Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Photos of Nueva Santa Teresa, San Vicente

Last week, SHARE staff Danielle and Tedde visited the community of Nueva Santa Teresa in San Vicente, they were accompanied by two friends of ours, one of which is a photographer. See Pat's pictures of San Vicente on this website:

Monday, December 14, 2009

Assistance provided to affected communites

After being hit by heavy rains of November 7th, which killed almost two hundred people and destroyed around 10,000 homes, SHARE put out the word that emergency relief was needed and that we would be fundraising to provide immediate and long term assistance to those affected communities. We were overwhelmed by the generous response of individuals, groups and entire communities in the States who wanted to provide assistance to those suffering from the loss of their homes and of their loved ones. We would like to thank all those who have contributed and continue to contribute to those affected by the heavy rains. From the donations that we have collected we have been able to contribute support four different regions of the country. In La Paz, we worked through the organization ISD to give $5,000 for mattresses, bed sheets and blankets, and food packets. In San Martin we were able to give $5,000 to the organization REDES in order to buy personal hygiene packets to affected families. In Aguilares and El Paisnal we worked through our long time sistering counterpart UCRES to provide $7,000 to buy stoves and gas tanks. And in Southern La Libertad we worked with CORDES and CRIPDES SUR to distribute $5,000 worth of mattresses, bed sheets and blankets and food packets.

SHARE would like to thank especially thank two groups actually volunteered their time to come to El Salvador to hand out some of the money they fundraised. One group of those groups, that we would like to thank, is the Salvadoran American Community from Washington D.C. who raised a substantial amount of money for their affected brothers and sisters and sent a delegation to El Salvador to help administer part of those donations. We were lucky enough to spend a day with them on November 24th, as they handed out ninety-eight packets of food and water to the families of San Carlos 1 in the municipality of San Pedro Masahuat, department of La Paz.

The other group that we were lucky to accompany was CRECEN and America para Todos from Houston, Texas. A delegation from their group joined us on December 5th to first accompany SHARE to CRIPDES and CORDES South in La Libertad to pass out mattresses, bed sheets and food packets to 177 affected families in the communities of San Diego and Santa Cruz. We then travelled to CORDES UCRES in Aguilares and El Paisnal for the group to distribute stoves to 140 families. The mayor of Aguilares contributed to the donation by including a tank of gas with each stove given out.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Reality of El Salvador, Part 1: The History of El Salvador

In August 2009, SHARE El Salvador Director, Marina Peña, gave a talk to Cretin-Derham High School about the National Reality of El Salvador. This talk has been split into three parts: The History of El Salvador, Economics and Violence in El Salvador and Agriculture in El Salvador. This is the first part of the talk.

Part 1: The History of El Salvador

My name is Marina Peña, I'm the director of SHARE here in El Salvador. Welcome to this small country. El Salvador is a country with much history: much history of struggle and hope. Despite the critical situation in which we live, Salvadorans don't lose the hope of living in a better country. I'm going to tell you a little about the principal problems that we have in our country. In the subject of economics, we are confronting four main problems. The first problem which is a historic one is the problem of concentration of wealth. The wealth is in the hands of a small number of families who are very rich while the majority of the population is very poor.

This problem has provoked various movements throughout our history coming from the classes that feel marginalized acting out against the classes who have the power. For example this happened after the independence from the Spanish state as it was Spain that governed us for hundreds of years. You remember that Christopher Columbus came and colonized us at the end of the 1400's. So Spain dominated us for 300 long years and during that time they robbed from us the riches in this areas mostly being gold. The eliminated our culture. There is very little indigenous culture in our country and there used to be so much more. They destroyed the language that our indigenous spoke which was Nahuatl, and the majority of the cities they found they also destroyed. The only thing we have left now are buildings or structures that the indigenous were able to hide and the Spanish weren't able to detect. They also imposed their religion upon us over the religious beliefs that are ancestors had. It was in 1811 when the first independence struggles started to happen in Central America and it was 1821 when they achieved independence from Spain. But those who took power after independence continued exploiting the poor in our country. The people who took control where what we call Creoles, the children of the Spanish, who substituted Spanish power. They maintained a regimen of exploitation against the majority who were people who lived in the countryside, campesinos and indigenous. And so because of this exploitation and because they were kicking many indigenous off their land, there was an uprising of indigenous who were protesting against the extreme poverty they lived in and being kicked off their land. This uprising was crushed by the army, through many political assassinations, the uprising was put down by throwing the indigenous in jail or murdering them.

But fear can only keep people down for so long and in 1932 there was second uprising but this time it wasn't only the indigenous, but all campesinos. This campesino movement was accompaniment by the Communist party in El Salvador that had only been around in El Salvador for two years and one of its leaders was a man named Farabundo Marti. The majority of this happened in the western part of the country in Sonsonate, Santa Ana and Ahuachapan. From this uprising rose up leaders like Farabundo Marti and two other students named Luna and Zapata. The three of them studied at the National University here in San Salvador. This uprising was once again crushed by the army and there was a great massacre in the western part of the county and it is estimated that there were about 30,000 indigenous and campesinos killed in January and February of 1932.

Because the basic problems of social injustice were not solved, there is another movement that comes in 1970 when workers and campesinos began to demand better salaries and social justice. It started around 1972 and until 1979 we see a wave of organization that started in the campo and moved to the city where artisans, workers and farmers came together and started to organize. This movement was inspired by the Cuban revolution and the Nicaraguan Sandinista revolution in 1979, but the principle motivation was the social injustice in place in our country. It was in this context that Monseñor Romero, the four churchwomen and approximately 80,000 other people were killed from about 1980-1992. In 1980, the civil war begins and it lasted until the peace accords in 1992. As I said, this war cost us 80,000 deaths and about 8,000 disappeared, hundreds of political prisoners and of course many people who left the country due to political persecution. It was in these years that many Salvadorans left our country and went to live in the states due to oppression. In those years to say something like, beans are expensive or salaries are low was to mark yourself as a communist and to be killed. In 1992 they signed the peace accords which ended the armed conflict. But the problems of social injustices and the concentration of wealth was not resolved. And this is a problem that has persisted and is now even more pronounced.

