La libertad no hace felices a los hombres, los hace sencillamente hombres.
Freedom does not make humankind happy, it simply makes them human.
                                                                 --Manuel Azaña

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

Volume X, Number 1: Winter 2002


In this Issue:


Tenancingo Delegation Grateful for Opportunity to “Open People’s Eyes”
by Dennis Beach, OSB

In the eyes of Elias, Marta, Marcello and Mercedes, the representatives from Tenancingo who the Saint Cloud area in late October/early November, their experience here was a tremendous success. The visit, which lasted two weeks, from October 23 – November 6, was highlighted by their stay with families representing four area churches: the Rick and Ginny Green family from 1st United Methodist, the Dan and Jane Fark family from Salem Lutheran, Mike and Diane Brum family from Christ Church Newman Center, and the Tim and Lisa Mortensen family of Saint Augustine’s Parish. The delegates were unanimous that this aspect of the visit really made them feel welcome and at home. Anyone who attended the Farewell /Despedida celebration knows how deeply felt this connection was--on both sides.

At a meeting with the host families after the delegation to evaluate how things went, it became clear that while language was in some ways a barrier and a challenge, this very challenge made everyone find new and simpler ways of communicating--hugs, smiles, laughter. From the children to the adults, everyone agreed that they learned they could communicate a great deal with these simple gestures. Even if more ability in Spanish would have allowed them to talk about more things, all felt that they connected on basic human levels of love and affirmation.

The Salvadorans agreed with this whole-heartedly. Over and over they said how much they felt loved, treated with respect, as persons with real dignity. At times, they said, they worried that the family was more concerned for their welfare than for the needs of the family itself. What struck me in hearing them say this was how clear it was that being treated with respect was not something they had learned to expect in their lives. The life stories that they shared with us told of countless hardships, especially during the war years, but also afterwards. While their efforts to educate themselves--several worked at completing their basic education for nearly half their lives--showed that they have respect for themselves, they were clearly not always used to having this respect reflected by others around them, especially people with money wealth and power, which we have, quite unconsciously, as North Americans. Our ability to affirm this self-worth and dignity is one of the best things we “DO” for our Salvadoran brothers and sisters.

It may not seem like much to be friendly and warm and interested in another person, but it meant the world to them! So the next time someone asks “What does PAB actually DO?” you can answer, “We help affirm the dignity and self-worth of the people of Tenancingo simply by meeting them face-to-face, by communicating with them any way we can, by showing interest in their lives and struggles and hopes.

In their own evaluation, the delegates said that they were very impressed by the organization of their visit, and felt that they were able to share a great deal about the history and current situation in their country--“to open people’s eyes” as Elias Gonzales said. They felt there was a great deal of interest on the part of people in the Saint Cloud area in what they said, and they felt people really wanted to keep learning more--about “the war, the vulnerability which made the earthquakes so damaging, Romero, and life in the countryside.” They also noted with pleasure that “events were organized in a way that those attending were not just going to learn about El Salvador today, but also to learn why a relationship exists between PAB and Tenancingo, and the goals of this relationship.” Thus, they felt that the goals for the visit were realized very well.

mayor welcome
Mayor Larry Meyer greets the delegates from Tenancingo at the Paramount Theater. Left to right: Mayor Larry Meyer, Mercedes del Carmen Montalvo Paz, Br. Dennis Beach (for PAB), Marta Menjivar, and Elias Gonzales. Seated is Marcelo Fabian. (Mayor’s Office photo).

 Some of the things they noted as highlights were the reception by Mayor Larry Meyer at the Paramount Theater and the fund-raiser the next evening which they felt continued the celebration, the newspaper interviews, and visits to lots of places: the Mille Lacs Native American reservation and school, Whitney Senior Center, Anna Marie’s, the Community Shelter (Landon Place), and Rick and June Scherping’s farm in Freeport. And of course the schools--the interest and enthusiasm of the students was impressive. They especially felt that the college students showed a great deal of interest in their stories and were able to develop further their understanding of the social, political and economic realities they face. Finally, they thoroughly enjoyed meeting other Salvadorans living here--both at the Fund-raiser fiesta at the Rox Bar & Grill and at the Resource Center of the Americas in Minneapolis, not to mention Elias’ brother, who lives in the Twin Cities!

visit-whitney
Delegates from Tenancingo with residents and staff of Whitney Senior Center in Saint Cloud.

 

Mercedes, Marcello, Elias, Marta, and Rosanne Fischer, posing in front of the new mural at the Resource Center of the Americas in Minneapolis.

