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Gloria Astrid Hurtarte Cornejo, daughter of the founder of Comandos de Salvamento was interviewed and gave her thoughts on her father.
“My dad was born on June 17 1932 in Armenia and died on March 24, 1993. He worked as an analyst in the finance ministry. I remember in 1967 he met with seven people to organize and carry out first aid activities in Ciudad Delgado. He started to get support and a statute was made in 1961. When he was younger he was a lifeguard in Guatemala with the Social security and was a very good swimmer. He then came with his parents to this country.
The football War with Honduras happened and people began to notice their work and call them the Green Cross due to their emblem. For war with Honduras At that time the uniform was a white shirt and olive green trousers and women wore a short olive green skirt because at that time it was fashionable “the shortie” and an olive green canvas cap or a helmet, and always with a water bottle.
Over the years the uniform changed to brown overalls to hide blood related to working with injured patients. The main base moved to the colonia bosque in the capitol. I remember when there was an earthquake in Guatemala, they collected food and clothing, also when there was a coup against President Molina Sanchez Hernandez I can’t recall who exactly but he served in the midst of bullets, one ems worker got shot and he was in our home as we cared for his wounds and gave him food.
Later on they moved to November 5th Street, and this is when he thought the uniform color needed to change. Due to the country’s sociopolitical problems and the threat of war, the yellow uniform was utilized because during the war one could not see if they were EMS workers or possible “suspicious” people. Soldiers could not identify them at night and that is the reason my father changed the color. This was used to identify themselves as aid workers. To display the yellow color from a distance, a strong and striking color although I did not personally like it.
For the funeral of Monsignor Romero the comandos were the first ones to serve and put their life on the line, some rescuers were afraid when the crowd began to run but my dad reacted energetically and began to lift and move the wounded. He also accompanied Mothers that were going out with the non-governmental human rights groups, especially Magdalena who was later murdered with another person.
At this time, in 1983 there was increased danger for my fathers’ life. One time the National Guard came to our house and yanked me out of the bathroom, they went through everything and asked us, “where are the weapons”. Later on he was put on a death squad list and there was an assassination order for him. The two men that were supposed to kill him arrived to our house to take him away, but thanks to someone there that vouched for him, he was not disappeared.
Due to this experience, he had a lot of anxiety which resulted in facial paralysis, allot of fear and stress. During that time we went to stay in the house of my mother, feeling alone and afraid. Because of his illness, he began to give leadership of comandos over to Roberto Cruz. He wanted to rest. Roberto was young and my dad cared for him even more so when his grandfather died. Roberto was always at the beach training lifeguards with other swim instructors.
As his daughter I apologize for the offenses or the mistakes he committed, but Comando EMS workers, both men and women put their lives at risk during war to save their fellow man and the vision of the institution was to always save people and to stand alongside the most needy. EMS workers and lifeguards of yesterday and today have the personal value of rescuing anyone in danger.”