To believe, to hope: this is the Christian's grace in our time. When many give up hope, when it seems to them
the nation has nowhere to go, as though it were all over, the Christian says: No, we have not yet begun.
We are still awaiting God's grace. …The time will come! - Archbishop Oscar Romero, September 2, 1979

SAINT CLOUD AREA AND TENANCINGO, EL SALVADOR, SISTER COMMUNITY NEWSLETTER

Volume IX, Number 2: Summer 2001


In this Issue:


Tenancingo Delegation to Visit Saint Cloud Area This Fall: Drivers, Translators & Hosts (to accompany on visits) Needed

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Plans are shaping up for the visit of four people from Tenancingo and the surrounding cantons this fall. The group arrives Tuesday, October 23, and will depart Monday, November 5. While some of the details are set, we are very much in need of people to come forward to help with a variety of responsibilities, from helping with translation or driving the group to meetings, or simply accompanying them as they make the rounds of Central Minnesota. See next page for information on getting involved in the delegation's visit. The group of four were selected by the council of presidents and community representatives of the eight communities in and around Tenancingo that participate in the sistering relationship with St. Cloud. They were chosen to represent four important areas of work in the communities:

Elias Gonzalez Pacas has been a grass-roots organizer since the time of the civil war and has now taken on the municipal promoter position funded by PAB. He has also been active with local political organizing.

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Marta Julia Menjivar is from the canton of Corral Viejo, which is right on the road about 7 kilometers before one gets to Tenancingo. Corral Viejo was in the area hardest hit by the February earthquake, and many homes were lost. Marta is the president of the very active and impressive Women's Committee of Corral Viejo.

Marcelo Fabian comes from the community of El Pepeto (as does Elias. El Pepeto is just a short walk on past the grade school and high school on the road going on from Tenancingo to Suchitoto. Marcelo is president of the community council of El Pepeto, and he works closely with the pastoral musicians and the catechetical team from the parish in town.

The fourth person will be Mercedes del Carmen Montalvo Paz, from Tenancingo itself. Mercedes is eighteen years old and was one of the top graduates from the high school last fall. (The school term finishes in November). Of course, the cost of further education is prohibitive, but Mercedes is helping out teaching the adult literacy class in Tenancingo.


Delegation Wants to Experience Family and Community Life

Delegates to Stay with Families

Four families from the Saint Cloud area are being selected to host our Salvadoran visitors from those who responded to the appeal in the Spring Newsletter. We tried to place the group with a cross-section of families from the area, from different churches and local communities. Of course, with only four visitors, our options were limited. It was decided that it would work best if guests could get to know one family well during their visit. Thus, we apologize if we could not honor every request to host a Salvadoran guest. We need lots of help in other areas. please volunteer to help drive, translate or accompany the delegates on their visits! Please see phone numbers and e-mails listed as contacts.

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School and Community Visits a Priority

If your school or community group in the Saint Cloud area would like to host one or more delegates from Tenancingo for a visit, please contact. Both public and private/religious schools and groups are welcome to host a visit. We aren't sure what kind of a demand we'll have, but we'll try to accommodate as many groups as possible. Schools can plan various events, but should be aware that these are not polished speakers with presentations coming to visit, but simple people struggling to better their lives who are willing to share their stories. It would be appropriate to have them visit Spanish classes but also Social Studies, Religion and any other classes where there's a sincere interest. if schools could help provide some translation, that would make the coordinators' jobs a lot easier!

Other church and community groups are also welcome to host a visit. Delegates will be visiting Sunday religious services with their host families on one weekend, but can visit elsewhere the second Sunday. The Mayor's office and City Council will host a reception at the Paramount Theater (date and time to be determined). We also plan to have the delegation visit the Native American School and Museum near Mille Lacs, as well as a local farm (could use help in arranging this, especially in learning about local farm issues), Anna Marie's shelter for battered women and other places in the area working with social concerns. If you have any ideas or interest in helping plan or arrange such a visit, please contact us!

Volunteers are needed to help with translating, driving, accompanying and planning visits. Please contact:
  • Dennis Beach, OSB (at St. John's): 320/363-2997 // e-mail:
      dbeach@csbsju.edu
  • Rosanne Fischer (at the Mission Office): 320/252-1100 e-mail:
      mission@cloudnet.com
  • Anne Malerich, OSB, (at St. Scholastica's): 320/ 251-2225.
  • Dawn Schroeder, 320/983-6810 // e-mail: dmact@yahoo.com

Fund-raiser for Earthquake Relief and Community Rebuilding

by Anne Malerich, OSB

To help Tenancingo with earthquake recovery and needs caused by severe drought, owners of the Rox Bar & Grill on St. Germain in Saint Cloud have offered to furnish the place, food and profits for a Fall Fundraiser if PAB sells tickets ($6.00 each). For every 200 tickets sold, $1000 will go for earthquake relief and other community projects that help lessen the vulnerability of the Tenancingo population to future disasters. YOU ARE NEEDED TO HELP SELL LOTS OF TICKETS! Help will also be needed to do publicity, decorate, take tickets at the door, bus dishes, and sell crafts. If you can take part, call Iris Surma (252-5388) or S. Anne Malerich (251-2225).

