The SHARE Blog

State of Emergency in El Salvador

October 17, 2011

Heavy rainfall in El Salvador and throughout Central America since Sunday, October 9th has claimed the lives of at least 32 people and forced over 20,000 people to evacuate their homes and communities to emergency shelters. Accumulated rain greater than during Hurricane Mitch in 1998 has caused hundreds of landslides and mudslides, closing roads, destroying bridges, and leaving many communities cut off. Up until a week ago, many farmers shared that this year would be their best harvest in years; much of this crop will now be lost, rotting in the fields. A state of emergency was declared on October 14th and continues today, with rain predicted to continue until Wednesday.

“The massive nature, extension and intensity of the phenomenon puts us to the test as a community, as a people,” President Funes said on national television and radio Sunday. Funes has repeatedly called for solidarity: “Only working together, united, hand-in-hand, will we be able to bring relief to the thousands of families who are victims.”

The Lempa River Double Normal Size

Although the national government response has been exceptional compared to past years—SHARE counterparts in the Bajo Lempa report that this is the first time representatives from national government institutions including the Ministry of Agriculture and Civil Protection have arrived to help—there is still urgent need for supplies, including food, drinking water, blankets and mattresses. Thousands of people were immediately forced to abandon their homes and communities, bringing with them only a few changes of clothing.

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Lives on the Line Against Mining in El Salvador

October 13, 2011

By Annette Becker, SHARE delegate June 2011

During a recent trip to El Salvador as part of a delegation from my parish, Good Shepherd, which is located in Shawnee, KS, the most powerful part of the trip for me (in a week of many intense experiences) was the visit to the Environmental Committee of Cabanas (CAC). It was a late addition to our itinerary that began with an inquiry from our leader regarding whether we felt comfortable going, as a member of the committee had recently been kidnapped and murdered for his work as an activist. He had been posting fliers announcing a meeting regarding concerns about the impact of proposed mining in the area. Some members of the group had a few questions regarding safety on this “out of the way” visit and we were each given a chance to respond. If even one person had concerns, we would not have made the trip to Ilobasco, Cabanas. Every single one of us responded that we wanted to do this, hoping that our presence would offer some support to those engaged in the struggle. I am so grateful that we did.

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A Delegate Reflection on Solidarity: Building Relationships, instead of Buildings

October 10, 2011

The following is a presentation given by St Patrick’s delegate, Theresa Edwards, as part of Global Solidarity Week. After their delegation to El Savlador and Nueva Trinindad, Chalatenango in July 2011, youth from St Patrick’s created this petition about mining.  

If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” These words of Lilla Watson, an Australian aboriginal activist, capture what I believe to be the true meaning of solidarity. We are all called, whether by our consciences, or by our Catholic faith, to be in solidarity with others in our global community.

A response to this calling came to me in the opportunity to participate in a youth delegation to my church’s sister parish of Nueva Trinidad in El Salvador this past July. I had been part of a previous delegation there when I was twelve, and it radically changed my global perspective. Then this year, the chance came up for me to go again, and it was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

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Fire with more Fire: Reflections on Living with Violence

September 26, 2011

The following is an excerpt of a longer article written by former SHARE staff Danny Burridge.  Today, Danny works at the María Madre de los Pobres Parish in La Chacra.

Sometimes we do a dinamica to help cultivate the kids’ creativity. We have one of them tell a story that includes actions, and as the kid is telling, the rest of us have to perform the actions as they come up. When it was Oscar’s turn he had us walking to the corner store to buy some queso fresco, chips and a two liter of Coka. Then Naomy took us staggering and gasping through the desert with no water to get to the United States. 

With Jonathan, we were just minding our own business, walking down the street outside the parish, when suddenly the soldiers rounded the corner, grabbed us and threw us up against the wall of the nearest house, shouted obscenities at us, kicked out our legs, hit us with the butts of their guns, and then searched us. They didn’t find anything but they thought we were gang members, so they kept us there, all of us, the 40 year old third grade teacher Deysi, our 17 year old drawing instructor Bryan, myself, and a smattering of 15 or so boys and girls between the ages of 9 and 13. We were left kneeling down on the mildly clean beige tiling of the Open School, sweating, our hands crossed on top of our heads, acting out the blows in the back, our faces embodying the submission, the humiliation, but stifling our laughter too. And Jonathan was there smiling intently, loving the sinister control he had, framed by posters of non-violence and pastel artwork on the walls, the fans whirring oh-so-slowly overhead.