Photo 1: Christopher Columbus, conquistador

Photo 2: Anastasio Aquino, Leader in the indigenous uprising of 1833

Photo 3: Farabundo Marti, Leader of campesino uprising in 1932

Photo 4: Oscar Romero, assassinated Archbishop

The Reality of El Salvador, Part 2: Economics and Violence in El Salvador

In August 2009, SHARE El Salvador Director, Marina Peña, gave a talk to Cretin-Derham High School about the National Reality of El Salvador. This talk has been split into three parts: The History of El Salvador, Economics and Violence in El Salvador and Agriculture in El Salvador. This is the second part of the talk.

Part 2: The Economy and Violence in El Salvador

They say in our country that 10 percent of the population has 90 percent of the wealth and 10 percent of the wealth is distributed among 90 percent of the population. This is what provokes the majority of the problems that we have in our country like delinquency and violence. Its what provokes the social struggles. Just a few minutes before I entered this room, the police were chasing a thief down the street, which is a common sight in our country. This is not just chance, its a product of a long history of social problems that have not been resolved. In the last 20 years under the ARENA government, this inequality has become worse. But apart from this, we have problems with the entity with whom we do the majority of our business and that is the United States. The economy of El Salvador is in crisis right now in large part due to the poor administration of the ARENA government of the past twenty years. But also, in part because of the economic crisis that is affecting the United States and that now affects the entire world. But it affects us a little more directly for three reasons. First because the majority of production in El Salvador is sold to the United States. 80 percent of the products that El Salvador export is from the United States. Of course if the United States isn't buying as much as it did before, we won't sell as much, and this affects our economy. The principal product that the United States buys is textiles, but also some traditional Salvador products because we have two and a half million people from our country living in the United States.

Now we come to the second aspect, those two and a half million Salvadorans send back 3 billion dollars annually in remittances to their families in El Salvador. And those 3 billion dollars that immigrants send to their families, balances our the commercial spending here in El Salvador. The commercial balance is what a country looks to obtain in its trading policies. You want to balance out what you export and import and you look to sell more than you buy so that you gain money. All countries in the world have this economic index to rate their economy. Well here in El Salvador we always have a deficit in our economy because we always buy more than we sell. In El Salvador, the only way that we have achieved an equilibrium is from the remittances that Salvadorans in the states send back to their family here. But many Salvadorans in the United States work in constructions, one of the sectors most affected by the crisis. And the effect of that is that the remittances have lowered in the last two years. So our economy is slowly sinking because we are selling less to the United States and we are receiving less in remittances.

The third economic problem that we have is that we are dollarized, which means we use the US dollar. So we don't have a monetary policy because we don't have our own currency. This limits the government from making certain policies that would allow for an equilibrium in our economy that we might have if we weren't dollarized. This also makes us more vulnerable to the depreciation of the dollar on world scales, like when the dollar loses value. The result is that our economy is in deceleration, which means that the level of growth in El Salvador is negative 2%. This of course, aggravates our social problems that are already in a grave situation here in our country. For example there is more unemployment, the health care system is in crisis, there is not enough medicine, hospitals or medical staff to deal with the crisis. On top of all of this comes H1N1 which affects the poorest sectors of the country. So it becomes a vicious cycle, there are no jobs, so there is no money and people get sick and there are not adequate hospitals, and it just continues. And of course it makes other problems worse such as violence and crime.

Our country suffers from an epidemic of violence. We currently have a level of violence that we had while we were at war. We have an average of 11 deaths a day in our country. I've heard of some places in the States where there are about five violent deaths a year and in our country we have 11 violent deaths a day, the majority of whom are young men, but also young women. This problem has made us the most violent country in all of Latin America and one of the ten most dangerous countries in the world. You all should know also that violence can become business, in our country there are people interested in violence continuing. Here there are many big businesses that run security companies, and they basically have their own armies in our country. For example a private security business can have around 5,000 people who are armed, for these businesses its good for them that there is violence. If this country were to become peaceful, there would be no use for the security businesses. You all have probably noticed because it is very different from the States here, that every business has an armed man standing outside the door. And all the neighborhoods are surrounded by armed men. Everyone one of us who live in this country can pay for our guard. I pay twelve dollars a month for guard in the neighborhood where I live. Thats how the world works here, someone is making money of the violence. Therefore, it is in their interest that violence continues. During the ARENA government, violence was basically promoted. Now they are making an effort to make policies that promote violence prevention. But of course we won't see the results of the policies immediately, rather in coming years.

The Reality of El Salvador, Part 3: Agriculture

In August 2009, SHARE El Salvador Director, Marina Peña, gave a talk to Cretin-Derham High School about the National Reality of El Salvador. This talk has been split into three parts: The History of El Salvador, Economics and Violence in El Salvador and Agriculture in El Salvador. This is the third part of the talk.

Part 3: Agriculture in El Salvador

Another one of the large problems we have is the lack of employment in the campo. This was provoked by the fact that in 20 years of ARENA government, they destroyed agriculture in our country. There was a man who was the President of El Salvador named Cristiani, he has a business in which he sells agricultural seeds and products and he is the only one who sells seeds in this country. So in 1992 when they started to implement the neo-liberal model in our country, they negotiated with agricultural producers in the United States, that El Salvador would dedicate itself to the maquila industry. So that it wouldn't be necessary to have agricultural producers here in El Salvador, it would be cheaper to buy the corn and the beans from the United States and bring it here. Of course, it was cheaper because agricultural companies in the States are subsidized by the government. So they can sell their grains at a much cheaper price. This agreement made between Cristiani and the agricultural businesses in the States, forced small farmers into bankruptcy. People stopped cultivating, because they were spending money in seeds sold by Cristiani and agricultural supplies but when they went to sell the product, the prices were so low that they lost money, it put them in debt, they didn't even cover their costs. What many campesinos did was to sell their land and go to the United States undocumented. There are entire towns of Salvadorans living in the United States for this reason. Here in the Eastern zone in Morazan, San Miguel y La Union in El Salvador, where entire populations have left together to go to the States, but they left as a result of policies here.

