FOR THE LOVE OF THE STRUGGLE by Andres [Drew] McKinley (El Salvador)


From his home in El Salvador, 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 Corp 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.

Originally based in Guatemala heading up a Catholic relief agency, his commitment to the struggles for change in the country attracts the attention of the military, and his own government, forcing him to leave the country in late 1980.

He moves to El Salvador where he begins a gradual incursion into the revolutionary struggle of this country, with a commitment that will last the rest of his life. Interwoven with this personal journey, is the story of Teresa Rivas, her husband Antonio, and their five children, a peasant family.

It also describes their life after the war, with resettlement in the lowlands of Guazapa where many ex-combatants were building a new life. It explains in detail the gradual emergence of the objective and subjective conditions for revolution in El Salvador, including the difficult choice for the use of violence as the only available option for transformative change in the country.

The book also details 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.

As the memoir closes, the author reflects on his choice to be 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.


For the Love of the Struggle: Memoirs from El Salvador
by Andrés (Drew) McKinley (Liberia 1969–72)
Daraka Press
297 pages
November 2020
$20.00 (paperback)



For a  video about the book, click below.



Leave a comment
  • I will read this book. From the review, it sounds powerful. It is so rare to read about the struggles in Central America from the inside out. Migration from that land continues. Thank you.

  • This is the best memoir of the El Salvador Civil War and its aftermath that I have read. The author accompanied poor rural people living in parts of the country the military had declared as free fire zones. He witnessed the results of massacres including 500 lb. bombs dropped on small adobe houses with families inside by helicopter gunships and “Dragonfly” jets supplied to the Salvadoran military by the United States. His account is understated, neither glorifying nor vilifying the combatants.

    I like that he points out that poor Salvadorans made up the bulk of both the guerrillas and the government soldiers. Only the death squads were made up primarily of people from the wealthier social classes.

    I also appreciate that the author takes the time to place the Salvadoran conflict in the context of what was happening in the rest of Central America at the time. The United States was training the Contras in Honduras to fight against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua, etc.

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