Workers World Party members and thousands of others — from Los Angeles to El Salvador — are deeply saddened by the death of María Guardado, who died earlier in May in Los Angeles at the age of 81. Friends reported that she died peacefully and without pain after a long battle with cancer.
For those who are unfamiliar with María, a documentary film entitled “Testimony: the María Guardado Story,” available on YouTube, is a good place to start to learn of her life.
In her home country, María had been a school teacher. Like so many Salvadoran workers, she was also an important activist in the national movement against U.S. domination. Like tens of thousands of others, she was caught up in the brutal campaign of repression carried out by the U.S.-backed right-wing government. In June 1980, she was kidnapped by death squads, brutally tortured and ultimately tossed out of a moving car and left for dead.
Her abduction was a cause among activists and sympathizers. In one of the last sermons given by Archbishop Óscar Romero, just before he himself was assassinated, he called on the death squads to release María Guardado. María survived and, with the help of a taxi driver, made it home to her family. She was then secreted out of the country and to the United States by co-activists. She won asylum and spent the rest of her life fighting against U.S. imperialism tooth and nail.
Her courage and energy throughout the years won the admiration and love of the entire progressive movement in Los Angeles — especially among the many Latino and Latina activists. María had become a symbol of what the U.S. has done to harm El Salvador, of the immigrant rights movement in the U.S., of the anti-war movement and of the struggle for justice in general.
Some of her injuries from torture were permanent — including trauma. When she spoke, she would lose her breath, pause, collect herself and continue. She always continued. Her activities for a number of years included trips to the annual mass actions at Fort Benning, Ga., by School of the Americas Watch, even though — because of her health — it was difficult for her to fly cross country.
Four years ago, María joined Workers World Party. Although her health was already beginning to limit her activity, her determination to struggle strengthened the Los Angeles branch.
Every struggle that affected the working class was important to her, from union rights to fighting against racist cops, and she was an anti-imperialist to her core. All those who were victimized by imperialism were to be defended at all costs. That was María.
María was also a wonderful poet, and her first book of poetry is in the process of being published.
She wished to be buried in her home country of El Salvador, and a GoFundMe campaign has been set up to help her family do so. To contribute, see gofundme.com/maria-guardado. Her family and community are planning an all-night tribute for May 23 and 24, with a mass on Saturday morning and another community event on Saturday evening.
María Guardado, ¡Presente!