And this is supposed to be part of the solution to the violence: that entire geographic zones be black-listed and militarized; that overwhelmingly good and honest people there be treated like criminals and thereby come closer to embodying the rage and violence of that criminalization; that the artisans of institutional violence (the soldiers) combat capitalism’s superfluous youth organized into networks of peripheral violence (the gangs).   Funes has acquiesced to the perverse logic of an inhuman system that convinces us that the only way to fight fire is with more fire. 

And so now we’re ablaze. 

Read on here.

Theater for Social Change in Chalatenango

September 20, 2011

On September 10th 2011, the annual Youth Encounter was held in San Antonio Los Ranchos,  Chalatenango, a part of the SHARE-CCR Youth Leadership Development Project that provides high school scholarships for 16 youth leaders. Around 50 young people came together to laugh, learn, and connect with other young leaders. The agenda was lively, interactive and youth-led. 

 Although the content was serious and focused on youth development and organizing in Chalatenango, a fun spin on education and awareness was presented: education for social change through theater.

 In the first play, a young man wants to get involved and do something meaningful and important.  His opportunity comes, and he visits the home of two women in his community to sign them up for a literacy circle.  The younger woman is immediately convinced and excited.  The older woman resists, saying, “What do I need to learn to read and write for?  I’m old!,” “I have too much housework to do.  I can’t just leave to go off to meetings,” and “My husband won’t let me.” 

As the conversation between the young man and two women continues, young people in the audience are given the tools and arguments to get people in their community involved in the literacy circle.  These are the reasons they’ll hear for why people don’t want to participate, and now they have ways to respond.   The theater piece is engaging, interesting, funny, and a creative way to get young people involved, explain the importance of the literacy program, and give them the tools to organize people in their communities Read More »

Loving La Joya: Niña Juana’s Story

September 19, 2011

La Joya is a small community of thirteen families in the municipality of El Paisnal. The majority of the families are originally from the area, repopulating the community in 1993 after the demobilization of guerrilla combatants that came with the signing of the Peace Accords.  The road into La Joya is full of butterflies this time of year, attracted to the community by the seemingly endless, brightly colored blooms of the flowers most families have in their front yards. It is a joyful welcome to this organized, rural community. 

 La Joya is blessed by its small size. Each family has a big-enough plot of land for their home and sufficient land to plant their fields, while the community has land for the community center and communal coffee farms.  Niña Juana jokes that they only drink coffee grown in the community; since they grow, roast and grind it themselves, it tastes just the way they like it, not bitter like the store-bought instant coffee you find in many rural communities.  “I love La Joya,” Niña Juana shares.  “It’s organized, it’s small, and we all get along.  It’s safe, and quiet.”

 The community is located near a natural spring.  Through a community-built water system, mostly constructed with PVC pipes and rather ancient looking wire, they and five other communities in the area have safe drinking water. Along the northern edge of the community runs the Rio Sucio, a river unfortunately true to its name: highly contaminated with industrial waste, the water is unsuitable for humans, cattle and crops alike. This community will be key in UCRES’ organizing about environmental protection and advocacy efforts to clean up this river.

 While she loves her community, Niña Juana laments that, like most rural communities in El Salvador, “there’s no work here.  People have to leave the community to find paid work.”  Read More »

How Do You Begin to Forgive? A Reflection on Reconciliation

September 13, 2011

“How can forgiveness begin when those who are responsible for these crimes have been granted impunity by the Amnesty Law? Bishop Chavez said that in order for peace to come, the Salvadoran people should seek truth and justice with the intention of purifying the memory of those who were killed or disappeared.”

Bishop Rosa Chávez also told us that in order to bring about change in El Salvador, we must change our own reality, and first bring about change in our own country. Near the end of the meeting, he left us with some powerful words: “We are one human family. We are saved or lost together, that is the only path.”

The following reflection on meeting Monseñor Rosa Chavez was written by Anna Kincaid, a member of Good Shepard Parish in Shawnee, KS, who participated in a SHARE delegation this June.

While in El Salvador, the Good Shepherd delegation from Shawnee, Kansas had the opportunity to meet with the Auxiliary Bishop of San Salvador, Bishop Gregorio Rosa Chávez.  Just before meeting with him, our delegation had visited the Monument to Memory and Truth.  We heard the stories of two women who had several family members’ names on the wall who were killed during the civil conflict.  Again, in the meeting with the bishop, the pain from the war that the Salvadoran people still feel was reinforced because he mainly spoke about the process of reconciliation following the war. 

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The Salvadoran Supreme Court Favors Impunity

September 6, 2011

This past Wednesday, the 24th of August, ten magistrates of the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the nine soldiers involved in the assassination of Jesuit priests and two of their staff members. A Spanish judge required that the soldiers be tried as the primary perpetrators of these crimes, which have shaken the Salvadoran and international communities. The ruling granted the soldiers unrestricted freedom and makes clear that INTERPOL can not capture them without an order from the highest court of El Salvador.

