“The faith of others is important for one’s own faith…. Insofar as it is the faith of the other, it always challenges one’s own faith…. Insofar as it is the faith of the other, it is something enabling and encouraging of one’s own faith.”
--Jon Sobrino, SJ, “Bearing with One Another in Faith” in The Principle of Mercy
Volume XII, Number 1: Winter 2003-04
In this Issue:
Editor’s note: The following letter was received by this past summer’s delegation on their visit to Corral Viejo, one of the cantons or hamlets of the town of Tenancingo. Since 1998 PAB has been “sistered” with the Women’s Committee in Corral Viejo, and with the new organizational efforts that embrace the entire municipality, the entire community has entered with great energy into collective work. This letter expresses well the vision of “sistering,” for it shows how important the human element of our relationship is. Although material aid is needed and appreciated, we sometimes underestimate the important effect of our human warmth in nourishing and affirming the people’s sense of human dignity. As they say, they know that each person who makes it to El Salvador represents hundreds more “back home.” Why not take inspiration from this and join us in 2004, so you, too, can have the privilege of representing hundreds of good-hearted people here and meeting hundreds more good-hearted Salvadorans there!
July 13, 2003
Dear Sisters and Brothers of the organization, “Partners Across Borders”:
By this letter the inhabitants of the community of Corral Viejo send you a warm greeting, hoping that all the people who join themselves to this generous work are enjoying the all the goodness that our God grants us. We want to thank you for helping the municipality of Tenancingo make many projects into reality, projects that we have only been able to bring to fruition with your great, valuable help. This goes especially in Corral Viejo, where, thanks be to God, we are learning to set aside many differences that sometimes separate human beings, and we are organizing women, men, youth and children, in an integral fashion, to struggle and to be able to achieve a better quality of life, and, thanks be to our Lord God and to your solidarity, we are often able to make our dreams into reality. We do not know all of you in person, nor you us, but we know that each of the brother or sister delegates represents hundreds of good hearts that stay back in your country. We tell you that this is your home, and thank you for putting forth the effort and showing concern for us. May God bless you now and always. “Until soon!” we, the residents of Corral Viejo, say to you.
Rosalinda de la O
Angel Alfredo Carbajal
ADESCO (Community Development Council)
Six high school students from Tenancingo have written beautiful letters of appreciation to PAB for the financial help they received to be able to attend school this year. First year students are Norma 16, Jose 19, and Santos 20. Second year and graduating are Mauricio 18, Edgar 20, and Jorge 20. [Tenancingo National Instituto—INTE—is a senior high school and students graduate after 11th grade. Some years ago, the government decided to eliminate grade 12 to save money, although an optional third year program is being re-introduced.]
All of them work hard and their parents work even harder to send them to school. Mauricio, for example, gets up at 5:00 AM to milk the neighbor’s cows and lead them to pasture, for which he gets a bottle of milk. Then he goes home to bathe, eat breakfast and get to classes. On week-ends, he helps his dad in the corn field and works for neighbors from whom he gets enough for lunch money. He says, “Many thanks for the scholarship. I hope to study at the university, but it all depends on God, the all-powerful One.”
Students from the High School perform a traditional dance as part of the welcoming ceremony for the PAB delegation.
Edgar’s father was killed when he was 14, so he is alone with his mother. She makes and sells atol from corn. “It’s not enough to buy food, but we manage somehow.” He writes, “I’m OK because I’m studying and I have my mom, but I’m not OK because I want to continue studying to get a career to help my mom. We pray every day and are trusting that in the Lord we will succeed.”
Jose writes: “I am a young man with great dreams for my life. I have many projects which I hope and trust in God to complete. I can’t deny that sometimes I have seen my dreams drown and…. I see that I don’t have enough to initiate and continue. I have always wanted someone to count on who would extend the hand and say “Yes, you can!” I have a friend, even a brother, who has supported me and that is Jesus. I dream of becoming a director of communications… I love working with the younger people, especially children. To see the smile of a child gives me much joy.... The children...are a gift from God and a new generation with new goals.”
