Main Menu

465: What Happened At Dos Erres

465: What Happened At Dos Erres

May 25, 2012
In 1982, the Guatemalan military massacred the villagers of Dos Erres, killing more than 200 people. Thirty years later, a Guatemalan living in the US got a phone call from a woman who told him that two boys had been abducted during the massacre — and he was one of them. ProPublica's print version: Finding Oscar.
Play Episode

The transcript is also available in Spanish.

This story was co-reported with Sebastian Rotella of ProPublica, Ana Arana of Fundación MEPI, independent journalist Habiba Nosheen and This American Life producer Brian Reed. Their essay “Finding Oscar,” which is accompanied by a timeline, slideshow and character guide, can be read at and is also available as an eBook (Spanish versions: on iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play). The essay is also included in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2013, compiled by Dave Eggers.

Annie Correal helped with research and translations.

  • Prologue.

    4 Min
    Ira tells the story of how Oscar Ramirez, a Guatemalan immigrant living near Boston, got a phone call with some very strange news about his past. A public prosecutor from Guatemala told Oscar that when he was three years old, he may have been abducted from a massacre at a village called Dos Erres. Ira also talks to Kate Doyle, a senior analyst at the National Security Archive, about the Guatemalan military's scorched earth campaign, which was going on when the massacre at Dos Erres happened. Ira Glass
  • Act One.

    28 Min
    Reporter Habiba Nosheen tells the story of how investigators first heard of human remains at Dos Erres, and how they discovered what the Guatemalan military did there.
  • Act Two.

    25 Min

    Habiba's story continues. Nearly 16 years after investigators first started looking into the Dos Erres massacre, a prosecutor tracks down Oscar and asks him to take a DNA test to see if he is a survivor. But they find out much more.

    Photos from Matthew Healey for ProPublica and Alex Cruz/El Periodico de Guatemala:


Members of the elite special forces that committed the massacre at Dos Erres. This photo was likely taken during training by Lieutenant Oscar Ramirez Ramos, who was one of the commanders during the massacre.