The SHARE Blog

Blood on our Hands: SOA Watch

April 8, 2013

The  School of the Americas Watch (SOA Watch) is a activism organization that seeks to close the renamed Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, formerly known the US Army School of the Americas, through nonviolent resistance. The US military center is responsible for training those responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent  civilians, including Monseñor Romero and six Jesuit priests in El Salvador. The SOA WATCH participated in a delegation to El Salvador in March, 2013. Delegate Lisa Sullivan reflects on their journey:

If ever there were a more compelling tale to provoke a stampede to shut the doors of the School of the Americas, it would be the tale of tiny El Salvador. As 25 of us discovered on a recent SOA Watch delegation there, even former  supporters admit: the time has come.

SHARE's Katy Strader and Sarah Hall with Father Roy, founder of SOA Watch.

SHARE’s Katy Strader and Sarah Hall with Father Roy, founder of SOA Watch.

The legacy of that school is etched in blood on the hearts and minds of Salvadorans, and on the walls, parks and pastures of their cities and towns. A wall in central San Salvador with 35,000 names engraved, most of them murdered by orders by  SOA graduates.  A makeshift cross under the shade of a conacaste tree where four bodies of US churchwomen were dumped. A garden where rose bushes grow on the spots where six Jesuits, their housekeeper and her daughter were murdered by the SOA- formed Atlacatl Battalion.  A closet with the possessions left behind by Monseñor Romero, assassinated on orders of an SOA graduate. There are no shoes: Romero was buried in the only pair he owned.

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Martyr for Truth & Justice

April 2, 2013

On the 24th of March we commemorated 33 years since Monseñor Oscar Arnulfo Romero’s assassination, our pastor, friend, and voice of the humble, the poor and oppressed.  Despite threats he continued to denounce the injustices and oppression that we were living until the death squads ended his life. They believed they were going stop the people’s struggle for justice and the establishment of a democratic system where human rights are respected, in which there is freedom of expression and a reduction in social inequalities.

IMG_3967However, history tells us this was not the case. The people rose up in the struggle in different moments, with twelve years of armed conflict, more than 75,000 assassinated, and thousands forcibly disappeared. In 1992, the Peace Accords were signed, which put an end to the conflict, opened spaces for political and social participation, created new institutions like the National Civil Police (PNC), the Human Rights Ombudsman, etc. The Truth Commission responsible for investigating the grave crimes committed during the conflict indicate in their report that those responsible for the assassination of Monseñor Romero were the death squads from the extreme right, composed of civilians and military men, commanded by Major Roberto D’Aubuisson (founder of the ARENA party) and Captain Álvaro Saravia.

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CONFRAS Defines Food Sovereignty

April 1, 2013

An interview with original CONFRAS founder, Miguel Aleman, and current CONFRAS president, Abel Nahin Lara Ruiz.

What is food sovereignty?

It is about food and land. We are capable of producing our own healthy food in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way. And we want and need proper land to do so. We want to produce our own food. We want to take charge of our lives.

Yams and yuca

Yams and yuca are abundantly grown in cooperatives throughout the country

What does food sovereignty mean in El Salvador?

In El Salvador we import more than 85% of our food. What we produce we are sending away. Why are we doing this? Because the right wing government wanted us to be a commercial economy. Instead of people who can feed themselves fresh food, we feed ourselves fast food, soda and more junk.

Food sovereignty would mean producing our own food, eating our own food, and sharing our knowledge of land, crops, and liberation. Food sovereignty means fighting for the right to land. That is why the land reform was and is so important.

What are some examples?


Even pomegranates grow in El Salvador

CONFRAS is an example of course. But mostly what we are doing with our campesino to campesino program is a tangible way to see food sovereignty. We also just pushed for the government to recognize as an official day, the day the land reform was signed.

The international community has helped us a lot with this. Because of their support we have been able to diversify our crops. We now have entire families growing tomatoes, fruit trees, and other crops.