What happens when a country can't produce its own food? It becomes very vulnerable and when the the United Nations World Food Program announced that there was a world food crisis, they started to think what is going to happen to the countries that don't even produce their own food? Like El Salvador. In 2005, when Hurricane Stan flooded farm fields in all of Central America, we had a food crisis. For example we buy vegetables from Guatemala and Honduras and meat and beans in Nicaragua. So when Stan came through and crops were lost, those countries wanted to save what they produced for their own people, they didn't want to sell to us. Here in El Salvador where there is no longer food production, there was as great crisis. The basic nutrition of our country is beans and corn. In 2005, the beans cost between 45 cents and 50 cents per pound, but after this crisis the price of beans shot up to 1.25 a pound. In our country there are families that live on a dollar a day, so those families couldn't even buy beans. What does that mean? That these families are condemned to die of hunger. And that is one of the big problems we have with agriculture. Before the Civil, 19 percent of the gross domestic product was agriculture. In 2005, agriculture represented about 1% of our GDP. That goes to show how ARENA governments destroyed the agricultural sector and that is one of the great jobs that this new government has, to reactivate the agriculture, because it is the life and work of the campesino population.

Another problem that we have in agriculture is the excessive use of chemicals. In our country before the war, they cultivated cotton, it is a type of crop that demands a lot of chemicals to grow it. During the war the production of cotton basically disappeared. However, the poison from the chemicals is showing up 40 years later. The chemical used to grow cotton falls into the earth but it isn't absorbed by the earth, but humans can absorb it and it has been poisoning our bodies. Women tend to hold the poison in the mammary glands, so that when a woman has a child and breast-feeds, she is passing poison to her child. This means that the effect of this poison isn't just the population of forty years ago, but also future generations. In Tecoluca, San Vicente, last week, a man who worked with us on the Seeds of Hope program died of kidney failure. That is the affects of the chemicals used to plant cotton. Don Lucio had started to work with organic products, but he was already sick and now he is dead. The region of Tecoluca is an area where there is a high number of kidney problems due to use of chemicals in the production of cotton. For that reason, the SHARE Foundation, is promoting the Seeds of Hope program to combat the food crisis and the use of chemicals in agriculture production. We give 300 dollars to each family that participates to grow corn for the year. But those families have to commit to using organic seeds not chemically modified seeds and use as few chemicals as they can and they must use organic fertilizers that they make. So some are currently using 50 percent chemical methods and 50 percent organic, some are 75 percent organic and some are now using completely organic products and methods for their agriculture. The zone of Tecoluca is an area where we are using this practices so that sometime in the future people will be free of chemicals.

Photo 1: Alfredo Cristiani

Photo 4: Don Lucio with his organic corn

Monday, December 7, 2009

Climate Change in El Salvador

This is a video about climate change in El Salvador that was produced by UNES, an environmental organization here in El Salvador. To watch the video, click here

To watch the whole nine minutes, you must download the video, but you can watch the first seven online.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Election Day in Honduras

This article was written by Lisa Haugaard and published by the Latin American Working group. It gives a great analysis of the elections in Honduras.

Elections took place Sunday, November 29th in Honduras with National Party leader Porfirio Lobo declared the winner.

But elections carried out under a state of emergency, with visible military and police presence, by a government installed by coup, with a significant movement opposed to the coup calling for abstention, and with the deposed President still holed up in the center of the capital city in the Brazilian Embassy, are no cause for celebration. As we wrote to the State Department on November 24th, “a cloud of intimidation and restrictions on assembly and free speech affect the climate in which these elections take place… basic conditions do not exist for free, fair and transparent elections in Honduras.”

The United States’ apparent eagerness to accept the elections and move on has put it at odds with many Latin American governments. “Latin American governments accused the administration of putting pragmatism over principle and of siding with Honduran military officers and business interests whose goal was to use the elections to legitimize the coup,” wrote Ginger Thompson in the New York Times.

To read more

Friday, November 20, 2009

After 20 years, Salvadorans remember slain martyrs

This article was posted by Dan Nemes on the National Catholic Reporter, it's about the recent 20th Anniversary of the Jesuit killings in El Salvador.

San Salvador, El Salvador
Salvadorans from every segment of society gathered here Nov. 14- 16 to commemorate the 1989 murders of six Jesuits, and their housekeeper and her daughter.

Many used local events to reflect on El Salvador's progress since the end of the country's civil war in 1992.

It was 20 years ago that a Salvadoran military unit broke into the grounds of Central American University, brutally killing Jesuits Ignacio Ellacuría, Ignacio Martín Baró, Segundo Montes, Joaquín López y López, Amando López and Juan Ramón Moreno, as well as their housekeeper, Elba Ramos, and her daughter, Celina.

At the entrance to the university, only a short walk from the courtyard where the priests and the women were executed and where they are buried in the university's chapel, students collected supplies to contribute to disaster relief efforts after heavy rains Nov. 8 that led to mudslides, killing 160 people and leaving more than 12,000 homeless.

Carrying out the university commitment to social justice, several noted, is one way students could remember the Jesuits. “This is what they stood for, helping the poor,” one said.

Read more

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Photos of destruction in Aguilares

Update on El Salvador

Dear Friends of El Salvador,

Please receive our greetings!