The Court argued that INTERPOL’s red alert is only to locate suspects and does not involve an order of capture for the purpose of extradition. In addition, the Court mentioned that it had not received any official requests on the part of the Spanish government to capture and extradite the suspected soldiers, thus the Court granted them unrestricted freedom, ignoring international conventions signed by El Salvador. Once again, victims of crimes against humanity – such as the assassination of Monsignor Romero, the Jesuit priests, the El Mozote and El Sumpul massacres, and the thousands of “disappeared” during the armed conflict (El Salvador’s Civil War, 1980-1992) – in addition to their families, have been deprived of their right to fair and full justice.

It is impossible to forgive and to forget without knowing the truth about what has happened. It has been twenty years since the Jesuit priests’ case was first heard in Salvadoran courts, but the legal procedure has been heavily tampered with and has left many doubts, in addition to failing to try the masterminds behind the crimes – even in the wake of the Spanish courts’ search for justice. Instead, those responsible for executing the law and justice in our country have yet again voted in favor of the criminals without regard to international law and treaties

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A Summer of Transformation

September 2, 2011

This reflection was written by Bethany Logberg, SHARE Sistering Accompaniment Coordinator

What we know as summer in the U.S. draws to a close as students begin the school year once again. Here in El Salvador we have come to the close of the “summer delegation season,”  always the busiest time of the year for delegation leaders.

Over the past two and a half months, four delegations visited El Salvador, comprised mainly of youth encountering this country with its poignant mixture of sorrow, joy, rage, divisions,  and indomitable hope for the first time. I had the blessing of accompanying them as they met Salvadorans who spoke out for justice during the war, who speak for justice today, and who are working in their communities for opportunities and leadership amongst youth and women, and  for agricultural practices more in harmony with the earth and local needs. Salvadorans like Madre Guadalupe, a member of the Committee of the Family Members of the Disappeared, whose husband was brutally killed, and who continually accompanied others in the search for their disappeared and imprisoned loved ones during the war and has never stopped the search for truth and justice, and like Joscelyn, a teenager who helps prevent teen pregnancy in her community by educating young women about their sexual and reproductive health rights – a topic usually closed to discussion.  We were constantly challenged to think how we would follow Monseñor Romero’s example and stand for life in our small every day decisions, from what we eat to how we treat others.

Towards the end of each delegation, we spent two to three nights in a rural community in the groups sistering region – a time to interact directly with community members and host families, join into peoples´ daily lives, and learn about the community. This summer, communities offered delegation some of the most incredible welcomes I have ever seen. I will try to offer a snapshot of a few of the arrivals. Read More »

Delegate Reflection: A Mother’s Testimony

September 1, 2011

This reflection was written by Sophia Goodfriend who participated in a SHARE delegation this past February with the Northwest School in Seattle, WA.

I found the dignity and respect, yet profound struggle behind each person I met in El Salvador striking. Despite the unimaginable horrors many have lived, they still carry themselves with incredible self-respect and never fail to treat those around them with the same importance. Take for example Alicia, a woman who came to share with us her story as we gathered in Parque Cuscatlan to learn about a monument erected by The Committee of the Family Members of the Disappeared and various other organizations. These N.G.O.s along with other Human Rights groups inaugurated the 45 x 8 ft. plaques inscribed with the names of the dead or disappeared during the Civil War without funds or support from the central government.

  A tiny old woman, Alicia came obviously dressed up for the occasion. Her poise and dignity alone was noteworthy. Then she began to speak, quietly at first, but with time her voice grew louder as she recounted the way in which she lost the first three of her five children in the Civil War. She described the screams she uttered when she was shoved up against the wall of her own house, with a gun pointed at her face. She could do nothing but look on, helpless, as soldiers took two of her sons and one daughter and forced them into the back of a truck in the dead of night. She spoke of the weeks she spent traveling the country, going from jail to jail searching for her children with no avail. Listening to this small and frail old woman in her nice clothes tell such a painfully true story with such profound composure and dignity was an experience so compelling no words could do justice to the emotions it provoked within me. Alicia deserved more respect than we could ever give her.

However, what is even more striking is that Alicia’s story is by no means unheard of. There is quite literally no one in El Salvador whose life was not affected directly by the Civil War. Alicia’s story was just one, one out of the millions of equally tragic stories that live within the Salvadoran people. It was the Salvadoran people, each of whom held such a tragic story of profound suffering behind their incredible kindness and evident vivacity that so expanded my world view, but first blew it apart.

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