The children's drawings offer one view of the people of Santa Marta, a Salvadoran village and "companion city" to Takoma Park that is the destination this week of four women taking desperately needed medicine.
In the drawings, given to another Takoma Park delegation in June, the children depict an event almost 10 years ago that has become lore among the battle-tempered Salvadoran villagers.
La Pasada del Rio Lempa, it's called, the Passage of the River Lempa, a day when Salvadoran and Honduran soldiers reportedly killed Salvadoran refugees crossing the River Lempa into Honduras in November 1981.
Crude figures depicted in the children's drawings represent slain relatives from Santa Marta, whose inhabitants were among those massacred.
"It was devastating to see little kids draw pictures of war," said Deb Tyler, co-chairwoman of the Companion Cities Project of Takoma Park/Santa Marta and one of the recipients of the drawings.
In many ways, the drawings explain an unusual relationship that has developed between Takoma Park and Santa Marta.
Takoma Park residents have sent more than $12,000 in aid, including money raised by Montgomery Blair High School, that helped the community build its own shoe factory. Last year, they were hosts to a Santa Marta boy who was brought to Johns Hopkins University Hospital to receive treatment for eye cancer.
"It's an incredible community," said George Taylor, a former pastor who visited Santa Marta in June. "It's a repopulated area that was completely destroyed" when the Salvadoran military began a scorched-earth policy to drive the rebels out of northern El Salvador in the early 1980s.
"Anybody interested in the power of democracy should see these people," said Nancy S. Chisholm, who met many of the refugees in a camp in Honduras last year and who will be making the journey to Santa Marta beginning tomorrow.
Chisholm will be accompanied by Joan Hall, a community development expert for the Foundation for International Community Assistance, who said she wants to examine the causes of certain diseases that are plaguing Santa Marta.
To provide medical help, Jan Walker, a nurse, and Rebecca Elon, an internal medicine and geriatrics specialist, who developed an interest in Central American medical issues, also are planning to make the trip.
Despite the large Salvadoran population in the Takoma Park area, the companion city relationship did not arise from any local ties to Santa Marta.
Takoma Park was paired with Santa Marta by a New York organization called New El Salvador Today, which was seeking North American cities to form relationships with communities throughout El Salvador. The link began with a Takoma Park City Council resolution in 1988.
A year before, Santa Marta inhabitants notified the United Nations that they would be one of five settlements in the war-torn area to leave the Honduran refugee camps and return to their homelands, despite the civil war.
"The military controls all the commerce and freedom of movement," said Takoma Park council member Hank Prensky, who was part of the delegation that went to El Salvador this summer.
The delegation's successful completion of the four-hour, 70-mile journey from San Salvador to Santa Marta was a first, he said. Another delegation, led by council member Mark Elrich, was turned away by the military in 1988.
The most startling discovery made by this summer's delegation was the high incidence of disease and lack of medicine in the village.
"The military does not allow medicine to go in there," Tyler said.
As a result, Prensky said, the delegation negotiated with the military commander of the district that includes Santa Marta.
"He agreed to allow us to bring medical supplies, but he was careful to say that no medicines or supplies would be allowed that would help the combatants," Prensky said.
With the help of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, Takoma Park residents were able to collect 200 pounds of medicine, worth about $6,000, to take to the villagers.
Elon said that they not only will distribute the medicine, but also will look at sanitary conditions in the village, which has 18 health specialists familiar with basic medicine, but no doctor.
"Whenever you go to an area of conflict, there always is an element of risk and danger," she said. "We don't plan on doing anything stupid."