The SHARE Blog

El Mozote: Celebrating Resilience and Life

December 20, 2014

On Saturday, December 13th, hundreds of people made the pilgrimage to the site of one of the bloodiest massacres during the Salvadoran armed conflict. The massacre at El Mozote in 1981 ended the lives of close to 900 men, women, and children. The youngest child brutally murdered that day was three days old.  For decades, the Salvadoran government denied and covered up this travesty.The El Mozote Massacre has come to emblemize the violations of human rights that took place at the hands of the national military during the 12 years of the armed conflict.

10445529_10152938960944301_2121070061778881473_nThe event this past Saturday evoked the memory of the lives lost 33 years ago. However, more than anything, the crowd celebrated the resilience and present life of the Salvadoran people. Symbolically, the commemoration demonstrated that no force can truly kill a collective strong spirit, nor halt a people’s movement towards justice, equity, and human dignity.

This notion is naturally and tangibly  captured in one of the only buildings left standing today from the massacre. On the corner adjacent to the church, one can still see the bullet holes left on the exterior wall of the now crumbling structure.  The gray of the concrete is solemn and shocking. However, the image that catches more attention is the lively green vines crawling along the entire surface offering to heal the 33 year-old wounds and bring life back to the building.

The Salvadoran military, specifically the Atlacatl Battalion, thought by draining the civilian-filled pond on December 11th,10805700_10152938961399301_9214767109475303062_n 1981 they were ending life. In a concrete sense, they did end over 900 lives that day.  However, what they intended to be a screeching stop to the popular movement served as a catalyst that still propels the Salvadoran people today to work towards a life where no one is oppressed, where all have equal opportunity, and where all life is considered sacred. May we continue to move forward justly with the lives lost at El Mozote as our inspiration.


Women’s Leadership: An Interview with Zulma Hernandez

December 18, 2014

Zulma Hernandez on Women’s Leadership

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Zulma speaks with some of the women in a Savings and Loans Group in La Libertad

My name is Zulma Hernandez.  I’m from the town of Comasagua, in the department of La Libertad. I want to tell you a bit about how I got involved in community organizing.  I began in my own community, as a member of the women’s committee, then became coordinator of the women’s group.  I was also part of the board, I was the secretary, and little by little, I became more involved as a leader in the community, participating in various activities organized by the community council.  Later, in 2001, I was elected president of the Comasagua Women’s Association, made up of several women’s committees from different communities in the area.  CRIPDES and CORDES really propelled the organizing efforts.  I was president of the women’s association from 2001 to 2006, and I think it was a space for me to get more involved in community organizing work, a place that trained me and formed me to be a leader, but especially allowed me to work with women.  Then in 2006, I was chosen to represent Comasagua on the CRIPDES Sur Board of Directors.  Because at the time, CRIPDES Sur didn’t have a work team, per se, but rather a board made up of representatives from the different municipalities.  So that’s where I started to get more involved in community organizing.

These spaces have allowed me to learn and gain experience in community organizing, but what has really helped me become a leader has been the educational or formative experiences, the trainings I’ve received, etc.  I’ve had the opportunity to participate in several “diplomados” or certificate programs, I think these kinds of opportunities have helped me a lot as a women leader.

Currently, I’m part of the work team at CRIPDES Sur as the supervisor of a project from Oxfam America called Community Savings and Loans.  I’m also the representative for the Grassroots Sistering work area in CRIPDES Sur La Libertad, and I’m also a member of the CRIPDES National Board of Directors.

What inspired you to become a leader?  Where did that come from?

I was inspired by my community.  Knowing that we had problems there, I wanted to be part of the group that would figure out how to resolve those issues.  Also knowing the problems or challenges that women face.  Learning about the problems, having the same problems myself, and learning how to resolve the issues and accompany those processes, that is what has inspired me.  Working with women is what I like best.  The fact that I am a woman, and knowing the situation of women in the communities, is something that motivates me to continue working and accompanying women’s organizational processes in the region with the goal of better development for women in El Salvador.

A little more about the Women’s Leadership Academy “Marianela Garcia Rivas”

The Academy is named after Marianela Garcia, a woman leader in the struggle of the armed conflict.  It is a school for different women leaders from the municipalities that make up each CRIPDES region, to teach leadership skills.  There are three modules for the first year.  The first is for women entrepreneurs; the second for political formation, and the third will focus on social leadership.  We hope these three modules strengthen the participants’ leadership skills.  Specific topics haven’t yet been discussed, but we hope they’re linked to the needs that the participants express.