Many thanks to all who worked so hard to make the Salvadorans’ visit a success: the planning committees, those who worked at the Fund-raiser and the Mayor’s reception, the drivers, translators and hosts, and especially the host families, who represented Central Minnesota at its best. And lest I forget, thanks a million to Rosanne Fischer and the Mission Office, which served as headquarters for the start and finish of almost each day’s excursion. The Mission Office store also furnished the delegates with winter clothes (they arrived to our first snowfall and bitter winds, though the weather quickly improved!), with carry-bags full of things such as notebooks, chap-stick, disposable cameras, etc, plus suitcases filled with various things to take home to the communities in Tenancingo. Thanks, too, to the Sisters of St. Scholastica’s Monastery, who hosted a welcoming luncheon, to First United Methodist Church, who hosted the dinner where the delegates met their host families, and to the Sisters of Saint Benedict’s Monastery, who hosted delegates in their guest house on their last night here.

A few more words about the experience of the host families, these from Dan and Jane Fark and family: “Our family would like to thank PAB for the opportunity to host Marta Menjivar. Marta was eager to share in the life and activity of our family--from getting costumed up and going out trick or treating to bundling up in two parkas to attend a barn raising party. She was just as eager to share her life with us--telling us of her family, her work, the joys and challenges of life in Corral Viejo, and in this photo, showing us how to make "real tortillas.'"

Marta making tortillas
Marta teaching the Farks’ children how to make real Salvadoran tortillas.

The rest of the story in pictures:

Mercedes del Carmen making Salvadoran pupusas--tortillas filled with cheese and refried beans, for the Mortensens and friends.

 

visit-mille-lacs
Sister Anne Malerich, OSB with Marcello and Mercedes at in front of a Native American mural at the school on the Mille Lacs reservation.

 

visit-apollo
Mercedes and Marcello with students at Apollo High School. While Mercedes and Marcello visited Apollo, Elias and Marta were visiting a college Spanish class at St. John’s University. By doing this several times, the delegation almost doubled the schools they were able to visit.

 

Sherping Farm Dinner
Delegation visiting the Rick and June Scherping farm in Freeport. Left to right, are Joe Fitzgerald, a farmer in Glencoe and former Minnesota Bishops’ staff person for rural concerns and his wife, Ann; Mercedes, Fr. Roger Klassen, OSB, pastor in Freeport; Rodolfo June and Rick Scherping, Elizabeth Leppman (translator), Marta and Marcello.

 


Fundraiser at the Rox Bar and Grill by Vera Eccarius-Kelly

On October 26, PAB held its annual fundraiser in support of reconstruction efforts for its sister-city Tenancingo and surrounding villages. Bob McManus, owner of the Rox Bar and Grill in St. Cloud and an active member in the organization, generously provided the community with a wonderful location for the event and donated the food. His staff volunteered to set up, prepare, and serve more than 450 meals during a fun and uplifting evening.

The proceeds from the dinner event will benefit our Salvadoran brothers and sisters who have suffered tremendously from the damaging impact of multiple earthquakes. With the extremely energetic support of individuals and businesses in the St. Cloud area, PAB collected $6,110 that will directly improve the lives of families in our sister-city Tenancingo. Besides enjoying the good company of friends and supporting a worthy cause, the event included a welcome of the Salvadoran delegation by Sister Anne Malerich and Brother Dennis Beach. The four delegates took the opportunity to step up to the microphone to personally thank the community of St. Cloud and Partners Across Borders for its warm reception and kind support of the people in El Salvador. The delegates emphasized how impressed they were by the large number of people that came to share the evening with them. Again, a special thanks to Bob McManus and his outstanding staff for a marvelous meal and a terrific evening.

Marta Menjivar talking on stage at the Rox Fundraiser about the work of the women’s committees in Tenancingo. Sister Anne served as translator.
 

Romeo's Pre-Delegation Visit in St. Cloud by Vera Eccarius-Kelly

In early October, Partners Across Borders sponsored a visit by Romeo Duarte to the St. Cloud area. Most participants in past delegations to El Salvador remember Romeo as the friendly, reliable, and always prepared delegation driver providing every group with insightful advice, detailed information about current political events, and plenty of harrowing war stories.

Romeo arrived on a cool, damp October night for his first visit to Minnesota. His presence kicked-off a series of educational and fundraising events organized by members of PAB. We soon enjoyed the familiar warmth of friendship and conversation once Romeo had settled into his room in our place. Vera, Romeo, and I talked late into the evening, catching up on news from Tenancingo and learning more about the general political situation in the country. Romeo described the difficult struggle of rebuilding homes in the aftermath of the multiple earthquakes last year. We were relieved to hear that our good friend, Dave Johnson, was healthy and in good spirits despite the daily challenges he and his team members in the SHARE office, and the people of El Salvador continue to face.