Santos’ letter tells the hardest story. He has two brothers 5th and 8th grades and two brothers working the land, his mother 57, and step-father 74 who is not employed. His mother paid his schooling through 5th grade and he got himself through 9th, much against her will. She said, “working the land you can eat, school you don’t.” His brother promised to help him go to high school, but the first day of classes, she hit him hard and sent him out of the house for good. He walked six kilometers weeping to think his own mother would do that. Finally he got to school and the director told him to stay and she would help him somehow. PAB’s funds were the key and he is studying. “What a great surprise of the year that filled me with joy that I was going to study due to a gift from wonderful people with big hearts for the needy, as I am and others, too. I thank you, Sister City, for extending this donation to the INTE, however small, we are grateful from the heart. ...Now I am looking to next year. If you help me I can graduate and one of my big desires is to help my family. I love my mother because she brought me into the world and I try to understand her and be patient with her. She can’t read or write, so she looks down on studies and on me. I want to be an industrial engineer or a graduated architect and be able to help those in need.”
PAB only gave the Institute $600 and they used the majority of this money for students in need. A little really goes a long way in that culture!
Five people from the St. Cloud area visited Tenancingo last July as delegates of PAB. This was the eleventh delegation to visit Tenancingo in the past twelve years. The delegation: Jen Affeldt (also a 2002 delegate), a Spanish teacher at Tech High School; Cindy Robertson, a nurse-practitioner; Lynn Marie Lindmeier, a homemaker and freelance web designer; Brianda Cediel, an educator and then-employee of Vision Ease; and Br. Dennis Beach, monk and teacher at Saint. John’s University and veteran of many previous trips.
One of the things the delegation witnessed was the very noticeable buzz of energy and activity in the community organizations. The Organizational Strengthening Project whose funding has been taken over by Catholic Relief Services of the Archdiocese of San Salvador (see p. 5) seems to have brought immense new energy and new faces into the grass-roots work in Tenancingo. Many of the communities had elected new people to their directive councils, and these were extremely eager to meet the delegates from their Sister City. There may be a little work yet to learn that being a Sister City is not the same as being a Santa Claus who once a year brings material presents, but even this lesson is being taught well by veterans in the organizing process such as Amalia Flores, Elias Gonzalez, Marta Menjivar, Jose Luis Pineda and others who have long been part of the sistering work.
|This girl volunteered to speak a welcome on behalf of the children of Tenancingo and surrounding cantones.|
One of the highlights of the welcome was a “social drama” put on by the fledgling young adult group. The idea of a social drama is to put on an entertaining skit for the community that also raises issues and prompts discussion among the onlookers. This skit, about a family headed by a single mother, depicted the dangers of getting involved in gang activity and how this put an added strain on the mother trying to raise her children. At the end of the skit, the more wayward of two brothers was persuaded to invest his energy in a new youth organization that offered a more positive outlet for activity than the gang’s violence. Similar programs have been used elsewhere in the country for community education about domestic violence, political freedoms and human rights, etc. The excitement and pride of the young people putting on this skit for us was terrific to see and augurs well for the new Youth Organizing Project (again, see p. 5).
Our four-day visit to places in and around Tenancingo included visits to the grade school and high school in Tenancingo itself. Grade school children welcomed us to their school by showering us with confetti. After a few impromptu entertainments, we were shown things such as their ecology project, teaching them to use worms to promote the composting of organic wastes (fruit rinds, etc.) They will take these lessons home and begin composting projects for their families. They also showed us the work being done to replace the septic trenches for two of the toilets in the school, a project funded last year by PAB. (More funding for further replacement would be welcomed!)
The High School welcomed us with traditional folk-dance entertainment put on by a student group. Later, scholarship recipients presented hand-made thank-you gifts to the delegates. On each of these gifts was a baby chick as a symbol of the fledgling courage our support had given them.
Further visits included the communities of Nuevo San José El Sitio, which benefited from a Pre-School lunch project in the past year, and Corral Viejo, where the Women’s Committee is hoping to negotiate the purchase of a plot of land on which they could construct a building for meetings and activities. There are many other initiatives going on in Corral Viejo, including a daycare program run out of a building that has been loaned by a sympathetic owner. The day we were visiting, members in the community were receiving seedlings of various trees—hardwoods as well as fruit trees. These are not only part of a reforestation and soil conservation project, but represent long-term possibilities of production for food and even income.
Children eating lunch in the “Center for Children’s Development” in the hamlet of El Sitio. PAB funds will again finance this project in 2004, with the number of children being served increasing from twelve to seventeen. The meals are prepared by a cook who “earns” $23/month. The community hopes more families will place their children in this pre-school program.