The project for 2015 is really a pilot project that will be tested out in two CRIPDES regions: in the town of Tecoluca in San Vicente and in Colón, La Libertad.  The proposal for the Academy has been written, and we’re currently in the fundraising phase.  We hope that there are good results from the fundraising efforts!

 


Tod@s Nacimos Libres e Iguales

December 17, 2014

Title translation: We are all born free and equal

The United Nations recognizes December 10th as International Human Rights Day. Here in El Salvador, all of the major actors in the human rights arena gathered on Wednesday to give a report on the status of El Salvador’s struggle for human rights during 2014.  David Morales, Human Rights Ombudsman began with encouraging news of the various achievements and advancements of human rights during the past year.  Some of these include the promotion of the Law for Equality and Equity and the Law Against Violence Towards Women, the continued development of governmental programs like CONMIGRANTES and INJUVE, and a Constitutional Reform recognizing the rights of the indigenous population.

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Luis Monterrosa is pictured on the left next to the European Union Ambassador

Luis Monterrosa, Director of IDHUCA , followed with his concise analysis of where El Salvador is still lacking.  He identified four major concerns. The first is the overwhelming culture of violence that plagues every department in the country. His second point melted into the prior because it is, as he described it, “the conservative ideology” that aggravates and perpetuates the culture of violence. “Conservative,” in this context, does not refer to any political party or ideology but rather to El Salvador as a whole. Monterrosa firmly asserted that because Salvadoran conservative ideology prohibits the creation of a space for dialogue and resolution, violence in the country has exploded to never-before-seen levels. “It is our silence and conservative approach that has gotten us to where we are. Look at the case of the 17 women incarcerated for miscarriages. Look at the number of displaced persons due to violence,” Monterrosa passionately pointed out. His third concern is the justice system that failed time and time again this year. He denounced the Attorney General’s Office and the Legislature for not acting as they were elected to act. “They can’t be questioned. Look at the case of Padre Toño!

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All of the forum’s panelists

They do not administer justice in compliance with the law” Monterrosa fervently accused. He ended his discourse with his fourth concern: “None of these issues are new.”  Perhaps this is the most frustrating observation for human rights promoters and defenders. Is there an end to human rights violations in sight? How do we even begin to tackle huge issues like the culture of violence or the failed justice system? The European Union, also present at the forum, suggested two plans of action.  Starting in 2015 two new violence prevention programs will commence. One is aimed at caring for the victims of forced displacement, tending to their needs, and ensuring their safety. The other entails creating a network of human rights defenders and promoters educated on how to create a culture of peace. The European Union also administered funding for the defenders and promoters to teach classes to youth on the same topic.

Padre Andreu Oliva, the Rector of the UCA, reminded all those in attendance that if we are to see progress and an end to human rights violations in El Salvador, we are all to actively accept our roles as promoters and defenders of Human Rights. If we are a united front working together, we can insight change.

“Promotores y Defensores de los derechos humanos somos tod@s.”-P. Andreu Oliva

“We are all promoters and defenders of human rights.”


SHARE (Your) Inspiration: Julie Laven

December 15, 2014


CSV Scholarship Student Profile: Oscar

December 11, 2014


Delegate Spotlight: Judy

December 9, 2014

Our new blog series, Delegate Spotlight, will feature past participants from SHARE’s major delegations. A delegate is someone who travels with a group (delegation) to El Salvador to learn about the history, politics, and people to better accompany the Salvadoran people. Interested in becoming a SHARE delegate? Check out our major delegation page for information on the upcoming Romero Delegation in March! 

Spotlight on: Judy Swett, CSJA, Boston, MA

Why did I decide to participate in the LCWR/ SHARE FOUNDATION in solidarity “Honoring Religious Women delegation” in 2012? The fact is my name was drawn in a lottery that the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston provided for its Sisters and Associates and my  immediate response was YES! As a woman religious educator and social justice advocate,  I was profoundly moved by the horrific assassinations of Archbishop Romero in March and the Four Women Martyrs in December, 1980. So in the year 2012, after witnessing the crackdown of the Vatican on LCWR it  was for me a call and  privilege to represent the Boston CSJ’s along with Lois Connors, CSJ , Claire Morrissey,CSJ and Mary Rita Weschler CSJA along with over 50 other LCWR religious women from the US.

