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Monday, December 28, 2015

Compadres trips to El Salvador - why do we do this?

Very often I get the question - why are you doing these trips?  Is it eco-tourism, volunteer action, social justice?  Its a great question, and I want to see if I can come up with an articulate answer.

I have been doing trips to the Global South - always somewhere in Latin America for over 20 years now, sometimes with students, sometimes with adults - teachers and school staffs - and sometimes by myself.

My reason for doing these trips has changed a little over the past two decades.  First, I have to admit it was simply the thrill of seeing new cultures, learning new ideas about real social justice and quite frankly, I felt I needed to be exposed to the incredible poverty I have witnessed on every trip over the years.

Now its deeper than that.  To me it seems that for most of us to have a real conversersion, to really see the terrible injustices that exist in this world we need to bear witness, we need to go there and see what is going on.  All the charity drives we do will not make a huge impact on the problems of Latin America and the Global South.  We need to see the world through their eyes, even if it is only for a few days so we can begin to understand that we live in a world where resources are not shared in a fair manner.

As I write this, I have mental pictures flashing past me.  The poor rural schools of El Salvador that never have the resources they need to do their work, the poor children of Cuernavaca, Mexico who sell gum and candy on the streets to make a little more income for their families, the terrible working conditions of Haitian sugar cane planters in the Dominican Republic.

These images can paralyze you, make you feel that there is nothing you can do.

But that is not the right reaction.  There is so much one can do by taking part in these experiences. Most importantly, by going to Latin America you are showing the people you meet that you are in solidarity with them and that you want to be part of their story.  By going down there, you are converted to seeing the world in a very different way, you can't return home and live the same way knowing there is terrible inequity and injustice so close to your home.

So, I will continue to bring people down to Latin American whenever I am capable of doing so.  It is so important to see how others live.  We deprive ourselves of an important life experience if we don't make the effort to go down there.  We allow ourselves to stay shielded.  We really miss something special.

So, is this tourism, volunteerism or social justice?  I think it is all three and much more.  It is also what you make it.  If you are open to the experience you can gain so much.

Monday, December 21, 2015

The last trip - July 2017

Last week I sent this note out to all the people I know who are interested in coming to El Salvador:

I wanted to contact all of you to let you know that we are recruiting now for the final Compadres y Comadres trip to take place July, 2017

If you know of other people who are interested, please let me know. I hope to have the group formed up and first deposits in by October 2016

This will be the final trip that I will facilitate, so this is a good opportunity to go and visit a wonderful country and meet amazing people.

I am now using my own e-mail address for correspondence, if you would like me to add you to the 2017 list please let me know. It would be good to have a different address that I can use over the summer. I would like to plan an early orientation session, maybe even during the summer so the group can get to know each other. One major theme for me would be to find out why you want to go to El Salvador. Knowing this will help Rene and I plan the trip.

I have had a chance to talk to a few of you on the phone about the trip and the shift to 2017. If a call would help, please call me on my cell at 613-218-9615, or e-mail me with your questions.



This will certainly be the last trip I organize as part of Compadres y Comadres. I really hope it leads to other opportunities in El Salvador, but we will have to see. I hope to be very mindful of the preparation we need to do as a group for the 2017 trip and I would like to arrange secondary trips to Guatemala for those who have the flexibility to stay on. If you are reading this and want to come with us please send me a note at

Saturday, October 24, 2015

New Compadres y Compadres presentation for July 2016

We will be meeting soon with participants interested in coming on our 2016 trip - here is the introductory presentation for the new group

Friday, May 22, 2015

Welcome to Compadres!

A view of San Salvador volcano.
A view of San Salvador volcano. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thank-you for your interest in the Compadres program. We will keep your e-mail information as part of our contact group so you can keep up to date on developments.

Generally, we do not have our first information meeting until October, but there are some things you can do now to prepare for the trip.

· Start working on your Spanish – Duolingo is a great free app that you can work on throughout the year. The more you play the more you learn.
· Take some time to read through the Compadres Blog. We have posted several full trip journals on the blog along with some more recent ‘guest posts’ from the group who went last summer.
· Take a look through our Flickr album – these are all photos taken by participants last year.
· Talk to friends and family – maybe there is someone else who would like to come with you. A partner is especially helpful if you plan to travel afterwards – there are lots of wonderful destinations in El Salvador and close by in Guatemala, Costa Rica and other Latin American countries if you decide to extend your trip. Lonely Planet is a good place to start.
· Take a look at our itinerary below – this is the most recent outline of what we plan to do next year – if you have suggestions or questions, we would be happy to hear from you and adapt the program.