The delegation then visited the Canton of Santa Anita, a newly organized canton that we had never visited before. This hamlet is remote from Tenancingo, and we had to drive for about 40 minutes before parking and hiking another 40 minutes cross-country to arrive there. This community talked of their organizing work and showed us their clinic, where health promoters distribute basic medicine and a doctor visits periodically. Here we also met young people involved in organizing themselves, including a young man whose face, arms and back showed many gang tattoos, but who had left gang activity to raise a family. This young man’s life would be in danger from rival gang members if he were seen in some of the tougher, working-class city neighborhoods in and around San Salvador, but the people of Santa Anita refuse to pre-judge him by his tattoos and his past and accept him as a contributing member of their community.
Former gang member (right) now living in Santa Anita, with his wife and young child. Tattoos are visible above and below his eyes as well as on his neck and arms.
Our last visit was to the canton of El Pepeto, where a long-delayed project to build a community building, one side of which houses an electric corn grinder, was finally brought (nearly) to completion. The “nearly” part is that the community needs another $1500 to build a secure cinder-block wall and gate to protect the investment of the corn grinder. PAB approved this expenditure in December, anticipating the generosity of PAB supporters to help finance this and other community projects. See more details on p. 7 about these projects.
Jen Affeldt with girls from El Pepeto (ages 13-20) who requested the donation of soccer equipment for their women’s soccer team.
As usual, we were regaled with songs and presentations by this most musical community. And as usual, an avalanche of playing children made it more than a little difficult to focus our attention on the business matters of the meeting at El Pepeto. One of the residents quipped that their village is the vivero or nursery-greenhouse for El Salvador. This is also one of the cantones with the most athletic young women in the area. A group of young women, ages 13-20, petitioned us for uniforms and equipment. for their soccer team. If anyone knows a school or youth league that could donate such equipment, including used shoes, please contact Dennis Beach <email@example.com> or 363-2997.
Make this year the year you come on a PAB delegation to visit Tenancingo and El Salvador!
Spanish ability is not necessary—translation is provided. The projected dates are July 13-21, 2004. Total cost generally runs about $1000-1200, depending on airfare.
Call 363-2997 (Br. Dennis) or 251-2225 (S. Anne) for more information. Or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org ; email@example.com
The St. Cloud Mission Office will be the new home of PAB’s library of books and videos. Interested borrowers are welcome to browse the library at the Mission Office, 11 South 8th Ave, St. Cloud, right next to Saint Mary's Cathedral Rectory. The Mission Office is open from 9:00-4:30, M-F. There are numerous books on El Salvador’s history, including a new book of photos and text telling the story of reconstruction and struggle in the decade since the end of the civil war: El Salvador: Diez Años Después (captions in Spanish and English). There are also videos about El Salvador as well as book on the struggle for justice in other countries of Central America.
Although the Mission Office will be the library’s new home, they’d welcome a PAB volunteer to help keep the library in order and help track down unreturned books. Why not stop by and browse the library? You might find it a good way to build your knowledge about our sisters and brothers to the South
One of the big priorities for our friends in Tenancingo and for poorer and marginalized people through Central America, including Mexico, is the defeat of proposed “Free Trade Agreements” (called TLC’s or Tratados de Libre Comercio in Spanish) between their governments and the government of the United States. The current round of these negotiations is for traties dubbed CAFTA or the “Central Amercian Free Trade Agreement.” It is the overwhelming belief of the Central Americans working with grass-roots organizations that such so-called free trade agreements will benefit only the wealthy few to the detriment of the vast majority of the population. They will almost certainly destroy the traditional agrarian livelihood of the countries’ campesino farmers. The following is a short primer on CAFTA and why it must be resisted. More information can be found by clicking on the links at the SHARE Foundation’s website: http://www.share-elsalvador.org .
CAFTA is a trade agreement being negotiated by government representatives from United States and the Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. It is modeled after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). U.S. President Bush has voiced his support for CAFTA and hopes to have an agreement sealed as quickly as possible, in part to move the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) negotiations forward faster.
All the same issues human and labor rights organizations have with NAFTA (and FTAA) are present in CAFTA, including:
(information from http://www.stopcafta.org )
drawing from Acompañando la Vida, a popular booklet for reflection and action by the Comunidades Eclesiales de Basede la Zona Oriental in El Salvador, © 2002.