You may have been reading our eNewsletter updates on the situation in El Salvador following the destruction wrecked by Hurricane Ida. As you might recall from those communications, SHARE is partnering with counterparts in three regions of the country that experienced significant destruction from the flood waters. Just yesterday, I approved three initial projects, worth approximately $17,000 that will provide mattresses, blankets, and basic food items (beans, rice, oil, flour, and drinking water) to an estimated 600 families (or approximately 2700 individuals) in three municipalities.

Clearly, this is an important beginning, but it is only a beginning. The numbers of people affected by Ida continue to rise as the reports from the National Civil Protection System are updated each day. As of yesterday, nearly 15,000 people were reported in temporary shelter settings. It is important to note here that this number does not even begin to take into consideration those who set up rudimentary structures near their homes in order to protect what may have been left behind by the storm and to begin the reconstruction/restoration process.

Our partners are prioritizing women and families in the communities that are not receiving assistance from other entities. We anticipate the need to extend our support and solidarity to these communities and others will grow over the coming weeks. In order for this to be possible, we continue to rely on the support that comes from individuals like you who have a strong connection with El Salvador.

Your browser may not support display of this image.

(Photo by Laura Hershberger, SHARE-El Salvador of a makeshift shelter where two boys from La Florida live with their family adjacent to where the home once was)

During this season of expressing our gratitude, we can extend our thanks to those who have touched our hearts and spirits during our visits, and who now need us to offer our support in a concrete way. Please consider making a secure online gift via our website DONATE HERE or by sending a check to

Share Foundation - Building a New El Salvador Today

P.O. Box 209620

Washington, DC 20017

With gratitude for your companionship as we continue reaching out to those in great need,


José Artiga

Executive Director

Monday, November 9, 2009

Emergency Relief Needed in El Salvador in the Wake of Hurricane Ida

While the National Hurricane Center in the United States has downgraded Hurricane Ida to a Tropical Storm, El Salvador has experienced the full brunt of hurricane force winds and rain. Over the weekend, the storm destroyed more than 7,000 homes and damaged many more. The most recent data, reported this morning in the Prensa Gráfica, indicates that approximately 130 people have been killed by the storm, and thousands more injured. This total is sure to rise as emergency relief workers continue to work their way through damaged buildings and areas that have experienced landslides.

The community of Verapaz in the department of San Vicente was left badly damaged by mud, rocks and derby after a mudslide from the San Vicente Volcano. Because the heavy rains rapidly made the land on the foothills of the volcano quite unstable, water quickly engulfed much of the town and many people did not have time to prepare or escape.

As is often the case in these sorts of situations, the most immediate problems include access to emergency shelter, access to potable water, and food. SHARE Foundation, in collaboration with its partners in the three departments of San Salvador, La Paz and San Vicente, will be working to provide emergency relief. This will include distribution of plastic sheeting and wood for temporary housing; food and water.

We ask that you lend your support to this effort by making a contribution for emergency relief in response to Hurricane Ida. You can do this by way of a secure online donation via our website or by mailing a check to:

SHARE Foundation

P.O. Box 29620

Washington, DC 20017 (please write Hurricane Ida relief in the memo line)

Other ways you can help:

-Organize fundraising efforts within your local churches and other community groups.

-Pray for the victims of Hurricane Ida and their family members affected by this weekend’s tragedy

Please do not hesitate to call our office at 202.319.5540 or send an email to if you have any questions.

As always, thank you for your continued solidarity and partnerships. We cannot do this without you.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Reflections on Romero

Here women from Chalatenango reflect on what Oscar Romero meant to them as part of SHARE's invitation to participate in the Romero delegation.

Click here to watch video.

Friday, October 30, 2009

EL SALVADOR: Clandestine Graves Are Back

This is an interesting article published by the International Press Service (IPS) about the violence in El Salvador.

By Edgardo Ayala

SAN SALVADOR, Oct 29 (IPS) - Spatula in hand, forensic scientist Israel Ticas carefully excavates a decomposed human foot protruding from a shallow grave in rough terrain in the mountains of Las Crucitas, close to Ciudad Arce in the west-central Salvadoran province of La Libertad.

Other body parts, already identified by the expert, give him some idea of what kind of person lies buried here in bushy thickets between plots of farmland planted with coffee and beans.

The body is that of a young man under 20, who at the moment of death was decapitated and dismembered: his head, feet and arms were severed from his trunk.

These are probably the remains of a person reported missing to the authorities in mid-October, who lived in the El Bosque shanty town in Ciudad Arce. Although the investigation has just begun, everything points to one of El Salvador's notorious "maras" or youth gangs.

The main gangs in El Salvador are Mara Salvatrucha and Mara 18 (18th Street Gang), and they are sworn enemies. Drug mafias, maras and death squads are all waging undercover wars in this country of 5.7 million people.

"This young man was murdered about a month ago. There's probably another body, about 15 metres away, because we have found more bones there," Ticas tells IPS.

Click here to read the rest of the article

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

House Resolution Commemorating the 20th Anniversary of Jesuit Martyrs

Taken from the Washington Office on Latin America website

WOLA is pleased to see that H.Res. 761, introduced by Rep. Jim McGovern and 33 co-sponsors, was approved today in the U.S. House of Representatives. This resolution remembers and commemorates the lives and work of the six Jesuit priests and two women who were murdered in El Salvador nearly twenty years ago. On Nov. 16, 1989, armed men burst into the Jesuit residence at the University of Central America (UCA) in San Salvador, killing the six Jesuit priests who were there, along with the community’s cook and her daughter.

