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Showing posts from April, 2008

Rescue commandos

Wherever there is a natural or man-made disaster in El Salvador, the Comandos de Salvamento, "Rescue Commandos," are sure to be there. With their yellow uniforms with the green cross, these volunteers provide emergency services throughout the country. From the Commandos' website:Comandos de Salvamento is a Salvadoran humanitarian institution whose mission is to save the lives of people due to consequences of mother nature or of man, regardless of race, religion, or political creed.

The context of our work includes, but is not limited to: vehicular accidents, search and recovery,homicides,assaults, earthquakes,flooding,hurricanes, fires, and war.
Read more about this organization at website which has an English language translation and many photos and much more information.

Note from Tim: I will be traveling for the next two weeks and probably not blogging. Posts will resume again in the beginning of May.

Death on a bus

After yesterday's post about life on El Salvador's buses, today there is a tragic reminder of another aspect of El Salvador's buses -- they are often very unsafe. Thirteen people were killed and 47 wounded this morning as a bus plunged off the side of a road between Santa Ana and Metapan in northwestern El Salvador. Authorities blamed the accident on excessive speed by the driver. The accident comes six months after another bus accident caused by speeding killed 8 and wounded 83.

Life on a bus

Yesterday we had a picture of a trip to a post office from volunteers in El Salvador. Today, another volunteer in El Salvador, Laura, gives us her thoughts about Life on the Salvadoran Bus:To give some background, there are two main types of busses. Big busses and little busses (microbusses). The big ones are mostly used school busses like I remember from grade school. The micros can be anything from smaller versions of the big bus or big vans. The micros are crazier and go faster. There is usually a driver and a person who jumps off at everystop and yells "CENTRO, CENTRO, SUBA SUBA, UNA CORDA, UNA CORDA" (Downtown, Downtown, get on, get on, a quarter, a quarter). The drivers tend to race each other and chase down customers, especially if they are the same number. Most are decorated with stickers or paint about God and Jesus or with women´s names. There are usually safety warnings and rules written in English. Sometimes there are bullet holes in the windows and they are us…

A Trip to the Post Office

Anna Einstein and Matt Lindeman are Peace Corps Volunteers in El Salvador. Their blog of their experiences in El Salvador has a wonderful description today of a recent time-consuming trip to the local post office. Here is an exceprt:
After a few minutes, one of the very kind post office employees asked what we needed, and we told her. First, she dove straight into prepping our package. Nobody in El Salvador actually packs their own packages before going to the post office…..it is Full Service. So, we hand her what we want to mail, and she gets to work. She carefully cuts down an old vitamin box to perfectly fit what we are mailing. It took about 3 tries to get it close to the right size. (Think: Cut the box. Fold the box. Shake the box. Repeat. Repeat Again. Repeat Again.) Then, she stuffed as little shredded newspaper as possible into the box to prevent it from moving around too much. After all, every newspaper shred is added weight. After that, the box is carefully and t…

Blogging for justice in a little girl's murder

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Bloggers in El Salvador have taken up the cause of justice in the nine year old murder case of Katya Miranda. This young girl was murdered in 1999 in a crime of shocking depravity.

The facts of the case are recounted in a video interview of Katya's mother and available on YouTube. Katya's mother left her two daughters at the home of her paternal grandfather along El Salvador's coast with a promise to pick them up in the morning. Yet when morning came, nine-year-old Katya was dead -- raped, beaten and murdered. Despite the presence of members of her father's family and their employees at the home, nobody claimed to have seen or heard anything. The father, grandfather and other male relatives are high-ranking officials in El Salvador's military and the National Civilian Police.

Many believe that the investigation of the crime was haphazard and incomplete, but eventually Katya's father, grandfather and two employees were charged with the crime in 2000. Ho…

Immigration stories

There have been a number of stories in the US press in recent weeks about illegal migration from El Salvador.

