The SHARE Blog

A Shared History of Injustice: Central American Solidarity

September 23, 2014

“Nuestra historia es una historia viva.”-Rigoberta Menchú
“Our history is a living history.”

Rigoberta Menchú Tum addresses the audience at the National University of El Salvador

On September 8th, Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Guatemalan Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, spoke at the National University of El Salvador at the Central American Symposium for the Access to Justice for the Victims of Crimes Against Humanity. After the murder of her father in the Massacre at the Spanish Embassy in 1980 during the height of the Guatemalan Civil War, Rigoberta Menchú became a peaceful human rights activist. As a member of Guatemala’s Mayan Indigenous population, Menchú felt called to stand up against the military regime that carried out a genocide against her people.

The Guatemalan Civil War, like the armed conflict of El Salvador, took place during the Cold War era lasting 36 years (1960-1996). The military government that ordered death squads, forced disappearances, and massacres of rural, indigenous peoples was primarily backed by the United States government of the time. Over 200,000 people were killed in the Guatemalan civil war,  of which 83% were of Mayan descent.

For years the press and international community ignored this conflict, , swept it under the rug, and all who were in the military at the time were given impunity. However, the 2000s have brought a greater sense of justice to Guatemala. General José Efraín Ríos Montt, de facto president during the height of the war, was sentenced to 80 years in prison for genocide and crimes against humanity on May 10th, 2013. However, following through with his sentence has been complicated. Many argue strongly against referring to the deaths during the civil war as a genocide, noting that only 5.5% of the Ixil Indigenous people were killed. “Given the army’s brutality, if the intention were to destroy the Ixil, it would have been relatively easy to kill more than 5.5%” commented Raquel Zelaya, a government signatory of the 1996 peace accords. Arguments such as this build some  of the largest barriers in seeking any kind of real just reparations from this era in Guatemala’s history. Read More »

Inspired: St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Delegates Reflect

September 20, 2014

In July, nine delegates from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Wisconsin visited El Salvador. During the past eight years, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton has stood in solidarity with their sistering community, Rutilio Grande, in their sistering region, UCRES. Three delegates share their reflections on the inspiring people of El Salvador.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton delegation with the kids in Rutilio Grande.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton delegation with the kids in Rutilio Grande.

“Oh how I miss El Salvador!  I close my eyes and can see so many familiar faces. Whenever I’m in church I think of celebrating mass in El Paisnal with all of our friends from Rutilio Grande….I am amazed at the passion of the people. From Luis working with the youth in the community to Felicia teaching her mother to read. Antonio trying his best to lead his little community to Jorge developing organic materials to help feed his people healthy food and protect the environment. Carmen keeping the horrible past of the civil war and the lives lost alive as a lesson to be learned from and remembered. The list can go on and on. They give their all without thinking of themselves.” Jacqueline Konkol

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Corruption continues: Ex-president Francisco Flores under house arrest until trial

September 18, 2014

This piece was written prior to the following UPDATE: Ex-president Francisco Flores ordered by the First Criminal Chamber in San Salvador to await trial in prison, rather than under house arrest. Stay tuned to SHARE’s blog and Facebook page for further updates in the case.

The day after Padre Antonio Rodriguez was released from jail, Ex-president of the Republic, Francisco Flores Pérez, turned himself in after spending the majority of 2014 in hiding.  On September 5th, Ex-president Flores walked through the doors of the Attorney General’s office at 8:30am giving himself up to the courts “out of respect for the law.”

Flores escorted by PNC and military police to his home.  The ex-president is currently under house arrest as he awaits trial.

Flores escorted by PNC and military police to his home. The ex-president is currently under house arrest as he awaits trial.

Flores was president of El Salvador from 1999-2004.  During that time, the country faced one of the largest natural disasters in its history.  The 2001 earthquake devastated the country, leaving 1,500 people dead in its wake. Flores appealed to the rest of the world to help rebuild the tiny Central American country.  Taiwan responded by sending a large sum of funds, which mysteriously never reached the reconstruction projects of El Salvador.  Later on in his presidency, Flores again appealed to his friends in Taiwan to fund his war against drug trafficking and gangs. Again, the Salvadoran people never saw this money. The total funds sent from Taiwan during Flores’ five year term totaled an impressive $15 million.  However, the only beneficiary of that money was Flores himself.  Bank transactions showed that the Ex-president embezzled that $15 million from his own government.   Read More »

Case of Padre Toño illustrates corruption in Salvadoran justice system

September 17, 2014

Toño with GeovanniLately here in El Salvador, we have been witness to high-profile court cases that illustrate the level of corruption in the Salvadoran justice system. The first came as the arrest of Spanish priest Antonio Rodriguez (Padre Toño). Padre Toño is known internationally for his revolutionary work in gang rehabilitation in San Salvador–something that no one else in El Salvador dares to attempt due to the danger that lies in becoming too close to gang members.  In late July of this year, the trailblazing priest was arrested not but a few days after he had publicly called out the Attorney General for his lax response to the increasing homicide rate (connected to the gangs) in spite of the famed truce. Back in March 2012, a deal was cut with the leaders of El Salvador’s two largest gangs–MS 13 and Barrio 18.  At that time, the homicide rate dropped by over 33%. However, in the last few months, death tolls have risen higher than before the creation of the truce. Padre Toño recognized this spike in homicides as a failure of the truce, and that it is time to reassess El Salvador’s gang problem. Unfortunately, instead of being given the opportunity to improve the situation, he was arrested and charged with the following:

  • Introducing contraband into the jails (i.e. cell phones)
  • Pulling political strings for high up gang leaders to get moved to lower-security prisons
  • Collaborating in illicit acts, specifically collaborating with leaders of Barrio 18

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Update on Romero’s Path to Cannonization

September 11, 2014

As many around the world have rejoiced about by now, the Pope lifted the beatification ban on Archbishop Romero! Here in El Salvador that excitement runs deep through the population. However, for those of us who either aren’t Catholic or aren’t really “in-the-know”, we might be a little behind. What does a “beatification ban” actually mean? Is Oscar Romero now a Saint? Not quite.

Archbishop Romero is still in the process of canonization. This process was first proposed in 1994 by Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council of the Family, after recognizing that Romero had a local following devoted to his memory.  Since then Romero’s case has passed through many of the steps without too much of a problem. For instance, his orthodoxy and loyalty to the church (two of the initial steps in the procedure) were confirmed by the Vatican. PROMO9This granted Romero “Servant of God” status, which is one of the titles on the way to becoming a Saint. Generally, sainthood requires the person in question to have performed two posthumous miracles, but  because Romero was martyred, Pope John Paul II assured that no miracle is required for his canonization.

Now, Romero just needs to go through the final two steps to become a saint. Beatification is step number three, when the Pope recognizes that a person has entered heaven and can intercede on the part of those who pray to him/her. For some, that recognition takes decades just to fully discern that the person really should be venerated as such. However for others, it just takes a few months.

Regardless, in the mean time, Salvadorans and others worldwide will continue to look at Monsignor Romero’s life and teachings for guidance, hold events and marches to commemorate  his assassination, and celebrate the Vatican recognition of Romero as a candidate for beatification.

For more reading on this topic, check out:


New Relationship, New Perspective

September 9, 2014

Laura Gilman visited El Salvador with the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton delegation in July 2014 and wrote a reflection to share about her moving experience. 

I want to share a story with you of how my immersion trip to El Salvador has changed me.

Several weeks before we left on our trip in early July, my Mother kept calling me telling me stories of the immigrant children arriving at the border in Arizona where she lived.  They had nothing with them and were sick and there was a fear of diseases spreading.  I thought, “How could a mother do this?  How could she let her child travel all alone thru Central America and Mexico and the danger they faced on this journey?”  Then I met a mother.  She is a mother in Rutillio Grande, our sistering community in El Salvador.  She told us her story of her son.  He is 17 years old and was a recipient of a scholarship from Seton to go to school and was a good student.  But he was afraid of the gangs and the violence.  He faced them on his way to school and was at the age that gangs were recruiting new members.   He was afraid for his life and asked to go to the U.S. and be with his father.   She finally agreed and got a loan at 20% interest and paid close to $7000 to a coyote guide who took him through Central America and Mexico and dropped him off at the border to cross on his own.  It took him almost 14 days to get to the US border with little food or water.  It was December when he arrived to the border and it was a time when there were freezing rains and ice storms in Texas.  He was freezing cold and wet when he crossed the Rio Grande.  He had hypothermia and literally thought he was going to die from the cold so he turned himself in to immigration.  They took him in and helped him.  They were able to reunite him with his father in Atlanta.  He has been allowed to stay in the US as long as he stays in school and gets good grades.

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We All Have a Story

September 5, 2014

We all have a story. All we need is a pair of ears to listen to it. 

On Saturday, August 30th, mothers gathered together to commemorate their loved ones who disappeared during the armed conflict and to demand that the government declare that day the National Day of the Victims of Forced Disappearance. 


Some of the mothers with photos of their disappeared loved ones

The testimonies given by the mothers of the disappeared on August 30th in the Plaza Civica in commemoration of the International Day of the Victims of Forced Disappearance were captivating and left many people with tear-filled eyes. The loss of a child is something that no one understands until they have experienced it  themselves.  However, in the case of the mothers of the disappeared they haven’t lived  through a definitive loss. Rather, because their children disappeared, the possibility that the children could be alive haunts the mothers and prohibits them from finding peace.  However, at the same time, this very uncertainty provides the mothers with they hope they need to continue in their struggle for justice.


Gloria Anaya

Gloria Anaya, the daughter of Herbert Anaya who was an activist killed during the armed conflict, told the story of one of the mothers of the disappeared. One day, the woman received a letter from her disappeared son. The letter came in a moment when she had almost lost all hope. However, the letter rejuvenated her. For the first time in years, she had proof that her son existed.  The government denied his existence and told the mother that she was lying about the disappearance because she had never had a son in the first place.  The letter was her proof.  Her son did exist. That letter gave her the hope to keep moving forward in her personal struggle for recompense.