Look forward to a good dinner at the Rox on Friday, October 26, 4-8 PM. Our four guests from Tenancingo will be on hand!


Partners Across Borders' newsletter is edited by Dennis Beach, OSB. It appears three times a year. Articles or ideas are welcome!

This edition was delayed to obtain confirmation of the dates for the Tenancingo delegation visit in October. The newsletter and other information about PAB is available online at http://www.osb.org/pab/. Meetings are held the 3rd Monday of every month at Salem Lutheran Church, 90 Riverside Drive SE, St. Cloud. Enter on the "bank side." All are welcome!


Report from Tenancingo: Delegation of One

by Dennis Beach, OSB

The PAB delegation planned for July dwindled until the leadership decided it was too late to prepare a full delegation. However, a number of important questions and concerns remained, and instead of leading the delegation, I decided to go alone, for a shorter period of time. With just myself to organize, I was able to learn quite a bit and to push along plans about the visit of the four representatives this fall. The primary questions I asked about were: 1) How is the area doing with earthquake reconstruction? and 2) How is the new promoter's position working out for the communities? (covered in next issue).

Of course, the concern foremost in everyone's mind in Tenancingo was the people back here, and why there was no full delegation. I explained some of the uncertainties that had arisen, talked of the plans for the visit in the fall, and promised to do my best to make sure we had a full delegation next July. So here's your invitation to begin making plans now to be part of the PAB delegation in 2002! The people there look forward to our visit each year with eager anticipation. Let's fulfill this anticipation next year!

Word that the delegation was reduced to one did not really reach the people until I did. In early May it still looked like we'd have 5 people, and Tenancingo did not get the cancellation message Dave Johnson of SHARE left with CRIPDES until after he had left the country in mid-June for SHARE's annual staff retreat in San Francisco. (Nor did Dave get the packet of letters the communities wrote to PAB until 3 days before I arrived!) Thus, Tenancingo only found out I was the lone representative a week before I arrived, and there was not much time to get the word out to the communities. But even so, there was a good spirit of thankfulness that I had come to help solidify the communication between them and us.

Earthquake Damage and Reconstruction

The final word on the damage from the February 13th earthquake that hit much closer to Tenancingo than the January one was that nearly 700 homes had either been knocked flat (about 100) or had been damaged so badly as to be rendered uninhabitable. To this number should be added the damages from the January quake, which left about 100 families without homes or in heavily damaged ones. Of this total (over 800), some 634 houses were recognized as lost in the official government census by FISDL. Most of these people had been provided temporary, emergency materials (corrugated tin or synthetic "laminas" and plastic sheeting and bamboo, wood or steel poles by early May, when the rainy season began. Part of the more than money sent by PAB to SHARE helped supply these materials as well as emergency food and medical supplies.

As for more permanent housing, Casas Formales, as of July 9, the mayor's office had programs in place to construct some 95, many through a program organized by CORDES, a non-governmental organization that has been active with these communities since the war. DIGNAS, a women's rights group, was helping construct another 25 in the cantons of Chipilte and Quiziltepec, while the Jesuit Foundation had a project of 50 houses for Hacienda Nueva and Asuluco. Corral Viejo had the support of a Salesian foundation for an additional 20 houses to match the 20 they were getting through CORDES. In all, this adds up to no more than 200 houses of the more than 634 that need to be replaced.

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Provisional houses in Hacienda Nueva. The center one has heavy mil white plastic sheeting for walls, while the one on the right has corrugated tin laminas all around. Those of the latter style are called microondas-microwaves!

Many of the damaged houses are still being used. This family added the emergency materials as a little "champita" addition to the damaged house, which they still use during the daytime, while they sleep in the provisional structure. Others separate the temporary structure more, but still use the old house during the day, believing that tremors would warn them in time to run to safety

Despite this shortfall, the people I saw were positive about the progress they had made. In Corral Viejo, the Women's Committee had formed 3 teams of 10 women each to work on the buildings. These teams receive training in the various phases of construction, from pouring a concrete floor with steel posts for superstructure, to the construction of roofs, and finally, the addition of permanent masonry walls. Many of the houses temporarily used plastic sheeting for walls and then gradually planned to add the permanent walls.

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The women of Corral Viejo signing the contracts for their replacement housing with the CORDES representative. The CV Women's Committee organized the event and provided proxies and witnesses for those who couldn't read or write

One new type of wall planned for some houses is called "MayaGold." First there is erected a superstructure of 2x2 steel beams. Then a chain-link mesh and steel rods ("re-bar" is hung and a masonry wall poured around this, between forms. The result is a strong wall with some insulating capacity that will sustain minimal damage in an earthquake. The steel superstructure flexes and thus does not topple, while the masonry walls crumble and fall straight down as stones and gravel instead of collapsing as a whole wall on top of people.