What did I gain from this experience? For me the entire program and process was liberating! The women and men I met on the Camino, taught me well about faith, suffering and resilience. Their moving testimonies of organized repression, oppression and the forced disappearance of loved ones was heart breaking. Having been inspired and challenged, I am working for Truth and Justice for the people of El Salvador and will continue to ‘speak truth to power.’ Read More »


Share (Your) Inspiration: José Artiga

December 1, 2014


Equality: Marching from an Idea to an Experience

November 26, 2014

On November 25th, International Day Against Violence Against Women, the streets of San Salvador were filled with women of all ages denouncing gender-based violence.  Chants rose up to the Legislative Assembly saying, “We are now in the 21st century! Women have rights! We want equality!” And “Violence is that the government and the church make decisions about my body!”

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Azul holds her sign reading “I denounce the crimes against women. Not even one more disappeared or assasinated!”

One of the women at Tuesday’s march, Amanda Castro, walked along side her 10 year old daughter, Azul Castro, carrying a picket sign advocating for the end to violence against women. When asked why she was there, Amanda responded, “For me, November 25th is a day to denounce the systemic violence against women that comes from the state.”

To what was she referring?  El Salvador has one of the most rigid abortion laws in the world.  If the experience of having a miscarriage were not emotionally and physically straining enough, the Salvadoran Government in 1998 found a way to cause even more harm to women who go through it.  A woman in El Salvador can be sentenced to anywhere from 15 to 40 years of imprisonment for having a miscarriage. Many women at the march held up signs detailing the lives of 17 women who have been unjustly incarcerated under the terms of that law.

Amanda continued, “I am here with my daughter and all these other women today in the struggle to end sexism and inequality. Azul is intentionally here with me today. This is a consciousness raising event. She is a tool for the future.”

Young girls and women are the hope for a different future, one where equality will not just be an idea but will be an experience. Through community involvement and advocacy, young girls like Azul are challenging the current patriarchal system. Educating women and men alike about women’s rights is the answer to repealing oppressive institutionalized laws which claim complete control of a woman’s body.  There is hope for the future, and in this case, her name is Azul.

 


Delegate Reflection: The Spirits of the Jesuits Continue On

November 15, 2014

Pam Wargin traveled with the delegation from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Wisconsin this past July. She graciously shares this reflection with us all. 

My name is Pam Wargin, and I am honored to have had the opportunity to have traveled to El Salvador as a part of our parish’s delegation this summer.

The St. Elizabeth Ann Seton delegation at the UCA.

When I first began the journey of preparing for this trip, I had very little knowledge of the history or of the current reality in El Salvador. I did not really understand that the country suffered a terrifying civil war between 1980 and 1992. I didn’t know that a large part of the population, including our brothers and sisters in Rutilio Grande, lived in refugee camps outside of El Salvador for twelve years during the war.

I wasn’t sure what God had to teach me on this trip. What I felt in El Salvador was heart wrenching and heart warming, horrifying and hopeful all mixed together in almost each and every individual experience.

Today, I’d like to share with you our visit to the University of Central America. The UCA- as it is called there- is a Jesuit university. The campus is much like Milwaukee’s Marquette, which is also Jesuit. It has a lovely chapel, students conversing on benches and calming walkways with beautiful trees and flowers. As a Marquette grad myself, I felt a certain connection with the staff and students around me as we walked through the grounds.

Read More »


Lessons Learned: Delegate Reflections

November 13, 2014

During the week of October 18th, 2014, eleven parishioners from Visitation Catholic Church in Kansas City continued their 26 year journey of accompaniment with Maria Madre de los Pobres Parish with a visit to El Salvador. After tending to medical clinics in the morning, the group visited the sacred sites and met with community members. Through it all they were touched, spurring them on to recommit to strengthening their relationship of solidarity. The following are quotes from various delegation participants.

“This is my 10th trip to [Maria Madre de los Pobres Parish]…my awareness of the world’s problems is always increased.”

“[Visiting the parish,] I see the importance of family and support for their family members. They look out for each other much more than Americans. I have been humbled by the way they live and how hard they must work to survive.”

“It is hard to accept that we live as we do back home when people here have so little.”

“I must say that I am often disappointed to see evidence of the US everywhere—Burger King, Wendy’s, Walmart. I wish our presence was evident in better ways.”

“We have common hope and common despair—we share the same place in the world. We need each other.”

If you are interested in how to start a sistering relationship between your church/community/school and the Salvadoran people, visit our website or contact our Grassroots Coordinator, Sarah Hall, at solidarity@share-elsalvador.org today!


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