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El Salvador’s Disappeared Children: Marina’s Story

March 28, 2013

Marina Ortiz spent her childhood in a children’sMarina Ortiz shelter run by Emmanuel Baptist Church in San Salvador. Assuming her family had abandoned her, Marina grew up not knowing where she came from, who her family was, or even her own name.

Her life changed when Father Jon Cortina asked Pastor Miguel Tomas Castro, the pastor at Emmanuel Baptist Church, for support to start Pro-Busqueda, an organization to search for children disappeared during the war. When Pastor Castro told him there were several children in the shelter whose families were unknown, Father Cortina visited the shelter. They realized that Marina and several other children had likely been disappeared during the war. In 1995, Marina filed a report with Pro-Busqueda.

Only a few years later, in 1997, Marina’s family contacted Pro-Busqueda looking for a little girl that fit her description. Following a search and DNA testing, Marina met her biological family for the first time.

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Monument Declared Cultural Property

March 25, 2013

Continue to join Salvadorans in standing for truth, justice, and reparations during the Promemoria Historica tour, featuring Marina Ortiz and Patricia Garcia of Pro-Historical Memory Commission and Bethany Loberg of SHARE El Salvador. They will be traveling to 14 U.S. cities from April 7-May 9, 2013.

The new blue and white emblem recognizes the monument as a cultural site protected by the International Treaty for the Protection of Cultural Heritage

The new blue and white emblem recognizes the monument as a cultural site protected by the International Treaty for the Protection of Cultural Heritage.

When you arrive in Cuscatlán Park you cannot ignore the black granite wall edging the back of the property, solid and glittering with thousands of neat engravings. Upon closer inspection, you see the engravings are actually thousands of names, carefully inscribed, and faithfully remembered by the ones they left behind. These names on the Monument to Truth and Memory declare those who the government forcefully disappeared and killed during the Civil War.

On Friday, March 15th, Cunegunda Peña, Ana Cisneros, Dolores Hernandez, and dozens of other mothers, sisters, brothers, and grandsons searching for their disappeared family members gathered with solemn excitement for the official recognition of the Monument to Truth and Memory as Culturally Property of El Salvador. They joined members of the Pro-Historical Memory Commission and representatives of the Salvadoran Government, UNESCO, and the Inter-Institutional International Humanitarian Law Committee, who coordinated the declaration and placement of a large blue and white checkered emblem on the monument.

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Northwest Student stays connected to El Salvador

March 18, 2013

Northwest delegate Katie Lawrence shares her experience during the Northwest School’s delegation to El Salvador in February of this year.

 I traveled to El Salvador as part of a two-week delegation with my high school, The Northwest School.  I have been learning about the history of El Salvador for part of this year in Spanish class, specifically focusing on the civil war and the involvement of the United States in the destruction of their country.

Katie on the last night in Arcatao

Katie on the last night in Arcatao

This trip is a very special experience for me because I am not just learning about the history of a country, I am learning about the history of my biological family.  I was adopted by my parents when I was four months old, and I have always loved them and considered them my only family. However, I am still curious about my Central American family, and this delegation has opened up many realities that they could have lived. My biological father was born in San Vicente, El Salvador in 1975, fleeing the country as a teenager, due to the violence during the civil war. He lived in refugee camps in Guatemala before making his way to the United States. There he met my mother in California.  She was from Nicaragua.  This reflection is about some of my thoughts and feelings during the delegation.

I think this is one of the most important things I have ever done. My only other experience in Latin America was a trip to Guatemala, where I visited Guatemala City and Antigua, and worked in a hospital for the physically and mentally disabled.  That experience was different because I didn’t feel a direct connection to the people. I sympathized with the pain they had lived due to the United States (the massacre of many indigenous peoples), but the stories told to me here in El Salvador felt more like the story of my family and people.

