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Ramiro Osorio Cristales was born in La Libertad, Guatemala, in 1977. He later lived in Dos Erres, including in December 1982, when he was 5 years old. He lived with his parents and 6 siblings. As Ramiro has testified about his memories as a child that night, men came and knocked on their door. His father got up and asked who was there. The person outside said open the door or we’ll break it down. As soon as his father opened the door, the men came into the house and started beating up his father and screaming for everyone to get up. They tied his father and his older brother with their hands behind their backs. The men then marched the entire family to the center of the village.
Ramiro’s father and older brother were put in a school. Ramiro, his mother, his other brothers and sister were put in a church. The men were armed with guns. There were many other women and children at the church. People were crying because they were scared. The church was being guarded, so Ramiro and his family could not leave. The men guarding the church were strange men, not men from Dos Erres.
Ramiro heard men screaming, saying, “Please don’t kill us, we don’t know anything, don’t kill us.” The women in the church were crying. They knew something wrong was happening.
As soon as they “finished” with the older men, they started taking women out from the church. The men grabbed the women by the hair and pulled them outside. Some were young girls and teenagers. Ramiro heard their mothers saying, “Please don’t take my kids.” At that time, as a young child, Ramiro did not know what rape meant but he heard a girl screaming to her mother to please help her, that a man was hurting her.
Ramiro could see what was happening to the women who were taken outside because of the way the church walls were built with wood slats. The men took the women to the back of the church where there was a well. The only thing Ramiro could hear from within the church was crying and screaming for help.
The children who were too small to walk on their own were taken from their mothers’ arms by the armed men. They were treated like animals and held hanging by their legs. Behind the church there was a tree where the men were holding the children by their legs and smashing them to the tree. One man came into the church, and said, “If you know how to pray, pray, because no one will save you from this.”
When it was his mother’s turn, Ramiro remembered, together with his brothers, grabbing her by the legs as they fought with the armed men not to take their mother. Ramiro somehow let go of his mother’s leg and was put inside of the church by the men. He ran to the back of the church to see where the men were taking his mother. She was screaming for help, saying, “Please don’t kill us.” The men took his mother to the well, where he heard her screaming for help, saying, “Please don’t kill my kids.” Ramiro stopped crying because he was so tired and he fell asleep under a bench. When he woke up, there were only four children left with him in the church.
Ramiro is one of only two survivors of the Dos Erres massacre in Guatemala in 1982. He has testified numerous times in cases seeking to hold accountable the soldiers and officers who carried out the massacre, including Jorge Sosa Orantes. Read more about CCIJ’s work on the Sosa Orantes case.