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Delegates Reflect: Solidarity and Accompaniment in Action

September 3, 2014

Cretin Derham Hall (CDH) from St. Paul, Minnesota visited El Salvador in June and July, sending over  20 rising Seniors and 3 teachers in each group. The delegation learned about the Salvadoran reality, visited the sacred sites, traveled to El Mozote to commemorate the 1981 massacre,  connected with scholarship students, and spent time in communities of their sistering region San Vicente. CDH supports the high school scholarship programs in CRIPDES San Vicente, which provide students the financial accompaniment they need to pursue  higher education and positions of community leadership.


Solidarity and accompaniment were evident throughout the trips as the students, teachers, and Salvadorans opened themselves up to share with each other. The following are excerpts adapted from reflections provided by several of the CDH delegates.

CDH July delegates with sponsored student, Saraí, in San Carlos Lempa.

CDH July delegates with sponsored student, Saraí, in San Carlos Lempa.

Upon the July visit to San Carlos Lempa in their sister region of CRIPDES San Vicente, “The noises differed from those in the city of San Salvador-changing from car horns to roosters, cows, and dogs.  After yet another delicious meal the group headed out on a tour accompanied by some of the local youth to see the different programs that have taken off in the community.  We saw that the town has very little as far resources and money but survives by helping one another and making do with what they have.  One of our CDH values is community, this trip has given a whole new meaning to that value.  The community of Salvadorans as well as the new community consisting of the members on this trip have come together in solidarity and show very sincere support for one another.  The community that we have formed together is incredible, each member contributing a different perspective on all of the new experiences we have shared on this trip.”

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Community Partner Spotlight: Maria Madre de Los Pobres

September 1, 2014

“Es necesario acompañar al pueblo que lucha por su liberación.”-Monseñor Romero

“It is necessary to accompany the people that fight for their liberation.”-Monsignor Romero


Maria Madre’s Sister Parish, Visitation, dances with the community in front of the school building in 2013. We are currently excitedly preparing for their visit in October of this year.

This quote by Monseñor Romero is painted on a wall at the entrance to Maria Madre de Los Pobres Parish in La Chacra, San Salvador.  This parish lives this call. The area of La Chacra is among the poorest in San Salvador. The inhabitants are mainly displaced refugees from the era of the armed conflict of the 1980s. There is so much pain in the people of La Chacra stemming from collective and individual experiences during that time period. Pain tends to cause distrust, which in turn causes divisions and broken communities.  Today, this pain combined with high poverty rates and overpopulation, the gang problem that the entire country faces is specifically manifesting itself in La Chacra.

However, this local reality doesn’t deter the men and women of Maria Madre from caring for and accompanying the residents of La Chacra in their struggle for a life free of violence. Maria Madre runs a school that provides a place for single mothers to drop off their kids as they leave their homes early to go out and sell their wares. Mothers know that the school is a safe-haven and that the teachers can be trusted. There is also a health clinic within the parish grounds that is accessible to anyone and everyone who may need attention.  No one–tattooed (a common sign of gang membership) or not–is turned away.  Providing a place at the table for all creates a welcoming community where relationships are formed. This church answers Monseñor Romero’s call to accompany.  The Parish was created out of a need to walk with those displaced by the armed conflict, and María Madre continues standing with the people of La Chacra despite the local context of gang activity and violence. . In the words of Wendy Torres (a member of the Parish Clinic staff),  “Maria Madre de Los Pobres Parish demonstrates that the church is not a building but rather the work of building community.” Through their social programs María Madre creates  a sense of collectiveness with the vision of a neighborhood where  the people can be liberated from the reality of violence.


What Color is El Salvador: A Delegate’s Reflection

August 30, 2014

This piece is adapted from a reflection by Good Shepherd (KS) delegates Rick Galbraith and his daughter Paige Galbraith.  Rick and Paige visited El Salvador and their sistering community in June of this year, and shared their reflection in the Good Shepherd newsletter this past month.  Learn more about sistering relationships through SHARE

GS Kansas 2014 group pic

Good Shepard with the community of El Buen Pastor

We live in a world of color; red, yellow, blue and green.  The colors blend and form hues.  As people, we assign feelings and emotions to the spectrum.  Black, the absence of color and white, the blending of all color are considered polar opposites and can be assigned labels that evoke certain sentiments.  These two ‘colors’ allow for the most absolute contrast our minds can grasp.  To best see black, put it onto a white background and so forth.  But, what is gray?

Truth and lies are black and white.  Propaganda, rumor, exaggeration, gossip, and innuendo tend to create gray.  Either of two groups taking sides in a social controversy know they are right and the other is wrong.  To an observer where truth is difficult to discern, the controversy is usually gray.  To me, the plight of the people of El Salvador is gray.

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