A world playoff, a suicide girl, a war between the poor: this is how the conflict between El Salvador and Honduras broke out

Amelia Bolaños he’s only eighteen but already he no longer wants to live. At least not in a world where his El Salvador can lose 1-0 against historical rivalsHonduras in the first leg of the play-offs for i World Cup Mexicans of the ’70s. At her triple whistle the girl runs to her father’s desk, takes the gunif he points it at it, he goes fire. The bullet sinks in his flesh and the tears apart the heart. It’s a death quick and excruciating. Because it transforms a personal pain into a collective omen. The date of June 8, 1969 takes on the dark twisted curse. To the funeral of the girl not participate friends and relatives, but one Whole nation. They are all there, one behind the other. First the army picket of honor. Then the President of the Republic, the ministers, the members of the government, the simple politicians. A few meters behind there are even the soccer players of the national team, the same ones who after the match had been vilified, filled with spit, labeled as enemies of the homeland.

Seven days later the second leg is staged. It is played atEstadio de la Flor Blanca of San Salvador and the music is completely different. The night before the game the crowd shatters the windows of the hotel where Honduras is trying to sleep. They throw in everything: rotten eggs, open mice, dirty clothes. They go on all night. Even after the visiting team took refuge on the roof. The nightmare continues throughout the next day. For accompany at the stadium the Honduras team serve the tanks of the army. At every step, the players feel death threats and insults being thrown on them. At every meter you can see the photos of Amelia Bolaños, heroin of El Salvador. It’s a delirium that brings with it an idea: to wash the blood it is necessary to pour other blood.

One of the first to understand this is the Polish writer Ryszard Kapuściński. “The Honduran anthem was greeted by a broadside of whistles and screams – he says in his book” The First Football War and Other Poor Wars “- Then, in place of the Honduran flag, burned under the eyes of the crowd exulting with joy, the hosts had raised a torn and dirty rag on the flagpole ”. That game yes transforms in a struggle for survival and to succumb are the guests. Mark Martinez. Mark Acevedo. Mark Martinez, again. El Salvador wins 3-0 but for the International Federation it is not enough. The sum of the goals is not yet an option covered by the rules. A victory was followed by a reverse victory. So now we need a playoff.

You play at Mexico City the June 26, 1969. The result keeps an entire continent anxious. The match is one torment endless. El Salvador wins 3-2 ai additional and flies to the final against United States. For Honduras it is a sports disaster that detonates a social disaster. Because relations between the two states have been strained for some time now. There overpopulation of El Salvador has generated a frightening wave of unemployment. Honduras, on the other hand, has five times the territory of its neighbors, but with exterminated uninhabited spaces. It is a situation that can be convenient for both of us. So in 1967 the two countries signed a bilateral immigration treaty. Basically the Salvadorans get the chance to relocate of the other end of the border for to work. It is an opportunity that no one wants to miss. In 300 thousand they move to the neighboring state, build villages, begin to cultivate the land. The solution do not like to the Honduran peasants. For many of them, poverty is already a mirage, so seeing foreigners prosper becomes something very similar to an offense.

In the’April 1969 the situation precipitates. The Ministry of Agriculture of Tegucigalpa confiscates the lands of Salvadoran immigrants and decrees their expulsion. The play-off for the Mexican World Cup becomes the excuse to open an international scuffle. The era of media wars is still far away, but the two Governments are moving forward by dint of communications and reciprocal allegations. After the return match, Tegucigalpa asked the Organization of American States to dispute in El Salvador “violence against Honduran women, destruction of cars e insults to the flag and the national anthem “. San Salvador has replied urging an intervention by the OAS against Honduras to “genocide, murder, persecution, attacks against people and personal property and expulsion of citizens of El Salvador ”. On June 27, a few hours after the third meeting, El Salvador breaks relationships diplomatic relations with Honduras.

A week later the first skirmishes begin. José GuerreroEl Salvador’s foreign minister, says that two Honduran C-47 aircraft have violated national airspace and have open fire against border guards. The Foreign Minister of Tegucigalpa he replies that were the troops of El Salvador a shoot against a plane of the Honduran company Sahsa. The president of the United States Richard Nixon try one telephone mediation. But without success.

The July 14 begin at hostility. Although neither country has officially declared war on its neighbor. From the early hours of the morning on both sides of the border they begin to dig the trenches. In the cities motivational phrases appear. On the walls of Tegucigalpa anonymous hands write: “3-0 You will be avenged!” and “Bad enough don’t hope with Honduras you can’t do it”. In San Salvador they respond with a “A few blows, two bù bù and Honduras is gone!”. Military operations are confusing. Governments mutually deny each other’s successes. The soldiers of the two sides embrace the same weaponswear the same uniformsthey speak there same language. For the international press, distinguishing them becomes a puzzle. The Daily Telegraph and the Corriere della Sera however, they tell a singular detail. “Both sides have archaic appliances, remnants of the Second World War, but the technique of the two aviation is rather reminiscent of the first incursions of the war of 1914-18 ″. And again: “An eyewitness reported that Salvadoran civilian and transport aircraft, once they reach the target, descend to a few tens of meters of altitude. Crew members were seen opening the doors of the old aircraft and manually unloading the bombs ”.

The war lasts a total of one hundred hours. At 10pm on July 18th He knows calls for a ceasefire. Honduras does accept, El Salvador would like to continue to fight. Also because she has purchased seven new planes from the United States that will arrive only the next day and are essential for attacking the enemy capital. The attacks continue sporadically until July 29, without great intensity. On August 5, El Salvador realizes that it cannot win the war and yes withdraw within its own borders. It is the end of a conflict that has almost mowed down six thousand lives but that is not displeased to the politicians. “The two governments remained satisfied of the war – writes Ryszard Kapuściński – because for a few days Honduras and Salvador have filled up the pages of newspapers around the world, attracting the attention of international public opinion ”. A meager consolation for two neighboring states that have become enemies (also) for a football match. But on the other hand he was right Flaiano when he wrote that “if the peoples knew each other better, they would hate each other more”.

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