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Thursday, February 18, 2010

El Salvador 2005 Journal XI

The children of Laura Lopez

Community meeting

The first few days of our time in El Salvador were full of meetings. This was our education to the history, economics and social dynamics of the country. Armed with this incredible information, we headed out into the countryside to meet and talk to the people. I will start with our visit to Laura Lopez.

Laura Lopez is a resettled community supported by CRIPDES. We visited the community after a long drive out of San Salvador. The community was resettled in 1992 and is named after a lay worker associated with Rutilio Grande who was killed in this area during the war. We actually saw her picture and read a description of her work at the university later in San Salvador.

The first families arrived in an area that had been depopulated by the military. They arrived only with what they could carry. They tented under the shade of the mango trees and were soon followed by other families. Within the month, there were thirty families living in the area. At this point they had no housing materials, just pots and pans. PROGRESO, the local name for CRIPDES and FUNPROCOOP helped the families to build homes. The Archbishop also helped the families and they began to divide the land into plots.

In the next thirteen years, the community grew. People continued to move to the area and Laura Lopez built a school for their children. The community now also has electricity and water. They hope soon to have a clinic in the community as well. On our tour of the community we were taken to the future site of the health centre. There are now 60 families living in the area.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

El Salvador 2005 Journal X

CDC's logo

Groups like the CDC are the real opposition in El Salvador. They produce a weekly radio show and are regularly quoted in the newspaper. They also place ads on TV. Interestingly, the Canadian Ambassador did not know about this organization.

Privatization is a major focus for the CDC. Since the 1990’s privatization of services has become the trend in Latin America. Senior’s pensions, electricity, telecommunications, transportation have all been privatized in El Salvador. Health care was threatened and now water is a major concern. Control of water is now passing to local control. There is real concern that municipalities will be pressured to look for needed capital from the private sector.

The CDC has conducted price comparisons with other Latin American countries on a number of services. In cases where privatization has taken hold the cost of services has risen. For example, the price for power (154 Kw/hr) in El Salvador is $20.43. In Costa Rica the price is $9.35. In Honduras the price for the same amount of power is $10.22. Power in Costa Rica and Honduras is public. As privatization has increased so has the cost of living. In twelve years, the cost of living has gone up $300.00 per month. The average minimum wage during the same period has gone up $58.00. People are working just to survive.

The CDC will continue to work to build the social network necessary to educate Salvadorans on their situation. It is a daunting task, but they realize that the only way to confront this unfair situation is for people to become aware of the causes of the economic squeeze they now find themselves in.

Monday, February 1, 2010


Written by Geovani Montalvo
Wednesday, 27 January 2010 13:30
Indigenous peoples in the western Salvadoran town of Izalco commemorated the 78thanniversary of the slaughter of 30 thousand indigenous people and peasants, killed during the popular uprising of 1932.

During the dictatorship of General Maximiliano Hernández Martínez, the dissatisfaction with the unfair distribution of wealth caused a social uprising. The dictatorship struck back, with one of the worst massacres of the continent on occurring on January 22, 1932.

On this day, more than three thousand farmers, indigenous and political leaders in Izalco, Nahuizalco, Ateos, Juayua and other places, protested low wages, unfair distribution of land and hoarding of wealth in the hands of a few elite Salvadoran families. According to Salvadoran writer and historian Alirio Montoya, the military dictatorship justified the slaughter by linking communists to indigenous people as synonymous entities.

The killing, led by former President General Maximiliano, left almost thirty thousand dead, "the majority of whom were indigenous -who probably did not know [that the government considered them] communists- thus destroying much of a culture that now demands justice and recognition," says Montoya.

"After this massacre, the Indian community was greatly reduced in the country, many of them changed their habits for fear of being killed and many customs gradually waned into oblivion" recounted the spiritual guide "Tata" Juan.

78 years later, in a place known as "El Llanito" where many victims of the slaughter are buried, an indigenous ceremony was held to "pay tribute to all the fallen who died innocently."

“Naja nusan matiguagua su 1932 matachiwa,” [We will never forget the martyrs of 1932] exclaimed indigenous priests in Nahuatl.

The Salvadoran Indigenous Coordinating Council (CCNIS) and Ama Foundation coordinated these commemorations on January 22 and 23 in Izalco, asking the Salvadoran state to "repair the damages caused by this crime" committed nearly a century ago.

"We tell the government that it should not only apologize to [the survivors], but to help them; that would be a wonderful thing," said the Mayor of Izalco, Robert Alvarado, during the event,.

"For years we have been fighting for the Salvadorean State to recognize the existence of indigenous peoples in the country through constitutional reform, and also to ratify international agreements, and also for our rights to be promoted and respected," said Betty Perez, an indigenous woman CCNIS member.

"Also we want the new government [of Mauricio Funes] to develop public policies so that they recognize damage that the capitalist system has been wreaking on indigenous communities for years," she added.

These requests and others were made during the indigenous ceremony, accompanied by the "ancestral snail shell" and "blessing of the sacred fire."

Attorney for the Defense of Human Rights (PDDH), Oscar Luna, has expressed support and solidarity “with the struggle that indigenous communities have been undertaking on behalf of their legitimate constitutional rights".

"The indigenous population in this country is a strong and substantial population, and therefore requires the support and recognition of their rights," said Luna.

Indigenous peoples have the hope of achieving some of their demands with the new government of President Mauricio Funes, who has expressed support for this sector and has encouraged a rapprochement of the state with the indigenous population through the Social Inclusion Secretariat of the Presidency .

According to Henry Barillas, a member of the Communicators and Student Collective “Roque Dalton” (CERD), one one of the youth organizations participating in the commemoration, “78 years after the genocide, the problems that caused the Indigenous uprising of 1932 remain and have increased. This story requires us to remember and rethink the struggle. In this complex time in El Salvador, we need solutions that are complex but also practical, and that come from below.”

Barillas adds "It is important that new generations know the story, know the importance of learning from mistakes. Above all, we have to rescue what they have stolen. In this case, we promote and take back our cultural identity."