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Sunday, March 27, 2011

updates for trip 2011


Rene, the Director of Salvaide and I have had a few interesting meetings in the past three weeks.  We met with ASCORCAN, an Ottawa-based Salvadoran group a few weeks ago.  During this meeting we have a terrific brainstorming session on the design of this year's trip.  The discussion prompted Rene to send a note to our contact Nelson in San Jose Las Flores.  The main ideas discussed at the meeting are included in the latest Compadres blog  Very important that participants for this year's trip read this blog post and send me any comments.

Rene and I also met with students from Holy Trinity and St. Francis Xavier high schools.  These students are preparing for a trip to El Salvador.  They will be working with some of the same people we will be visiting this summer.  I am hoping to publish blog posts from the student group during their visit.

A reminder to all 2011 participants - the next deposit of $500.00 is due to the Salvaide office by March 31st.

Finally, we are at four people for this sumer's trip - a good number, but I would really like to make it to five.  If anyone has had a change of heart or knows of someone who would like to come with us please send me a note!

We will also be planning a Compadres day for those who are coming down this summer.  This time, we will invite all Compadres members (you) to join us.  This will be a great way to learn much more about the entire experience.  I will send out details within the month.  I expect to hold the Compadres on a Saturday in June.

All for now, thanks for your continued interest and support!

new developments

As we start to get closer to this year's trip, some ideas are starting to become clearer. We have been corresponding with Nelson on some key points for this year's delegation. Here are some of the main points.

1. We are discussing the possibility of staying in San Jose Las Flores for up to ten days. We feel that this will give the group and the community even a better opportunity to forge the partnerships which are such an important part of this experience.

2. We are also looking into the possibility of staying with individual families. This will for sure allow us greater opportunities to get to know what life is like for rural Salvadorans.

3. We are working on getting a better idea of the capacity of the computers in the schools. We know there is no internet, but do the computers have the capacity to run software that we use in some of our schools? If so, this may allow us to run a least one interesting workshop with the students.

We are now waiting for answers to some of these questions.

communal kitchen in San Jose Las Flores

Thursday, March 24, 2011

“Nobody can kill the voice of justice:” Romero lives


Today marks 31 years since Catholic Archbishop Oscar Romero was assassinated while giving mass in El Salvador’s capital.  And Salvadoreans everywhere do not forget.  Joining the throngs of marchers making their way through San Salvador’s main thoroughfares are Salvadoreans in Canada, the US, Sweden, Germany, Italy, Australia and many other places with exile communities, all of us celebrating Romero’s life and courage.  Indeed, few Salvadoreans have so singularly captivated the collective consciousness of their people.  Few have provided the moral strength to an entire generation to stand up and say ¡ya basta! in the face of state repression.


Archbishop Romero was in many ways quintessentially representative of his people’s struggle for human rights.  Like most Salvadoreans, he was reserved, humble, and conservative in his personal and family life.  And like many who braved bullets, disappearance, and torture for speaking out, it took being personally touched by state terror to decide finally to “choose sides.”  In Romero’s case, it was the shameless murder of his close friend Father Rutilio Grande and two parishioners by state-supported death squads, that tipped the scale.  This atrocity, one of many during that time, marked Archbishop Romero’s explicit and public preferential option for the poor.


Given a Salvadorean oligarchy that employed the government and military (and death squads, in a cruel attempt at obfuscation) as its private instruments, Romero’s tragic fate and enduring legacy were sealed from the moment he channelled through the pulpit the voice of the voiceless.  His unprecedented scathing denunciations of the Salvadorean elite and its military watchdogs shattered the hubris of those in power already busy trying to quell a de facto popular insurgency.  That his cold-blooded murder was authored by military men institutionally linked to the state laid bare to the world El Salvador’s dictatorship.  It was a defining moment for El Salvador – a moment Salvadoreans and their friends will never forget.


This March 24th (and everyday) let’s remember Archbishop Romero as he would want us to remember him – with the humility and resolve required to continue the struggle for justice everywhere.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

San Jose Las Flores

The center of our trip this summer will be the community of San Jose Las Flores.  We will be spending up to ten days in the community.  This will be a very different trip than in past years.

I think this will be a welcome change and we will now be able to become connected to one community.  We are also developing this program as we go.  This is very exciting and this means that we don't have to follow the structure of some established program.  The community and Compadres will learn and grow together - what a great opportunity!

Update on connecting to St. Paul University


In the future, I hope to connect Compadres to an additional qualification teacher program at St. Paul University.  We have started work on this, but there will not be time this year to develop the credit.  The people at the university and school board have been wonderful and I think we now have the basis for a wonderful partnership for the future.  Linking additional qualification credit up to programs like Compadres makes good sense.  These partnerships allow teachers to gain credit while interacting with teachers and professionals in El Salvador.  I am hoping that we will be able to arrange something similar through Teachers Without Borders for our partners in El Salvador.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Tim's Blog Post

Busy times these days!  I wanted to take a minute to pass along this post from Tim's Blog.  The Pacific im case is an important one as it brings into question the rights of a nation to determine its own future in the face of corporate policy to maximize profit.


The grassroots environmental coalition in El Salvador, the Mesa Nacional Frente a la Minería Metálica (Mesa), has filed a friend of the court brief in the international arbitration filed by the Canadian gold mining company Pacific Rim against El Salvador.   The Mesa is represented by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL).  The brief makes three central points:
[We] will endeavor to use this submission to make sure that the Tribunal understands that:  (A) the grassroots, peaceful opposition to Pac Rim‟s proposed mine—and the government‟s response to it—were and are entirely legitimate and should be celebrated as a new dawn for representative democracy in El Salvador, not saddled with a hundred-million-dollar price tag; (B) the environmental concerns underlying that opposition were, and are, well-founded, but were not adequately addressed in Pac Rim‟s Environmental Impact Assessment (the “El Dorado EIA”); and (C) Pac Rim‟s involvement in Salvadoran and regional politics in support of its proposed mine has been deeply problematic, and the proposed mine itself has already generated disturbing levels of intra-community conflict and violence.
You can download the full brief here.  The brief makes the argument well that arbitrations under trade agreements should not be allowed to overturn a country's right to develop environmental policy to protect its citizens.  A listing of all court filings in the case is maintained by the government of El Salvador at this link.
In the other arbitration involving gold mining, there may be a decision soon on El Salvador's motion to dismiss the claims of Milwaukee-based Commerce Group.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Posting this summer

This summer's trip to El Salvador is scheduled to start July 3. I will be blogging regularly to keep people up to date. One of the tools I am considering is Posterous. Looks really useful!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Meeting with a community partner

Last night, I met with members of Ascorcan - a local group of Salvadorans very involved in the Canadian Salvadoran community.Laura Avalos is the coordinator for the group. I have been to several events organized by the group including a screening of Jamie Moffett's film Return To El Salvador. Last night, we had an amazing meeting where two of Ascorcan's members shared their vast experience on organizing delegations. Their advice was invaluable and I really look forward to working more closely with the group in the future.

Here are some of their ideas

- consider staying in one community (San Jose Las Flores for us) for as long as ten days - people need to get to know the group and this takes time.

- you are building a long-term relationship - take your time, it will be worth it!

- consider home stays - this is a wonderful way to learn more Spanish and to really get to know the people.

- look for ways to integrate participants into the popular education system that already exists. Our local partner - CDC is considered by Ascorcan to be terrific in facilitating this type of work.

All to say - a terrific meeting and great new resources for Compadres!