2014 Stanford Delegation

2014 Stanford Delegation
Stanford Delegation in the UCA Chapel

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


By Ismael Menjivar

On the morning of our last day in El Salvador, we met with someone who led an informative discussion on foreign affairs in El Salvador, which, for many members, reinforced different beliefs.

What it reinforced for me was that poverty really is a structural problem. It seems like a lot of the problems that we saw in the local communities we visited were caused by a lack of representation in the decisions to sell off their lands, or start a project that impacted the communities. In some instances, members of the communities were simply manipulated, scammed into thinking they would reap the benefits of some project, but in the end they see none. The latter is an example of structural problems in education, where the system in place doesn't allow for some campesinos to acquire training in economic or legal affairs that would help them manage their assets.

There is a lack of resources in the areas we visited, and the holes in the political system in place keep the community councils from pushing policies in the interests of many marginalized members. The Salvadoran government has a political structure that has been manipulated by foreign interests for several years and we see this even today, when the country of El Salvador recognizes the winner of an election only after the approval of the US Ambassador. This structure, and perhaps the interests of a few rotten people, has failed to establish communication that keeps development in the hands of those that know what is best in certain regions.

In this imperfect system, I am reminded of the idea that drives the members of the base community in Segundo Montes, the belief in solidaridad. From the moment we arrived, we were thanked heavily for our solidarity with their efforts. They recognized the past martyrs and each present member the day we were there as being part of the solidarity. We even sang a song titled "Solidaridad". During a reflection on the biblical passage of the day, an elderly woman compared the relationship between Jesus and the Samaritan woman to the relationship the base community had with others that might not hold the same beliefs. She said that, like the Samaritan woman, many find it hard to see eye to eye with people from a different community, and, as a result, they turn away from them and create a divide between them. Her point was that such a divide should not exist between the base communities and nonmembers. She rallied for them to try to coexist with others, not in spite, but in solidarity.

As Adam Perelman mentioned below me, solidarity is "much simpler in theory than in practice", but that should not keep communities in El Salvador from seeking this solidarity and striving towards it each day. Divisions are seen all around the country. The homicides rate between the rival gangs, MS and 18th Street, are rising after a failed truce. Flags of the opposing political parties, ARENA and FMLN, can be seen everywhere, but only a small number of Salvadoran flags will wave their blue and white. Even the campo we stayed in shook a little, when youth members questioned why only ex-guerilla fighters were being interviewed for the historical memory project and we worried it might form some sort of division within the community.

In various ways, the civil war continues in El Salvador, keeping different groups from finding common ground to simultaneously further their interests. The fight for solidarity is a tough one, but we've seen successes in these local communities in rural areas. These tiny communities are doing their part to mend the relationships harmed by foul interests and I was glad to see their solidarity in the works.

On our last day together, Jose Acosta shared a story about a bird who tried putting out the flames of a forest on his own when the rest of the animals had fled. He was not successful, but had the other animals helped him, it may have been a different story. The same goes for these communities. I'm hopeful that with the solidarity of other communities, assemblies, and organizations, we will see a different story.

1 comment:

  1. The lack of community-based solidarity can be increseangly seen around the world, but in El Salvador, the lack of a strong cultural accepted identity is a big cause for what you may have seen.