Hardships abound in the country since uncounted buildings were destroyed and seriously damaged, including schools, private homes, and businesses. In addition, many roads are in need of major repair work. Gaining access to basic services, such as potable water, for example, requires a great deal of organization and sustained effort, along with money, of course. Romeo photographed some of these challenges, capturing moving scenes of the destruction and the rebuilding process. We had a lot to talk about during the time Romeo visited with us, but we always felt that the people of El Salvador show much determination to reconstruct their towns and lives.

Fortunately, Romeo was able to address these issues of reconstruction and international solidarity with students and the larger public during the Global Awareness Lecture Series at St. John's University. He spoke to an audience of over 200, and shared his thoughts, experiences, and photographs. It was a heart wrenching overview of how the war destroyed the lives of so many people. Romeo's personal accounts of working as a guide for CNN's Peter Arnett were harrowing and fascinating. Somehow, Romeo escaped injury, but people close to him were not as lucky, as he showed in a photograph of a press colleague who had just been shot through the arm and was awaiting evacuation. When the soundman for CNN was injured diving for cover in a skirmish and could not continue, Romeo took over his position. But Romeo was much more than a local guide for Arnett. The two men made history with the fledgling news agency that since then has grown into a news giant. At that time, it was just Romeo, Arnett, and just a few others going after the tough stories in the Salvadoran jungles and towns, searching for footage and interviews with survivors of military or guerrilla attacks.

Throughout his visit, Romeo talked a lot about his war experiences. It taught him to be observant, because his life and the lives of others depended on it. He described one incident when his news group was heading through the jungle and got caught in crossfire. He warned a photographer to stay down, but the photographer wanted to move into a better position to get some shots of the action. He ignored Romeo's advice and was killed instantly.

Romeo's reports on the effect of the earthquakes in the country are equally saddening. The government in El Salvador has failed to provide the country's population with basic supplies and proper housing. He thanked PAB and the community of St. Cloud for the tremendous support for the people in Tenancingo. Romeo suggested that personal friendships and expressions of solidarity will help the town of Tenancingo and its nearby communities face the multitude of difficulties ahead.

Dave Johnson of SHARE, Romeo Duarte, and Br. Dennis Beach in San Salvador last summer.

 

Partners Across Borders' newsletter has been edited by Dennis Beach, OSB, but is in need of a new editor for working on computer layout. It appears three times a year: Winter, Spring/Summer, and Fall. Contributions are welcome!

PAB Meetings are held the 1st Monday of every month at Salem Lutheran Church, 90 Riverside Dr. SE, St. Cloud, from 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM. Please note the new day and location. All are welcome and encouraged to attend!

 


Vigil and Prayer Service for Peace by Jackie Bradbury

On January 21st, Martin Luther King Day, members of many religious communities and organizations will gather in downtown St. Cloud for a vigil, walk, and prayer service commemorating the United Nation’s Decade for Peace and Nonviolence for Children. The vigil will take place at 3:00 P.M. outside the Federal Building, 720 St. Germain Street. At 3:30 P.M. participants will walk to St. Mary’s Cathedral and the St. Cloud City Hall for brief prayers and then proceed to First United Methodist Church for a prayer service at 4:00 P.M.

Organizers include Pax Christi, The Lutheran Peace Fellowship, First United Methodist Church, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Mission Office of the Diocese of St. Cloud, and other organizations and individuals. The Vigil and Prayer Service will call attention to the UN’s Decade for a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence for Children, and will assist in animating networks concerned with peace to reflect, pull together on efforts, and work to build awareness about local and global initiatives to foster a culture of peace for the world’s children.
Organizers suggest, “A culture of peace must be understood as an objective in a broad process involving intentional actions to transform human behavior and thus transform culture.”

All interested and concerned members of the community are invited to take part. For more information, contact Sr. Merle Nolde at mnolde@csbsju.edu or Warren Bradbury at 320-251-4966 (Bradbury@astound.net).

 


Wanted: Delegates!