More than 70,000 died during El Salvador’s civil war, the vast majority of whom were civilians killed by the Salvadoran armed forces and paramilitary death squads. The Jesuit case galvanized an outcry for human rights and justice from the international community, played a key role in shifting opinions in the U.S. Congress, and helped to spark the peace process that brought the civil war to an end. WOLA is pleased to see the Congress commemorating this important historical moment, and to see that the resolution urges the United States today to collaborate with El Salvador's new government on the unfinished tasks to which the Jesuits were committed - the "efforts to reduce poverty and hunger and to promote educational opportunity, human rights, the rule of law and social equity for the people of El Salvador."

To see the resolution click here.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Mesa Wins Human Rights Award

Congratulations to the the Working Group Against Metallic Mining (Mesa Contra la Mineria) for winning the Letelier Moffitt Human Rights Award!!

Five representatives from the Mesa travelled to the United States last week to accept the award and to bring more attention to the issue of mining in El Salvador.

See below to watch Vidalina Morales recieve the award on behalf of the Mesa.

Monday, September 28, 2009

This past Saturday, in the small community of Las Araditas in El Paisnal, El Salvador, the rural communities from the municipalities of El Paisnal, Aguilares, San Pablo Tacachico and Suchitoto, came together to commemorate their martyrs. On September 29th, 1979, thirty years ago, community leaders Felix Garcia, Patricia “Ticha” Puertas, Apolinario “Polin” Serrano and Jose Lopez were killed by the armed forces when their car was pulled over on the road to Santa Ana. Feliz, Ticha and Polin were all leaders of the the Christian Federation for Salvadoran Peasants-Union of Peasant Workers. Inspired by the theology of liberation and the words of priests such as Rutilio Grande, these illiterate peasants organized themselves to fight for their rights. Their deaths were mourned by all those who knew and loved them, including Monseñor Romero who was still alive at the time of their deaths.

Now, thirty years later, one can see the impact that these martyrs had on the population that lives below the Guazapa hill. SHARE counterpart, UCRES: United Communities of Northern San Salvador and La Libertad, planned the event with the support of the mayor of El Paisnal and pickup trucks full of people from over twenty communities, from as far as Chalatenango showed up to participate in the commemoration event. UCRES President Alex along with community leader Guadalupe and Salvadoran Supreme Court Magistrate, Mirna Perla, led the people in singing the “Hymn of Unity” with its cry of “the people united, will never be defeated.” After all participating communities were welcomed, and the local parish priest talked a little about the history of the organized communities in the region, the people participated in a a mass celebrated by the two local Catholic priest and three Lutheran ministers. The mass was followed by lunch and live music. One of the most inspiring part of the entire commemoration was the number of youth in attendance. Youth who were not even born at the time that these community leaders were killed, but have been told the stories over and over by their family members. In a country where events from the war are often glossed over or ignored by mainstream culture, the collective memory of the organized communities steps up to keep the spirit of their martyrs. So much so that the lives of these four peasants are still being celebrated by hundreds of people, thirty years after their deaths.

Laura Hershberger, SHARE Grassroots Solidarity Coordinator

Guazapa martyr Apolinario Serrano “Polin” as remembered in the biography of Oscar Romero “Memories in Mosaic”

HE ARRIVED ONE DAY in a big rush, making great sweeps with his visored cap and flapping his hands as was his habit. "Ay, my head's so full already, nothing more will fit in it!!"
He understood that a head was like a warehouse to store ideas in. And he had already learned so many new things that even that prodigious memory of his wasn't enough to remember everything.

"I need to learn to read and write. To be able to tore more!" For three years there had been resistance to Chamba and Cauche teaching him literacy. But now that it was decided, he was there within three days. No one read as nimbly as he did.

Polín. Apolinario Serrano. From El Líbano canton, at the foot of the Guazapa hill. A cane cutter since he was a kid, with fingers deformed from so many harvests and so much machete. A nomadic hog raiser from over near Suchitoto with his network of connections that only he knew about. One of the hundreds of Delegates of the Word born with the experience of the Aguilares parish. And, without doubt, the most brilliant of them all.

And soon thereafter, the most inspired of El Salvador's peasant leaders. What a special kind of leader Polín was! He could put any audience in the palm of his hand. He laced his speeches with proverbs, with jokes, with stories from the Bible. And more than anything, with reality.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Salvadorans Seek a Voice To Match Their Numbers

This article was published in the Washington Post yesterday.  SHARE Director Jose Artiga is quoted.

Salvadorans Seek a Voice To Match Their Numbers

Summit Aims to Raise Political Visibility

By N.C. AizenmanWashington Post Staff Writer

 September 24, 2009

For nearly three decades Salvadoran immigrants have been among the nation's

 most organized newcomers, founding clubs to raise money for schools back home, establishing medical clinics for new arrivals and battling in Congress and courts to gain legal status for tens of thousands of political dissidents who fled persecution by the U.S.-backed government during El Salvador's civil war in the 1980s.

Yet, even as Salvadoran immigrants and Americans of Salvadoran descent have grown to number 1.6 million -- essentially tying them with Cubans as the nation's third largest Latino group -- they have mostly shied from direct participation in U.S. politics.

About 150 of the community's most prominent leaders from across the country gathered in Washington to change that Wednesday.

"This conference is about stepping it up to another level of visibility, performance and power," said Maryland Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez (D-Montgomery), a co-organizer of the First Salvadoran American Leadership Summit.

"When we first came to the United States, it was just about survival, so that's what our organizations focused on," Salvadoran-born Gutierrez said. "Now we have a community that has evolved, but I think we're kind of stuck in that service model. . . . We have to either create new political institutions, or we have to expand those current organizations so they also play a political role."

Conference participants plan to lobby more than 80 members of Congress on Thursday in support of efforts to offer illegal immigrants a path to citizenship. Wednesday's meeting included strategy sessions on how to influence the immigration debate and ensuring that Salvadoran Americans are fully counted in the 2010 Census.