I visited one of the sites in Corral Viejo where the team of women was at work scraping and rust-proofing the steel superstructure they had erected. The work went on at a typical unhurried pace. There was a man or two on the job as well, for the project stipulates that at least one member of each family participate in the "sweat-equity" for the house regularly. Although the earthquake had destroyed most of the little they had, the women were quick to point out the blessing that God had given them in bringing them back. "We really have learned how to work with each other and to depend on each other," they said. "Now we women know that we too can build houses! We attended the workshops and learned how to do the work, just like the men!" Their pride was evident. It is actions like this that really bolster my hope in the power of organizing. An outside group coming in and building houses or even organizing the process would not produce anywhere near this kind of self- and community-confidence.

In Hacienda Nueva, community representatives toured me through some of the damages. Construction of permanent housing had not yet begun here, although two young women working as organizers for the Jesuit Foundation were visiting the hamlet when I was there. Because they gave us a ride back to Tenancingo, we had time to sample some sweet corn (maiz de elote) tamales at the home of Marta Pichinte, a directiva member. Que rico!

Damage to Church Building

Back in Tenancingo, I didn't have much time but I wanted to take some pictures of the church building, which had been damaged to the point that it was unusable. Services area being held in the reception area at the parish house across the street. On Friday morning, just before the farewell ceremony, I walked down the street to take some pictures of the cracks, Padre Joaquin just happened to come out of the parish house. Usually he would be visiting one of the villages on a Friday, but to prepare for the patronal feast of Santiago (St. James the Apostle), he was in town. Padre Joaquin opened up the church so I could see and photograph the damages inside and also gave me a copy of the engineer's report.

The damages are substantial, especially to the façade, the side walls, and the corners of the structure. The report classified the damages as "category orange"-somewhere between a "yellow alert" and a "red alert" and affirmed that the church was not usable in the present condition. However the engineer is confident that the building can be completely rehabilitated, but an estimate of the actual work needed done was beyond the scope of his report. The report did advise underpinning of the façade and walls with wooden supports to prevent more damage and repair of the roof, either by retiling it or with a combination of tin and plastic, to prevent rainwater from entering and causing further damage.

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Structural damage in the front upper corner of the church. The top of the wall crumbled away where the roof shifted.

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Cracks in the side walls of the church in Tenancingo are the most clearly visible damages it sustained.

Schools

The schools in Tenancingo and the surrounding villages sustained some minor damages, but it seems that most students did not miss more than two weeks of classes (although it is unknown how many parents simply kept their children away this year). At the grade school in Tenancingo, classes were held outdoors under a tent for a while, at least until assessment of possible damages could be made. There are two classrooms not being used because of damages, and teachers expect to finish the year's curriculum.

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Don Tito Pérez Cárcamo last year, reading the letter from PAB in his office in the new high school.

The new high school building, with its cinderblock walls appears to have survived unscathed, and classes there were not interrupted except for the two week hiatus in mid-February, which was nation-wide. However, a problem of a different kind struck the high school. Don Tito Pérez Cárcamo, director of the school, was suddenly stricken with an edema on the brain that caused paralysis and other problem I was not able to visit him, but all the people with whom I talked confessed that he had been gravely, dangerously ill, although now it looked like he was on the road to recovery, "Primero Dios" ["If God wills"]. When I asked if there would be any enduring ill-effects of the illness, I was told it weas uncertain, but the look in people's eyes was a lesson for me in Salvadoran understanding. It seemed to say, "There are lasting ill-effects of everything, everywhere. One does what one can and hopes in God. Primero Dios."

I presented a PAB check to the acting director of the high school for school materials and scholarships. They did express confidence that they could get the check to Don Tito (it was in his name) and thanked us for the support and concern.

I also made arrangements to get some material support to the grade schools in Tenancingo and the surrounding area. in past years we have purchased school supplies in San Salvador and then distributed them to the sistered communities. Since that wasn't possible this year, the president's council and I discussed an alternative, and they decided we could give a small monetary donation to each one of the grade schools in the area, apportioning funds more or less according to the population of the school that came from the sistered communities. This way teachers can give school supplies directly to those students who are most in need. It was encouraging to see the presidents putting this trust in the local school directors, although it remains to be seen how satisfied they will be with the way materials are eventually distributed! Still, working to strengthen existing local organizations seems a good thing.

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Roberto Aguilar Cerros, a teacher at the Tenancingo grade school, talking with Dawn Schroeder and other PAB delegates in July 2000. Don Roberto's love for the children and their love for him is obvious to all who meet him. Delegates who are teachers are especially impressed-they recognize his wonderful rapport instantly. Roberto is willing to have classes exchange letters with students at the grade school. Any Saint Cloud area teachers who are interested should contact Dennis Beach (phone 363-2997 or e-mail: dbeach@csbsju.edu).


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