Price structure – depends on the number of people who register:

5 people: US$1,110 per person
6 people: US$980 per person
7 people: US$885 per person
8 people: US$815 per person
9 people: US$760 per person
10 people: US$715 per person

Our current draft of next year’s itinerary


(6-17 July 2016)

Wednesday, July 6

Travel to and arrival in El Salvador (Archbishop Oscar Romero International Airport) with transfer to San Salvador

guesthouse (Hostal San José) and brief introduction/orientation by SalvAide El Salvador Representative, Miguel Mejia

Thursday, July 7

8 AM: Breakfast

9 AM: Meeting with CRIPDES and CORDES executive members

10:30 AM: Workshop on political-social history of El Salvador with popular education experts, Equipo Maíz

12:30 PM: Lunch on San Salvador volcano

2-4 PM: El Boquerón National Park (San Salvador volcano)

Evening: Dinner at guesthouse

Friday, July 8

7:30AM: Breakfast

8:15 AM: Monument to the civilian civil war dead in Cuscatlán Park and visit Tomb of Archbishop Oscar Romero in

National Cathedral

10:30 AM: Meeting with Human Rights Ombudsperson’s Office for discussion on impunity

12:30 PM: Lunch

2-4 PM: Visit Divine Providence Chapel and Romero Centre – site of Archbishop Romero’s assassination in 1980 by a

Salvadoran government supported right-wing death squad

4:30-6PM: Visit José Simeón Cañas Central American University (UCA, Jesuit University) – site of assassination of 5

Jesuit professors and their two assistants in 1989 by Salvadoran Special Armed Forces

Evening: Dinner in Paseo El Carmen

Saturday, July 9

7 AM: Breakfast

All day: The Mayan Route – a visit to the Zapotitán Valley and its impressive Classic Period Mayan archeological sites

9-11 AM: Joya de Cerén archaeological site (UNESCO World Heritage Site) – Mayan village from 650 AD buried and

preserved under volcanic ash

Lunch: Lake Coatepeque

1:30-3 PM: San Andres archeological site – Classic Period Mayan ceremonial/political/commercial centre

3:30 PM: Depart for La Palma, Chalatenango

Evening: Dinner in La Palma

(overnight in La Palma)

Sunday, July 10

7:30 AM: Breakfast

8:30 AM: Visit to ACOPROARTE artisans cooperative (started by SalvAide sister organization, CORDES)

11 AM: Possible trip to Miramundo (weather and transportation dependent)


Late PM: Travel to Nueva Trinidad, Chalatenango

Evening: Settle in accommodations and have dinner

(overnight in Nueva Trinidad)

Monday, July 11

7:30 AM: Breakfast

AM: Tour town and oral histories of San José Las Flores repopulation during popular insurrection and of recent anti-

mining struggle against Canadian mining companies with a workshop on the Territories Free of Mining initiative


Early PM: Visit Lempa River Eco-Tourist Park

Late PM: Travel to Suchitoto

Evening: Settle in Art Center for Peace accommodations and have dinner

(overnight in Suchitoto)

Tuesday, July 12

8 AM: Breakfast

9 AM: An introduction to the work of SalvAide sister organizations, CRIPDES and CORDES, in the region

10:30 AM: Walking tour and history of Suchitoto

Lunch: Art Center for Peace

PM: Meetings with ES Arte and La Plataforma, local youth-focused initiatives with a discussion for the youth violence

crisis in El Salvador

Evening: Dinner in Art Center for Peace

(overnight in Suchitoto)

Wednesday, July 13

7:30 AM: Breakfast

8:15 AM: Depart for Cinquera, Cabañas

9 AM: Hike in Cinquera Park (site of conflict during armed insurrection) and swim in natural pool

Lunch at eco-tourist centre

1-4 PM: Meeting with ARDM community association for a brief history of Cinquera along with tour of community


Evening: Dinner at eco-tourist centre

(overnight in Cinquera)