But participants stressed that the larger purpose was simply to overcome their geographic dispersal, personality differences and longstanding ideological divisions stemming from El Salvador's civil war to convene as a group for the first time.

"We're not here to look for unity, because unity is a romantic dream that is hard to reach," said Salvador Sanabria of Salvadorans in the World, one of the four largest organizations. "We're here to come to this round table without hierarchy to find a consensus about the actions we can take to help our community."

Among the clearest points of agreement was that Salvadoran Americans should insist that any legalization plan adopted by Congress allow about 200,000 Salvadoran illegal immigrants who were granted temporary legal status in the wake of a 2001 earthquake to be the first in line to become permanent legal residents.

Indeed, several participants pointed to the unusual interests of those Salvadorans as an example of why they need to organize as a separate, national Salvadoran American movement.

"We have a separate identity even as we're part of the larger Latino community," said Jose Artiga of the SHARE foundation, which promotes development in El Salvador.

For all the event's optimism, there are some daunting obstacles to transforming the numerical strength of Salvadoran Americans into political clout. According to an analysis of Census data by the Pew Hispanic Center, 47 percent of U.S. residents of Salvadoran descent are not citizens. And 26 percent more are citizens but are still children, leaving only 27 percent who are currently eligible to vote. And it was perhaps telling that much of the discussion at the conference was in Spanish.

Still, many took heart in the political success of Salvadoran Americans in the Washington region. While far more Salvadorans live in California, their influence there is often overshadowed by that state's much larger Mexican American population.

By contrast, its 134,000 Salvadoran immigrants comprise the Washington region's largest foreign-born group. The figure is greater if their U.S.-born children are included.

That might explain why the nation's four highest Salvadoran American elected officials are from Washington. In addition to Gutierrez, they are Arlington County Board Chairman J. Walter Tejada (D), the summit's other co-organizer; Maryland Del. Victor R. Ramirez (D-Prince George's); and Prince George's County Council member William A. Campos (D-Hyattsville), who were also in attendance.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Buen Pastor Artisans

This was an interview done with artisans from the Buen Pastor community outside of Aguilares in Northern San Salvador. Buen Pastor is a sistering community of Good Shepherd in Kansas and works with SHARE's counterpart UCRES.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Delegate Reflection

This reflection was written by Laura Davison, a freshman in Journalism at Missouri University. Laura participated in a SHARE delegation this past June with her church Good Shepherd which is located in Kansas City, Kansas.

Here I am, Lord.

Here we are: Ten of us, four adults and six students, riding a bus to El Buen Pastor, a community of about 100 people in central El Salvador. As we sat there, slightly perspiring partly from apprehension and partly from the heat radiating off the sticky vinyl seat, the nervousness, excitement and French toast from breakfast mixed in our stomachs. We weren’t sure what to expect, do and say in a country in which most of us had spent less than 24 hours and where we spoke very little of the language. And how were we supposed to react when we arrived in El Buen Pastor, a place we had heard about for years but all of us, save one, had never experienced? What were we to say? What were we to offer? We felt powerless. Sure, we had been preparing since January for our stay in El Salvador. But as we passed pickup trucks with workers crammed into the bed of the truck on the way to find work for the day, mothers and children selling fruit in run down shacks on the side of the road and dirty dogs roaming the street, the reality of a country suffering from high unemployment, poverty and gang violence set in. We really were out of our element.

But before any of us could process anything we are seeing, the bus slows and pulls off the road where a crowd of people waits. Children, mothers with babies and an old man waving a red balloon stood at the gate of the community waiting to greet us. We had arrived at El Buen Pastor.

Is it I, Lord?

It’s easier to forget that El Salvador exists, especially in times when our own country is engaged in multiple armed struggles and the state of the economy is uncertain. As we were travelling to El Salvador, we all had second thoughts about coming. It would be easier to have never seen the reality that 7 million Salvadorans live every day.

There is nothing subtle about the need in El Salvador. And even though El Buen Pastor has many advantages that other rural communities do not because of the twinning with Good Shepherd, they are not exempt from this need. Too many men are unable to find enough work. Women, homosexuals and those who live in poverty continue to struggle for human rights. Gangs make neighborhoods unsafe at night. Too few students complete high school, and even fewer attend college. Every business, home and store protected with metal gates and razor wire is a blatant reminder of the desperation in El Salvador.

But the unsettling feelings, though uncomfortable, were necessary. They forced us to reevaluate what is important. And we were forced to look at ourselves and see what we wanted to change about how we treat other people.

The people of El Buen Pastor were rich is so many ways that we are poor. We have never been treated more hospitably. They were willing to give us things they didn’t even have for themselves. When there wasn’t an open pew in mass, some community members left mass and walked several blocks to get chairs so we could sit down. When the water wasn’t running for the shower and toilet in the guesthouse, they immediately began to fix the problem so we could be comfortable. In their homes, they don’t have showers and toilets. They had built the bathroom in the guesthouse so delegations could be more comfortable. It was the little things they did that showed us that we were not visitors whom they had never met before, but rather they considered us family.

I have heard you calling in the night.

In addition to visiting El Buen Pastor, we visited another community near San Salvador called Las Nubes, meaning “The Clouds” in Spanish. This community of 14 houses is nestled on the side of a dormant volcano where low-lying clouds occasionally hang. This mountain is property of a television station, and unbeknownst to the company, these families have lived there for nearly fifteen years. The community at the base of the volcano, San Ramon, had even forgotten people were living here. The people live in shacks of corrugated tin that would look pitiful even in comparison to the modest homes in El Buen Pastor. By our standards, these structures would be unfit for animals. The people of Las Nubes had no electricity, and until recently, no source of water in the village. Last year, the people didn’t even have enough food to feed themselves, so they went down the volcano to ask San Ramon for help. San Ramon is also a poor community. Even so, they have helped feed the people of Las Nubes and build a pipeline to carry water up to volcano once every eight days. This was the poor giving to the desolate.