PAB is looking for a few good people who would like to travel to El Salvador this July to visit the communities of Tenancingo as well as sites in San Salvador and elsewhere in the country, You do not need to be a Spanish speaker to be a delegate--translators will accompany the group and translate all sessions. Look how wonderfully the Salvadoran delegates experienced Central Minnesota without knowledge of English--you can do the same in El Salvador! Ask a past delegate if the trip was worth it--the answer is a resounding Yes! ¡Sí!
Please consider making this summer the summer you visit El Salvador and Tenancingo with PAB. Estimated cost of the trip is $1200.00, about half of which is airfare. The dates for the delegation are Tuesday, July 16 – Friday, July 26. If you think you might be interested, or know someone else who is or who should be, please contact Vera Eccarius-Kelly at (320) 363-5704 or send an inquiry by e-mail: veccarius@csbsju.edu.
As the delegation plans proceed, we will let folks know what items we’ll try to bring to Tenancingo this summer. But we always can use school supplies such as crayons and colored marker sets, pencils and pens, as well as cotton print fabric for sewing projects. At least one community is looking for baseball gloves for a children’s team, so if your Little-Leaguer is due for a new glove, save the old one and donate it! Details to come.

 


SHARE Foundation News by Dave Johnson and Dennis Beach

Kate Lorenzen, who has helped orient and guide many PAB delegations visiting El Salvador has just wrapped up what has been a fruitful 6 year commitment to SHARE and its Sistering program. On Friday, December 14, SHARE hosted a despedida (farewell) for Kate with all of our counterparts, Seven of eight presidents from the Tenancingo communities were able to attend. SHARE will sadly miss Kate. She is being replaced by Leslie Billich, from Baltimore, who has been involved with sistering for several years via Sister Cities. Kate and her husband Chamba and their son have moved to the US.

At the end of January, Sara Stowell, the Field Office Director in El Salvador, will also step down. Sara previously worked as SHARE’s Development Director and really helped organize and professionalize SHARE’s operations. Sara is the person who wrote the orientation to El Salvador essay that we used to orient the past several delegations to El Salvador, and oversaw the 2000 delegation commemorating the 20th anniversary of Archbishop Romero’s assassination. Sara and her husband José and their new daughter Magali will continue lving in El Salvador, at least for the time being.

There also are changes in SHARE’s advocacy team, both in Washington DC and in El Salvador. Phil Anderson has been helping with advocacy in Washington DC for the past year, and Nelson Escobar, in El Salvador, has been with SHARE for seven years. SHARE’s letter announcing this says, “There are not words adequate to capture the impact that Nelson's work has had within SHARE and in forging coalitional efforts. Nelson helped shape SHARE's vision of accompaniment of our partners and guided important processes of organizing and planning for municipal development..
PAB joins in wishing wish Kate, Sara, Nelson and Phil all the best and thanking them for their dedicated work to help us connect to the people of El Salvador and Tenancingo. Meanwhile, welcome to Leslie and also to Sherry, who has been interning with advocacy issues in El Salvador since last summer. May they and those who will join them carry on SHARE’s great work!

Finally, Dave Johnson is heading into the final stretch of his two-year internship with SHARE. But Dave will still be there this summer to coordinate PAB’s next visit!

 

Editor’s Note from Br. Dennis Beach, OSB

I have been editing PAB’s newsletter for four years now, and I must say I have learned a great deal. I hope I have helped your understanding of things in El Salvador and Tenancingo along as I’ve done the job. I sincerely thank people for all the encouraging comments I’ve received. As I write this (literally), I am preparing to set off for 4½ months in Nicaragua and Costa Rica with a group of St. Ben’s and St. John’s students on a study abroad trip. We will visit El Salvador briefly, but not Tenancingo. I will be back with PAB, and will stay in touch from there by e-mail:

    dbeach@csbsju.edu
. ¡Que Dios les bendiga a tod@s!

PAB-people-small.gif (2258 bytes)

PAB Thanks You!  PAB Still Needs You!

PAB wants to thank those who responded to the request to join teams of volunteers for the various tasks we have. Almost all of the tasks have solid teams willing to work, so together, we can carry on our mission! Because the task of an overall coordinator or co-coordinators, which will be much lighter now that many of the former tasks have been spoken for by the teams of volunteers, was simply too daunting for any individuals to step forward at this time, PAB took the advice of some long-time SHARE supporters, newcomers to Minnesota but formerly active with a solidarity committee in Philadelphia, and will be trying a team approach to leadership. If all the committees and teams are working on their own areas, we will try to rotate the task of planning and chairing individual meetings. If no one has to face a long term as coordinator, but simply plan one meeting, we figure we can share the burden of leadership.

Please attend PAB’s first meeting of 2002 Monday, January 21, at 7:00 PM, Salem Lutheran Church, 90 Riverside Drive SE , Saint Cloud. (Please enter by the door on Riverside Drive). See you there! ¡Nos vemos!