Central America, Spring ^10

March 22, 2010

All from El Salvador

Filed under: Uncategorized — samanthabass @ 2:40 pm

Managua, 98° & rising

Filed under: Uncategorized — samanthabass @ 4:34 am

The eleven hour busride through Honduras and Nicaragua was beautiful. I saw some interesting land formations. Class starts tomorrow.

March 21, 2010

Nicaragua 3am

Filed under: Uncategorized — samanthabass @ 6:30 am

I’m catching a 3am bus to Managua tonight. The ride takes about 11 hours.

The last few days have been really busy with final projects and finishing things up. For our final group projects, we were supposed to share some information we learned from our interviews with the rest of the group in a creative format. Chris and I talked mostly about mining, so we created a situation where everybody stood around the table with either black, green or blue paint. I cut the shape of El Salvador out of a huge piece of canvass and we made cards with different events and facts on them. Some of the events favored the mining company, others the green/blue situation, and others both. We each took turns picking a card and then depending on what the card said, people with a certain color paint could put color on the canvass. So for instance, if the card said ‘mining company sues government of El Salvador,’ black would paint. And if the card said, ‘community organizes to fight mining company,’ green/blue would paint. It was really fun because by the end the canvass was a mix of black, green and blue and all the colors were on top of each other. And we all took turns painting with each color. We could use any medium we wanted for our final projects, and some students made websites, paintings, performances, mixtapes, etc. Friday was a really nice day of presentations and reflection.

The hotel we’re staying at now has a lot of people from all over here for Romero’s 30th anniversary. I went to the memorial march today, and it started with speakers and musicians. The FMLN president of El Salvador, Mauricio Funes, also spoke. Before the march started two of the students that were occupying the University recognized us and introduced themselves. I didn’t recognize them at first because they were wearing masks at the time, but they remembered our names. They said the occupation lasted 13 days and after negotiations the University accepted a hundred more students. The two of them got accepted, they’re both seventeen and want to study medicine and architecture.

There were a lot of students at the march wearing all black and waving red communist flags. Lots of people in che guevara shirts with revolutionary quotes on the back. And there were also church delegations from the US and Europe, nuns, solidarity organizations, all sorts of people. Lots of red FMLN flags, etc. We marched from the upper area of town where all the businesses and fast-food chains are to the downtown area of the National Cathedral.

After, I ate pupusas for dinner. Now I’m packing and catching a bus to Nicaragua in two hours. It’s gonna be real how and tropical.

March 17, 2010

The Lungs of El Salvador, Desert

Filed under: Uncategorized — samanthabass @ 2:42 am

One of my final projects here is to conduct interviews with four organizations working to better the environmental situation in El Salvador. I’m working with Chris and went to three interviews today, I have one more tomorrow.

This morning we met with Dr. Jose Enrique Barraza from the Ministry of the Environment, a government branch doing environmental work. He explained how El Salvador is dealing with problems of deforestation, erosion, crop failures, lack of drinking water, and is also fighting a US/Canadian mining company. The ministry was established in 1998 to address some of these issues, but has little impact because it receives very little funding.

We also met with Alfredo Carias from Unidad Ecologica Salvadorena (UNES). This is a coalition organization that does research and activist work. They lobby the government and work to educate the public about environmental issues. By 2015 El Salvador will have serious problems with drinking water, and already 75% of the rural population and 25% of the urban population lack access to clean water. He told us that El Salvador is the first country in the hemisphere seriously at risk of becoming a giant desert. Also, the air is as contaminated in El Salvador as it is in Mexico City. The most exclusive shopping mall in San Salvador is built on top of what was once called the ‘lungs of El Salvador.’

He also spoke more about the controversy around the US/Canadian mining company Pacific Rim. The company wants to mine for gold in the Cabanas region, in the rural northern area of the country. Pacific Rim applied for Exploitation permits but were denied because of the permanent and deadly impact mining would have on the country. The company is proposing to use cyanide to extract small quantities of gold from tons of rock, which would flow into the water supply of the entire region. Last year Pacific Rim filed a lawsuit through CAFTA and is suing the Salvadoran government for $77 million, arguing that they lost investment money and potential profits.

If the FMLN government of El Salvador wins the case, they will be one of the first countries to outlaw mining. If they lose, their land will be open for exploitation by many more transnational corporations. The resistance movement is very strong, but communities directly in the mining region are torn because the mining would create a few jobs, and the company is bribing local politicians and police officers. Five activists involved in the Cabanas Environment Committee have been killed, and many more activists have received death threats.

In the afternoon we met with Jose Roberto Calles from Caritas El Salvador. They are an international organization and do environmental work in various countries. They also work closely with CISPIS, Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador.

Guess that’s a lot of links and information for one blog post. I’m finishing up with my final projects this week and am pretty busy. Twelve hour bus ride in the near future to Nicaragua!