It’s impossible to see things like this and not be compelled to act.

I will go, Lord, if you lead me.

As we left El Buen Pastor and El Salvador, we left with new friends, new perspectives, but most importantly we no longer felt powerless.

While El Buen Pastor needs financial support that is not the only way to assist them. We learned that our time, our support and encouragement are also much-needed gifts. Solidarity is the most important resource we can give them

The people of El Buen Pastor taught us important lessons of humility, hospitality and hope. And, we, just by listening to their stories, worries and dreams, we were able to validate their lives.

I will hold your people in my heart.

Friday, September 4, 2009


Monseñor Romero Coalition

Press Release

RomeroThe Monseñor Romero Coalition, of which the SHARE Foundation is a member, wishes to inform the Salvadoran civil society and the international community of the launching of a citizens campaign entitled "MONSEÑOR ROMERO: TRUTH, JUSTICE AND HOPE."

In the context of the thirtieth anniversary of the martyrdom of Monseñor Romero in March of 2010, this campaign wishes to enhance the figure of Monseñor Romero as a world symbol for commitment to the poor, through the struggle for truth and justice that reclaims human rights for the oppressed and victims of violence.

The focus of the campaign will be to demand the completion of the recommendation given in 2000 by the Interamerican Commission for Human Rights (CIDH) in regards to the case of Monseñor Romero. These recommendations have yet to be fulfilled by the government of El Salvador.

The opening activities will commence on August 15, 2009, in Ciudad Barrios located in the department of San Miguel, the birthplace of Monseñor Romero. There will be a mass, a public forum and a procession starting at 10:00 a.m., all of which will be coordinated with the Parish of Ciudad Barrios.

The campaign will consist of public activities, press conferences, community meetings and other activities focused on the prophetic message of Monseñor Romero. It will also consist of the public demand that the state authorities fulfill the recommendation given by the CIDH. All activities will occur starting with the launching of this campaign and culminating in the commemoration event on March 24, 2010.

The Monseñor Romero Coalition will publicize all activities that occur as well as an action taken by state authorities in regards to the requirements presented to them.

The recommendations of the CIDH for the Romero case that have by unfulfilled by the Salvadoran state, in regards to those declared responsible for the assassination are the following:
  • Carry out a complete judicial investigation that is effective, impartial and with few obstacles, with the means of identifying, bringing to court and penalizing all the intellectual and material authors for the crime established in the above stated report without damaging the decreed amnesty;
  • Compensate for the consequences of these violations, including the payment of just reparation;
  • Adapt internal legislation to the American Convention without affecting the General Amnesty Law.
Monseñor Romero is a light of truth, justice and hope for the entire world, but especially for his loved people of El Salvador.

San Salvador , August 13, 2009

French filmmaker Poveda killed in El Salvador

SAN SALVADOR, Sept 2 (Reuters) - Suspected Salvadorean gang members killed French filmmaker Christian Poveda, whose 2008 film "La Vida Loca" crudely depicts the hopeless lives of members of the infamous Mara 18 street gang, local police said on Wednesday.

Poveda, 53, was shot on a road 10 miles (16 km) north of the capital of San Salvador, as he drove back from filming in La Campanera, a poor, overcrowded suburb and a Mara 18 stronghold.

President Mauricio Funes said in a statement on Wednesday night that he was "shocked" by Poveda's murder and ordered a thorough investigation.

"La Vida Loca" (The Crazy Life) closely followed the lives of several heavily tattooed gang members, some of whom were jailed or killed during the shooting of the film.

Poveda first came to El Salvador in the early 1980s to cover the civil war that ravaged the poor Central American for over a decade. He returned after the armed conflict was over to cover street gangs.

The Mara 18 and rival Mara Salvatrucha gangs make up a huge criminal network that runs from Los Angeles, where a diaspora of Salvadoreans lives, down through chunks of Central America.

Authorities estimate there could be as many as 30,000 so-called mareros, who sell drugs, rob illegal migrants or extort businesses in the tiny country of just 5.7 million people.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

27 years after the Calabozo massacre

The road from Amatina Arriba to Amatitan Abajo was muddy and hard to see in the dark, but never the less, over a hundred people primarily teenagers walked the muddy road holding signs that read “A people never forgets its martyrs” and “Que viva los martires del Calabozo.” When they arrived in Amatitan Abajo, the cultural and commemorative activities of the Friday night vigil commenced. A few of the survivors shared some words and then the youth took over with songs, reflections, a small documentary they had made about the massacre and short play they had written.

None of the youth had lived through the Calabozo massacre that happened by river of Amititan in a place called the Calabazo in 1982, but they had grown up hearing the story from their family. How the army had advanced from the San Pedro hills and how the inhabitants of the region fled their homes in what was known as the “guindas.” How the people had been walking for seven days without food and took refuge by the river to sleep when they were attacked by the Atlacatl and the Ramon Belloso Batallian, it was then that they were massacred in cold blood, over two hundred men, women and children. When the youth group from the Community of El Rincon acted out a play that had written about the massacre, they made sure to include the part where the mothers plea for the soldiers to take their own lives but to spare the lives of their small children. No they had not lived through the massacre and the guindas but many of them had lost aunts, uncles and siblings during the twelve year civil war that heavily affected the Northern region of San Vicente in the municipality of San Esteban Catarina where the Amatitans are located.

What would it be like to be a young person growing up in a post war country where you parents and family lived through a brutal conflict that you hardly remember? Many of the young people in the Northern Zone of San Vicente have little interest in the past and focus more on the recent arrival of cell phones and American fashion to their small remote communities. However, a growing number of young people are interested in the historic memory of their community. Throughout the Friday night vigil and the Saturday morning commemoration ceremony one could hear many of the young people quoted as saying “we must remember our past so that it doesn’t repeat itself.”

