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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

On to San Jose las Flores

We moved from La Palma on Sunday morning and drove to San Jose las Flores, one of the great highlights to any Compadres trip to El Salvador.  There is so much to write about this community it is hard to know where to start.

San Jose las Flores is a community of around 1500 people in Chalatenango.  It is a very hilly area, close to the Sumpul River.  We always go to San Jose las Flores because it is one of the best examples of well organized, repopulated communities in El salvador.

The community was decimated at the beginning of the war, many of the original inhabitants were killed during the Sumpul River Massacre.

Troops attacked the hamlet with artillery and fire from two helicopters. The villagers and other people displaced by the operation attempted to cross the Sumpul river to take refuge in Honduras. Honduran troops deployed on the opposite bank of the river barred their way. They were then killed by Salvadorian troops who fired on them in cold blood.

Sumpul River Massacre noted on the memorial
in Cuscatlan Park 
 For six years after the massacre the village remained empty.   Many of the homes were destroyed during the fighting.  People either lived in the hills or in one of the refugee camps in Honduras or San Salvador.

In 1986, with the help of CRIPDES, the Church and international organizations, the people reoccupied the town. People were not necessarily from San Jose las Flores, but this is where resettlement started so this is where the people in exile came to.

The original group of 28 families celebrated mass when they returned.  While the church was still standing, it was not safe to go inside - one of its walls had been destroyed by the army.  The small community started to rebuild the houses and cultivate the land. 

Within six months, people were able to celebrate their first corn harvest.  Film taken at the time shows people transformed from war worn refugees to proud and healthy (especially the children) community members.

The community has been growing and developing ever since.  Its strength is in its organization and commitment.  They now have two schools, a co-operative community kitchen, a bakery, grocery store, community recreation center, artisans center and much more.

This community was not defeated by the military oppression of the civil war years.  It thrives and is considered a model community for the rest of the country.

The new enemy are the Canadian mining companies, but more on this later.

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