You can oppose CAFTA and the FTAA by writing to your local US Congressional representative. Negotiations were to end in December, but the longer they are prolonged, the more chance there is of at least delaying any agreements, because US lawmakers will not want them to affect November 2004 elections in the US. Although Congress ceded much of its authority on this area when it passed “fast-track” legislation, giving powers for negotiating trade agreements to the president, strong voices in opposition may still have some effect.
From the SHARE website: Let’s continue to express our opposition to “free” trade and to promote fair trade. An old fashion letter is the most effective way to be heard. However, if time is short just send an email or call! Use the model letter [on the SHARE web site] for both your letter and talking points on the phone. Please blind-copy SHARE with any emails you send your Representatives (firstname.lastname@example.org), and if you send a letter snail-mail, send a note to the above email so that we know what’s being done.
Residents of Tenancingo joined with their neighbors from Santa Cruz Michapa this past fall in a protest of the El Salvador government’s neglect of the road that leads from the Pan-American Highway through Santa Cruz Michapa and on up to Tenancingo. This road, officially a federal highway, is constructed only of packed earth, despite its being the only road that provides vehicular access to these municipalities. Its poor condition—it turns into mud for much of the rainy season—makes it difficult if not impossible for farmers or artisans to bring their goods to market.
Some 1500 residents of the two communities blocked traffic for two hours on the Pan-American highway where it passes just south of Santa Cruz Michapa. Civic groups from both communities secured the cooperation of the local police forces to ensure an orderly demonstration. Another positive sign of the protest is that the town of Santa Cruz is governed by a traditionally conservative political party that is strong in rural areas, unlike Tenancingo, which is governed by the progressive FMLN party. Nevertheless the two towns have made common cause to protest the ARENA government’s neglect of their local roadways. (ARENA is also right-wing, but dominated by big business and the financial sector).
The two municipalities together have been petitioning the government to pave the highway since at least 1997. However, the neglect goes back farther than this. The road has not received any significant attention since before the civil war, from 1980-1992. In fact, during the war the road was often bombed because Tenancingo was situated exactly in the no man’s land between the guerilla-controlled mountains to the north and the Pan-American highway corridor to the south.
However, another dynamic in the current neglect is the government’s priority to prepare the country to participate in the “Puebla-Panama Plan” which would make the entire expanse of Central America a free-trade zone, extending the effects of NAFTA throughout the region. This area would eventually encompass South America as well, as part of the FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas. These plans, which appear primarily to benefit the few wealthy investors in these countries, essentially declare rural subsistence farming areas to be unimportant. Thus, roads around the capital, San Salvador, have been improved to facilitate the flow of materials and merchandise to and from manufacturing areas (sweatshops) as well as to facilitate the cheap transportation of U.S. goods southward, past the poor people of rural El Salvador and on to the relatively better markets of Costa Rica and Panama, as well as on to South America.
The municipalities continue to pressure agencies of the government, demanding that improvements to the access road be included in the 2004-2005 national budget and federal transportation plan. PAB will support them with a letter to the Salvadoran government.
The last issue of this newsletter, Spring 2003, reported on the “Organizational Strengthening Project, Phase Two” that leaders in Tenancingo developed with the assistance of the Salvadoran organization CRIPDES as well as SHARE. As we worked out the details of this project, however, we were informed by CRIPDES that a wonderful opportunity had come up to garner even more support for Tenancingo and to free PAB’s funds for another purpose. What happened was that the Catholic Relief Services office of the Archdiocese of San Salvador was so favorably impressed with the community organizing project that they offered to provide funding for it. CRIPDES checked with PAB leadership, and we agreed to encourage Tenancingo to develop further the next project they had in mind, youth and young adult leadership.
CRIPDES knows there is interest from people in PAB in funding scholarships for Salvadoran youth. However, communities were afraid that scholarships for individuals might simply take them away from their communities. The current project, which will cost about $18,000 over two years, is aimed at both civic education and education about important issues: gender and human development, environmental and cultural preservation, as well as political issues. We will be doing fund-raising for this project in the next two years.