The Boston Globe had a painful story about parents illegally in the US who pay smugglers to bring children on the perilous journey north:
Their stories, told last week in interviews with relatives and government officials, reveal the wrenching decisions facing scores of immigrant parents and the children they left behind. Many came to the United States illegally and have stayed longer than they intended, and now the families must choose: break the law to smuggle the children into this country or leave them in their poverty-stricken towns with aging relatives who can no longer care for them. (more)
National Public Radio in the US broadcast a three part series this week concerning El Salvador's efforts to absorb the growing numbers of Salvadoran being deported from the US. The series is worth a listen, as is an accompanying Reporter's Notebook which describes the NPR repo…

Tony Saca on west coast

El Salvador's president Tony Saca traveled to California last weekend. While there, he visited Los Angeles and San Francisco where he was greeted by the mayors of both cities. The day was declared a day of friendship between El Salvador and San Francisco. A local television station in Los Angeles has this video report with an interview of Saca.

Saca's visits were met by spirited protesters in both cities. Activists protested in San Francisco and in Los Angeles. You can also watch a video of some of the San Francisco protests.

In addition to Saca's visit with the mayors and a speech to the Central America Press Club in Los Angeles, a dispatch at Indymedia.org reported that president Saca, head of the ARENA political party, would be attending a fundraising picnic where donations to ARENA in amounts up to $10,000 were suggested for attendees. The fundraiser was sponsored by an anti-Castro Cuban American group, and a copy of the invitation letter is available here at the …

Casas de Carton

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How sad sounds the rain on the roofs of cardboard
How sad live my people in the houses of cardboard

These are the opening lines of Casas de Carton, the ballad for the struggling poor in the countries of Latin America. It is an appropriate theme song for those who live in houses of cardboard and plastic sheeting in areas in and around San Salvador.

They are the marginalized of El Salvador's society, the poorest of the urban poor, who live in squatters shacks on land which is not their own. Since December, new "communities" have sprung up around Soyapango, which neighbors San Salvador. The growth of this marginal community has been chronicled recently in El Salvador's digital media including a story in this week's El Faro and in Contra Punto.

The shanty town featured in El Faro is a dusty place, built next to and above an old municipal dump. The presence of methane and other gases from the decomposing garbage below makes it an unfit place for building houses, bu…

Salvadoran presidential candidates to debate

According to this reportin La Prensa Grafica, the two principal presidential candidates, Mauricio Funes of the FMLN and Rodrigo Avila of ARENA have agreed to a debate. This a good thing for Salvadoran democracy -- there has never before been a presidential debate. No date has yet been set.

Life after deportation

Twenty thousand Salvadorans were deported from the US last year. There are lots of stories about the life of undocumented migrants living in the US, but far fewer about life in El Salvador for someone expelled from many years of living in the US.

Josue Rojas at New American Media profiles several deportees in his article Deporting the American Dream:
Salvadoran deportees, or DPs, have a few things in common: they think in English, they’re young and they’re influential. They’re importers of the culture they carry inside — the niche, regional culture of the American city they grew up in. Be it New York talk, L.A. talk, N’awlins or D.C talk… they speak it. Culturally, they’re intimately in the know of something else that is arguably the coolest thing in the hemisphere: Americana.

In a country celebrated in Central America as one of the region’s greatest friends to the United States (and often paraded as a flagship for development) the DPs' influence spreads. They are simultaneously em…

Water activism

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On March 27, organizations of the National Forum on Water marched to El Salvador's legislature to demand action on national water law and recognition of the importance of water as a basic human right. They were marching to demand action on legislation which has been stalled for many months in the National Assembly. You can review coverage of the march from two organizations which participated -- the Center for the Defense of the Consumer, and the Salvadoran Lutheran church.

The march was part of growing movement for water rights in El Salvador, a movement which is growing increasingly sophisticated in its political activism. Once largely limited to local communities blocking highways to complain about a lack of water delivery to their homes, the movement now uses web sites, video, coalitions, letter writing campaigns, legislation drafting and coalition building to advocate for water rights in the country.

Much of this campaign is organized under the name "Democracia Azul -…