them and had more weapons, could regroup and suppress the rebellion. Until that moment, the insurgents had killed between fifty and one hundred people.

During the following two weeks, as a retaliation, militaries subdued rural areas of the western with strafing, execution by firing squads, hanging and subsequent burials in mass graves. The estimation is that between 10,000 and 30,000 people, mostly civilians with no direct participation in the uprisings, were victims of this massacre.  

In Izalco, there was a killing that decimated the local indigenous population: for this reason this was considered as ethnocide. Their remains were buried in a mass grave located in the ruins of the Asunción church, also known as “El Llanito”.

The massacre of 1932 contributed to consolidate the power of the military in El Salvador, and they forbade free and public discussion on the events. Until the beginning of the 90s, the quantity of documents on 1932 was reduced and biased. Since 1990, with the end of the Cold War and the civil war in El Salvador, new sources came to light, which were both official documents and oral testimonies. 

The focus of the discussion is on whether the peasant uprising that originated the killing was a communist uprising (“communist causality”) or if this was an ethnocide, that is to say, a killing of a specific group (indigenous and poor) for the sake of their elimination.

The Government, the Army and conservative parties stated having destroyed communism in 1932. Meanwhile, guerrilla movements said that a strong social-communist movement had started that year. 

The memory of the massacre of 1932 has been in dispute for decades between different players. On the one hand, the Farabundo Martí Movement for National Freedom (FMLN), a communist political-military organization created in 1970 in homage to the communist leader Agustín Farabundo Martí, arrested before the massacre and executed in the subsequent days. On the other, the Nationalist Republican Alliance, El Salvador’s conservative party that launched political campaigns in Izalco since 1980 vindicating the massacre as symbol of fight against communism. The indigenous community remembered the victims through family ceremonies until 2005. 

In January 2005, Izalco was a witness to two different commemorations for the 73rd anniversary of the killing. One of them was organized by the FMLN and aimed at remembering the events in accordance with their traditional interpretation of poor masses that fought to have a better life. The other one was carried out by a group of Indigenous activists to vindicate the memory of a massacre against indigenous people of El Salvador.

Since then, celebrations in El Llanito are public, with pilgrimage, cultural activities and traditional rites, and the participation of the indigenous community, political authorities and social players. El Llanito was acknowledged as national cultural heritage in 2012 for having seen the massacre of indigenous people and for being the place where cultural events are held.  

The 1932 massacre is remembered in the entire country. In the Monument to Memory and Truth, opened in 2003 in San Salvador, there is a wall in memory of those events as an homage to their victims. Also, the San Salvador Museum of Word and Image features a permanent exhibition that explains the events of 1932 from the ethnic perspective.

Organization in Charge - Main Referent

Alcaldía del Común en Izalco