For The Love of the Struggle

Memoirs from El Salvador

by Andrés (Drew) McKinley

For the Love of the Struggle is a moving and personal account of Andrés McKinley’s involvement in the fight for justice in El Salvador during the civil war of the 1980s. But more than the events he describes, with great detail and political insight, it is his love for the people of El Salvador that sets this book apart. From working with church-related organizations, to joining the guerrillas in the liberated zones, to his work along the communities opposing metallic mining, it is his relationship with the people, particularly the humbler ones, which stands out. 

From his home in El Salvador where he has lived over four decades, the author shares an intimate personal and political memoir that follows his remarkable journey from the comfort and security of a picturesque New England town to a stirring and heroic engagement in common cause with the struggle for peace and justice in El Salvador.

After four years as a Peace Corps worker in northern Liberia beginning in the late 1960s, followed by a stretch back in the United States as a street worker in the ghettos of North Philadelphia, McKinley finds himself in Central America as an aid worker in 1978. He quickly becomes engulfed by the political violence of the region and engaged with the people and their struggles against five decades of military dictatorship, centuries of poverty and exploitation. The story is marked by terror, adventure and courage, by trials and tragedy redeemed by the beauty and transcendence of people in struggle.

Interwoven with this personal journey is the story of Teresa Rivas, her husband Antonio, and their five children, a peasant family whose commitment as catequists with the Jesuit, Rutilio Grande, led to their eventual incorporation into the guerrilla forces of the FMLN after Grande’s assassination in 1977. The book describes the circumstances under which the author meets Antonio Rivas and family in the war zones of El Salvador, falls in love with them and their cause, and commits to accompanying their struggle through its darkest hours.

The story is told against the backdrop of the decades-long people’s struggle for economic justice, human rights and authentic democracy in El Salvador. The book lays out the social, economic and political origins of the armed struggle that caught fire in the 1970s, and the experiences of a people in desperate pursuit of non-violent options for democratizing their country and assuring a dignified life for the impoverished and marginalized majority of its population.

The challenges of reconstruction after the Peace Accords that end the war in 1992, and the tragedy of opportunities lost during the immediate post-war period in the face of the ongoing resistance of traditional opponents to reform, and the processes of organizing behind the ultimately successful 17-year struggle to ban metallic mining—an historic victory in 2019 approved by a vote in the National Assembly, and without precedent in the world, are a concluding part of the memoir.

As the book closes, the author reflects on his choice to stay in El Salvador over the past 43 years, and the country as he finds it in these changing times; on the family with whom he has shared love and life there; on his continuing relationship with Antonio Rivas and his surviving family; and his gradual reconciliation, from a distance, with the country of his birth.With a foreword by Charlie Clements, author Witness to War (Bantam, 1984) and Former Executive Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.
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