In addition to the municipality-wide projects, various of the individual communities have been developing their own projects, which PAB would like to help, if we have resources. El Pepeto has requested an additional $1500 to build a cinder-block wall with a steel gate that will protect their corn mill from theft..(see story on p. 3). The steering committee approved this expense in November, acknowledging that expenditure of these funds will require additional fund-raising for other community projects. One of these involved Nuevo San José El Sitio, which would like to continue their pre-school/ daycare lunch program, and this will cost $1420.00for ten months, or about $6/day to feed 17 children, plus an “incentive” pay of $23 per month for the cook. And still other communities who have never completed projects under PAB sponsorship are developing plans for them. These include the purchase of land by the women of Corral Viejo for the construction of an association building (see article on p. 3) and a proposed sewing and clothing-making workshop in Hacienda Nueva. Both of these are pending written plans and approval by the Municipal Development Association (the “ADMNT,” with representatives from all communities). The municipality-wide Women’s Association has begun discussions to put together a micro-lending program, which they may bring to us in the future as a funding request.. This project is still in the “idea” stage—it would need much more exploration before a proposal is ready.
Additionally, numerous groups mentioned smaller needs. The community council in Corral Viejo wants a typewriter or computer for preparing project documents. (Computers are relatively easy to get donated but hard to transport down to El Salvador; one possibility would be to raise funds to purchase computer monitors in El Salvador, as the actual computer unit is far easier to transport..) It has already been mentioned (page 4) that the young women from El Pepeto requested soccer equipment, especially uniforms and soccer shoes. Of course, when other communities heard of this request, they repeated it for themselves. And while the girls from El Pepeto are probably the most ambitious, it is true that the community organizations are trying to promote youth tournaments, including alternative activities for women. If anyone is willing to seek the donation of used uniforms and soccer shoes from local schools or youth leagues, please contact Br. Dennis Beach at email@example.com or 320-363-2997.
The same goes for people with interest in any of the projects described here. If your church or community group, school or scout troop would like to commit to fund-raising for a specific project, please let us know. PAB best supports our friends in Tenancingo when we form our own “grass-roots” networks! The Youth leadership initiative or other projects listed here and on the back page are all possibilities.
PAB is in need of someone to serve as secretary to take and send out minutes of the monthly meetings from January through March. Jane Opitz has served us wonderfully for more than two years now, but increased responsibilities at CSBSJU prevent her from continuing in this role. Muchas gracias to Jane for her service! Someone has come forward to help, but is not here during the Winter months. If you can help for Jan-March, contact Sister Anne Malerich at 251-2225.
Help in also needed with crafts sales during the same winter months. The crafts are in two easy-to-manage wheeled suitcases. If you would be willing to help with crafts sales at church or community events this January-March, call S. Anne at 251-2225.
PAB did it again! With the help of Bob McManus and his able, congenial staff, plus very busy PAB members, we now have $6,559.00 more for Tenancingo. That includes $397 from craft sales. But money isn’t the only benefit derived from this BENEFIT DINNER. It was good to reconnect with so many Partners and to meet and welcome newly interested people. Remember how super-crowded it was when the ROX hosted our Italian Dinner in 2001? This time the crowd was just right. The food was SUPER and we all had a great time.
We were glad to have Jose Artiga, Executive Director of The SHARE Foundation, with us. He began making plans to do a fundraiser like that when he returns to San Francisco. He spoke to the whole group, met lots of Partners, and evidently enjoyed the experience.
MANY, MANY THANKS to all who worked, sold tickets, donated money, time and effort and who came to celebrate our PARTNERSHIP with each other and with Tenancingo. And a special “¡Mil Gracias!” to Bob and Linda McManus for their generosity in hosting.
Partners Across Borders' Newsletter is edited
by Dennis Beach, OSB. It appears several times a year. Contributions are
welcome! Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for information.
Please consider making a contribution to ongoing work and new initiatives in Tenancingo. You can earmark your contributions for one of the following projects or designate it for the greatest needs as these arise and are communicated to us. You can check as many priorities as you’d like).
_____ Youth Leadership Project _____ Community Health Funds
_____ El Sitio Pre-school lunch program
_____ Student Tuition Assistance
_____ Grade School Library Project _____ Other School Projects
_____ Future Community Projects (in planning stages: land for women’s center in Corral Viejo, sewing workshop in Hacienda Nueva, etc.
_____ Whatever needs are greatest at the time.
*donate using enclosed envelope to Partners Across Borders, P.O. Box 667, St. Joseph, MN 56374
(We missed the end-of-the year donation-request rush, so get a head start on charitable giving for 2004!)