Thursday, July 14

7:30 AM: Breakfast

All day: “Yes to Water, No to Mining Tour” – a trip to Cabañas, site of contested gold mining project and the subject

of a US$301 million lawsuit against El Salvador by OceanaGold (Canadian-Australian mining company) with a

workshop on the issue with local activists

10AM - 12:30PM: Meeting with ADES in San Isidro

12:30 – 1:30PM Lunch

2PM: Brief discussion with MUFRAS in San Isidro and a tour of the village to see the murals dedicated to Marcelo

Rivera (murdered environmentalist leader) plus a visit to the library

Late PM: Departure to Tehuacán Ecotourist Park in Tecoluca, San Vicente

(overnight in Tecoluca)

Friday, July 15

7 AM: Breakfast

9 AM: A meeting with CORDES San Vicente Coordinator, Mauricio Orellana – CORDES’ work in the region, exposure

to the effects of climate change, and the possible consequences of “tourism” investment

All day:

- Visit cooperative cashew seed processing plant in San Carlos Lempa

- Visit the Lower Lempa River Region (Bajo Lempa) for an eco-tourist boat tour through the Bajo Lempa river estuary,

its mangrove forest, and lunch on a cooperative cashew orchard on Montecristo Island

Late PM: Hike through Tehuacán Ecotourist Park for a brief history of the former civil war conflict zone and Mayan

ruins site

(overnight stay in Bajo Lempa Tehuacán ecotourist centre)

Saturday, July 16

8AM: Breakfast

Beach outing to Atami Resort in La Libertad

5PM: Return to San Salvador guesthouse

Farewell dinner

(overnight in San Salvador)

Sunday, July 17

Very early AM departure for travel to Ottawa

Opening notice for our next trip - July 2016

Compadres y Comadres trip for July 2016. We are looking for people who are interested in coming to El Salvador in July 2016. The program has been totally restructured for this year to allow participants to visit more communities and learn more about social justice issues, Oscar Romero and the work being done by Salvadorans to improve their lives. You can also count on some eco-tourist adventures that will expose you to El Salvador’s natural beauty, including highland hikes, river boat tours, and Pacific coast beaches.

If you are interested in this experience, please e-mail Paul McGuire. Three resources are available for your information. Our introductory poster, the Compadres y Comadres website and blog. An introductory meeting has been planned for the fall.

Paul McGuire St. Anthony School

Compadres y Comadres Poster

Compadres y Comadres Website

Compadres y Comadres Blog

Foto tomada durante el acto de conmemoración d...
Foto tomada durante el acto de conmemoración del 27º aniversario del martirio de Monseñor Oscar A. Romero en San Salvador, El Salvador (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Ignite posts continue

The people of El Salvador have faced repression for over 500 years.
In 1932 the rural indigenous people, the  Pipil rebelled against the ruling class and military.  Over the space of only a few days over 30,000 Pipil were massacred.

As a result of this repression, the indigenous people of El Salvador disappeared as a cultural entity.  Their language, customs, dress, their entire way of life was suppressed.  Only now are some of these traditions returning in the western part of the country.

Oscar Romero is the central figure in the story of the Salvadoran people.  Here he stands next to his good friend, Fr. Rutillio Grande who was murdered in 1977.

For three years he preached against the repression of the military government in San Salvador.  He challenged the established order and two weeks before his death called on the military to put down their arms for the sake of a higher justice.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Ignite Talk on El Salvador


I am passionate about El Salvador because it is a land of contrasts.  The people have suffered terrible atrocities but their spirit is strong, they are not a defeated people.  


I started visiting the country in 1995 as a member of a aid group delegation.  Since then I have returned every few years with a new group of Canadians.  Each time I go, I learn more about these beautiful, tragic people.

Ignite Presentation on Compadres y Comadres

This week, I had a great opportunity to do an Ignite talk on El Salvador. Pretty interesting experience. I plan over the next few days post my slides and my speaking notes here on the Compadres y Compadres blog.  I tried to keep these notes very short - you only get 15 seconds per slide and a total of 20 slides for a 5 minute talk - quite the challenge!!


My name is PaulMcGuire


Tonight I am talking about El Salvador, a country of contrasts, a country I have been visiting for 10 years now.


I set up a program called Compadres y Comadres that sends students and educators down every year to learn from the people of a beautiful, tragic country.