Remembering the past so as not to repeat itself is not just something that people say in theory, it’s something that is very real in El Salvador where many of the people who ordered massacres such as the massacre of Calabazo are powerful government figures who are protected by an amnesty law that does not allow them to be prosecuted for war crimes. One point that continued to surface throughout the entire commemoration ceremonies was the fact that one of the architects of the Calabozo massacre, Sigfredo Ochoa Perez, is currently the Salvadoran ambassador to Honduras. “How is it just” ask the people “that we continue to mourn our loved ones, whose murderers have never been brought to justice but instead are high level government officials?” In a talk preceding the Saturday morning mass at the actual site of the massacre, David Morales, the lawyer who is representing the Calabozo case as well as the Archbishop Romero murder case, called to repeal the Amnesty Law that allows impunity to continue in this country. The people cheered in support of his words, though it is unlikely anything will happen. The newly elected leftist president, Mauricio Funes, has already stated that he does not plan to repeal the law.

But the people in the communities such as the Amatitans continue to fight for justice, whether their government supports them or not. And after being present for all the activities it is evident that this struggle is one that is being passed on to the future generations and will not die when the Calabozo survivers do but rather continue on as long as the history of El Calabozo, of El Mozote of the Rio Sumpul and all the other horrible acts of war are being told.

-Laura Hershberger, SHARE Grassroots Solidarity Eduation Coordinator

Photography captions:

1) Youth at the vigil with a sign that reads: "The youth from Nueva Guadalupe rescueing our historic memory on the 27th anniversary of the massacre, we are remembering our martyrs who will always be in our hearts"

2) Sign with the names of the martyrs being held during the campfire at the vigil

3) Mass being said at the site of the Calabozo massacre, photo taken from the CoLatina

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Martyrs of Calabozo

This song was written by a young man from the community of Amatitan Arriba in Northern San Vicente about the massacre that occured in his community in 1982.

Get Your Own Free Playlist.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Salvadoran remittances drop 11 percent in 2009

El Salvador's central bank says the money citizens living abroad sent home during the first seven months of this year dropped 11 percent compared to the same period in 2008.

The bank says remittances between January and July reached $2 billion in the Central American country compared to $2.2 billion during the same period last year.

In a report issued Monday, the bank blamed the decrease on rising unemployment in the United States, especially among Latin American immigrants.

Remittances represent the largest source of legal foreign income. About 2.5 million Salvadorans live in the United States.

-Associated Press

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Community Activists in Cabañas are Receiving Death Threats

Less than a month after the assassination of Marcelo Rivera, an increasing number of activists from the northern Department of Cabañas report to be receiving death threats. Like Marcelo, the targeted people have been outspoken against mining and have denounced electoral fraud. They also have called for a full investigation into Marcelo's killing. The death threats seem to be linked to the murder since often they refer that the victims will "end up just like Marcelo." Click here to see a video in Spanish about death threats that activists have received.

The first to receive death threats were three young reporters who work for Radio Victoria. José Beltrán, Ludwing Iraheta and Vladimir Abarca explained in a press conference that after they began to cover the disappearance and murder of Marcelo they started to receive hand written and phone death threats. Radio officials denounced this situation to the police (PNC), the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman and the Office of the Attorney General.

Radio Victoria is a community broadcaster located in the town of Victoria, Cabañas. The radio run mainly by youth, started in 1993 with the purpose of giving the isolated community, its own means of communication. According to its website, the radio is a "welcoming space where people can make announcements, send greetings, talk about their problems, look for solutions, discuss politics, and share dreams." The radio has played a key role in exposing the Pacific Rim mining project, the municipal and presidential elections and its fraud scandals, and more recently, the murder of Marcelo Rivera.

Father Luis Quintanilla, a progressive Catholic priest and a long time defender of human rights, has received similar threats. One of the threats read "the damned reds [communists] disguised as priests will be finished off," "keep quiet if you don't want to end up like Marcelo," declared the priest in a press release. However, in this case the threats went beyond words. On July 27th Father Quintanilla was driving from Victoria when four armed, hooded men, stopped him and pulled him out of his car to kidnap and murder him. However the priest was able to escape by jumping into a gully.

On July 28th, the Director of the Association for Economic and Social Development (ADES), a non-profit operating in Cabañas, was also threatened. Later, Isabel Gomez, head of the news team at Radio Victoria received a threatening call in the press room. When the second to last person left the radio, Isabel received the call in which the aggressor acknowledged the fact that she was alone at the radio. Isabel's house was also broken into and vandalized.

As time goes on, the list of threatened people continue to grow. By July 30th all the staff from Radio Victoria had been threatened. The radio was also sabotaged. The radio antenna in Sensuntepeque (Cabañas' main city) was stolen and the electrical system was sabotaged causing the transmitter to fail. Therefore the radio has been on and off the air. The lives of the staff members have been disrupted as they have had to change their daily routines and look for refuge. However they are still working and struggling to keep the radio on air. As one of the staff members said "they will not silence us; we know that our people accompany us and that we will continue forward, because we believe that another Cabañas is possible." Our friends from the area informed us that many community members are volunteering to guard and protect the radio at night. Police officers are also present.

In a press conference the Salvadoran Human Rights Ombudsman, Oscar Luna, called on the Attorney General Office and the National Civil Police (PNC) to investigate and find the material and intellectual authors of these death threats and bring them to justice. He urged the authorities to take steps to protect the lives of the victims.

ADES Santa Marta stated in a press release that "ultra-right wing groups linked to organized crime groups are trying to keep the population of the Department in a state of terror and are making lethal attacks against social leaders and political and environmental activists. The negligence of the Public Prosecutor and the Police at the Departmental level favors, reinforces, and shelters these violations." ADES also called on the international community to pressure the Salvadoran authorities to investigate these human rights violations.