Here’s some more articles about the mining:

http://www.democracynow.org/2009/12/29/anti_mining_activists_killed_in_el

http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/1700/68/

http://www.pacrim-mining.com/s/Eldorado.asp

http://www.cispes.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=671&Itemid=1

March 16, 2010

Centro Arte para la Paz, Suchitoto

Filed under: Uncategorized — samanthabass @ 12:39 am

This weekend I was in Suchitoto, a smaller city about an hour from San Salvador. This city is known for the arts and restored colonial architecture. It reminded me a little of Antigua in Guatemala but with much less tourists and more artists.

Friday night was really interesting because the group Pioneers of Prosperity was awarding entrepeneurs in the city with large grants to expand their businesses. This organization focuses on small to medium business firms that have potential to increase growth and prosperity in their countries. They award entrepeneurs up to $100,000 for investment in infrastructure and training, and provide guidance for development. They work with countries in Central America, the Caribbean and Africa.

It was a really big deal in Suchitoto friday because they had the final awards ceremony there. Ten finalists won a grant from the Multilateral Investment Fund of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) of $40,000, and they are now competing for one grant of $100,000. The ceremony was in the largest theater in the city, and they had it temporarily air-conditioned. The city looked beautiful and was all lit up with lights and candles. They had women dressed in fairy costumes walking around the streets handing out flyers and flowers. And there were fireworks at night!

My Liberation Theology professor opened the Centro Arte para la Paz in 2005, a community arts center for creative education, building a culture of peace, environmental awareness and gender equality. The center is in an old Convent that was abandoned during the civil war. There were bats flying around everywhere – neat! My professor lived in a small community outside the city during the violence, and now lives in the city. The center now has community workshops and seminars, and small museum, a library, space for theater, garden and hostel for delegations and international volunteers. There’s a ton of computers and art supplies, and they have classes on digital photography, painting, etc. There was also a delegation of students from Norway at the center for the weekend, we got to chat a bit.

On Sunday I went horseback riding up a mountain. It was really fun but also scary sometimes when the other horses made noises and then my horse made noises and I thought they would attack each other. But we made it! We passed lots of wild horses and cows and bulls too.

March 11, 2010

Politic, US Embassy, Occupied

Filed under: Uncategorized — samanthabass @ 11:39 pm

The University is still occupied. There’s some new additions, they have big speakers now and the statue is wearing a mask.

This morning, after visiting our friends at the National University, we went to the US Embassy to meet with representatives from US A.I.D. and the Office of Economic Development. It was very interesting, they discussed the benefits of Free Trade and vision for progress in the region. I couldn’t bring my camera into the building for security reasons, sorry! It was a really nice building and the room we met in had lot prints of 19th century American Impressionist paintings.

Tonight we’re going to see some Reggae bands, I think they’re from Nicaragua? To be continued…

March 9, 2010

Universidad de El Salvador, ‘this space is occupied!’

Filed under: Uncategorized — samanthabass @ 12:02 am

Classes were supposed to start at the National University today, but the students are protesting and occupied the space. They aren’t going to give back the school until the administration allows more students into the University. It is the only public university in El Salvador, and the students are wearing masks.

March 3, 2010

Comunidad Nueva Esperanza tomorrow

Filed under: Uncategorized — samanthabass @ 10:33 pm

This afternoonwe had class with Father Rafael de Sivatte, the director of the theology department at the UCA. Tonight, a group of scholarship students from the University are coming to our house for pizza.

Tomorrow, I’m leaving for Comunidad Nueva Esperanza, a community of 104 families about two hours outside the city. During the 80s, the community fled to Nicaragua because of government repression. They moved back to El Salvador after the peace accords and founded the Nueva Esperanza community on principles of Liberation Theology.

I’ll be meeting with members of the agricultural cooperative, the Health Emergency Fund,  the pastoral committee, and ACUDESBAL.

March 2, 2010

Beach today

Filed under: Uncategorized — samanthabass @ 4:47 am

Today we went to the beach. The waves were tall fast and really dangerous. I never saw waves so big before. It was a really nice day.

March 1, 2010

UCA, Jesuits, FMLN…

Filed under: Uncategorized — samanthabass @ 12:14 am

Thursday morning we went back to the UCA (University of Central America) and a student gave us a tour of the location where the six Jesuit priests were masacred, the museum, and the church. After I walked around the campus a bit, the library had an exibit about the ‘birth of jazz.’ We ate lunch in the cafeteria, it was similar to most student cafeterias but outside.

Friday morning, Emily and I left for our weekend homestay. We stayed in two separate houses next to each other, in an area a little outside the city. We helped cook lunch and then in the afternoon our hosts families showed us a healing/meditation center they started with some friends to recover spiritually and emotionally after the war. Saturday we took the bus to San Francisco de Asis church and saw where several martyrs are burried. We spent a lot of time talking with our families because the neighborhoods aren’t safe to walk around, especially at night. This morning we went to mass with our families. The church still preaches many principles of liberation theology, and there are monuments to Romero in the church.

Across the street from my house there was a huge mural with the slogan of FMLN (Frente Farabundo Marti para la Liberacion National). They were the revolutionary guerrilla coalition during the 80s, and were just voted into power last year. They ran on the slogans “esperanza y cambio,” the equivalent of “hope and change.”

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