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Rutilio Grande Lives On through Community

March 14, 2013

Father Rutilio Grande spent his life speaking on behalf of the rural poor and marginalized farmers of El Salvador as they demanded rights from their oppressive government. He organized peasants to demand respect, while questioning the  over-reaching hands of those in power. The priest of the El Paisnal municipality was on his way to give mass when he was assassinated along with two others in 1977. Every year, communities across El Salvador commemorate his martyrdom to bring forth his commitment to the people and voice for justice that women and men, young and old, continue to follow. Last Saturday, the community of Rutilio Grande celebrated with a march through the streets, accompanied by the batucada youth drummers, a soccer tournament, games for the kids, traditional dancing, and a horse race.  

SHARE scholarship students and women’s groups in the UCRES region organized another event on March 12th for the communities in Aguilares to commemorate Father Rutilio Grande. SHARE Grassroots partners: Northwest School, St. John Francis Regis, Good Shepherd Church (KS), SEAS, Milwaukee Synod, and EMU helped make the celebration possible, igniting passion in the young adults who will soon be leaders and in the women who are already leading, all fighting for justice and equality. 

These photos document the community of Rutilio Grande celebrationg the town’s foundation. Rutilio Grande presente!

Gang Truce is One Year Old. Can there be Lasting Peace?

March 11, 2013


Two of El Salvador’s major gangs—Barrio 18 and MS-13—committed to a truce a year ago. The potential for lasting peace remains, but gang-related violence and unrest persist. The assassination of Geovanni Morales on last week highlights this reality. On March 6th, two assailants murdered Morales outside the church of San Francisco de Asis, where he worked with the Passionist Social Service (SSPAS) in the Mejicanos suburb of San Salvador. As his family, including two children, mourns his death, so does the community working towards an end to gang-related violence.

Geovanni Morales went through rehabilitation processes with SSPAS and then worked as the coordinator of the reinsertion program, which helps other young adults and youth break free from gangs and integrate into society. We attended a forum in October 2012 during which Morales discussed the gang truce.

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This Sunday: National Coming Out of the Shadows Day

March 8, 2013

Two members of the Immigrant Justice League in Chicago come out of the shadows

Two members of the Immigrant Justice League in Chicago come out of the shadows

Written by SHARE staff and EBIYC organizer Blanca Vasquez

This year the Bay Area will be having its first Coming Out of the Shadows event in Oakland, California on March 10th at the city’s City Hall from 11am to 12:30pm. The focus will be not solely on undocumented youth coming out but for older undocumented people to do so as well. We invite and urge our undocumented adults to take part in this event and join forces with our youth to develop a stronger voice and gain more power in the debate on Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

For the past three years undocumented youth have challenged the U.S. government by publicly proclaiming themselves “UNDOCUMENTED, UNAFRAID, UNASHAMED!” in many different ways. Through a diverse set of actions like sit-ins, civil disobedience, rallies and even taking over legislative offices, undocumented youth have downright embarrassed the U.S. government by explicitly demonstrating that the current immigration system is broken and dysfunctional. The efforts of hundreds and thousands of undocumented youth have resulted in progressive policies like AB 540, CA Dream Act, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and even set the stage for a formal proposal for Comprehensive Immigration Reform in 2013.

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Creative Protest Calls for Ban to Cerro Blanco Mine

March 5, 2013

“We are calling on the Guatemalan government to stop this mining project and on the Salvadoran government to guarantee the rights of Salvadorans!”

Over 150 enthusiastic members of the Mesa (National Roundtable Against Metallic Mining) and other solidarity groups gathered outside of the Guatemalan Embassy to protest the Vancouver-based Goldcorp’s Cerro Blanco mine on Tuesday, February 26.

A group of thirty supporters dressed up and danced the Harlem Shake to bring attention to the protest

A group of thirty supporters dressed up and danced the Harlem Shake to bring attention to the protest

Led by Alejandro Labrador of the Mesa, a group of thirty staged an anti-mining Harlem shake, with participants dressed as mining company owners, gold, Mother Earth, and water. Surprisingly this is not the first Harlem Shake in El Salvador, but it was a very creative one! 

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