Showing posts from August, 2007

Remittances and deforestation

A group of scientists have been looking at the intersection of economics, ecology, and emigration as it impacts the forest cover (or lack thereof) in El Salvador: A study in the September issue of BioScience presents novel findings on how globalization, land policy changes, and monies sent to family members by emigrants have transformed agriculture and stimulated woodland resurgence in El Salvador. The study, by Susanna B. Hecht and Sassan S. Saatchi, employed socioeconomic data, land-use surveys, and satellite imagery to monitor changes in woody cover in El Salvador since peace accords were signed in 1992. Most analyses of forest cover in Central America have focused on the loss of old-growth forests. In drawing attention to the regrowth of woodland in a country that was extensively deforested during the 1970s, Hecht and Saatchi call for a renewed examination of social and economic influences on agricultural practices and of the implications for forest extent. New-growth forests, ofte

Pollo Campero expands in the U.S.

I admit it. I really like Pollo Campero chicken. So this is good news. August 30, 2007 // // DALLAS – Pollo Campero has successfully opened two of its newest restaurants in Albany Park, Ill. and Hempstead, N.Y. Residents of both cities have eagerly awaited the Latin-inspired fried chicken concept and this July Pollo Campero answered their grumbling stomachs. Both restaurants broke more records than many of the latest Pollo Campero openings. Hempstead served more than 15,000 people in the first week as well as 1511 chickens, 180 pounds of beans, 172 pounds of plantains and 1420 units of tostones. Albany Park served nearly 4,000 pounds of chicken, 165 pounds of beans, 349 pounds of plantains, and 76 pounds of tostones while customers came back the first month to eat an overwhelming amount of chicken – 31,830 pounds to be precise! ... Pollo Campero initiated its U.S. expansion in 2002 after selling three million "to go" orders through various Central American

Deportation flights continue to land in El Salvador

The Miami Herald has an article today about the burden El Salvador faces as thousands arrive in the country after being deported by the US: The overwhelming number of repatriations involve ... ''criminal aliens,'' who completed their sentence in U.S. jails for offenses that range from drugs to murder, as well as undocumented adult migrants caught in the United States. Improved cooperation between U.S. and Salvadoran authorities is in large part responsible for the hike in deportations, officials on both sides say. ''We have been working with El Salvador to speed up the deportation process so people aren't languishing in [U.S.] detention centers,'' said Rebecca Thompson, a spokeswoman at the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador. Salvadoran authorities say some of the deportees could have bright futures, especially in the construction and tourism industries. ''My administration is trying to find a way for the noncriminals to find a job,'' sai

Not in my backyard

In El Salvador and the rest of Central America, dealing with garbage is a major environmental problem, as this 2000 article describes: Today’s garbage "treatment" in almost all of Central America’s cities and towns can be compared to sweeping up garbage at home, then hiding it under the bed when no one is looking, as though this resolved the problem. Increasingly rapid and disorganized urban expansion, overcrowding, industrial growth and changing consumption patterns mean that each of us constantly produces more garbage that must be "swept up." Throwing this garbage "away" may seem the fastest, easiest way to get rid of it, but that only piles it up somewhere else, and spreads the contamination in the process. Dumping garbage in vacant fields or ravines or alongside roads and highways contaminates the air with toxic gases, foul odors and ash, and forms focal points for diseases carried by flies, mosquitoes, cockroaches and rats. Toxic substances filter in

Some balance in talking about MS-13

Over the past few years, I have pointed readers of the blog to various television shows about the gang Mara Salvatrucha, MS-13. I have highlighted such programs as 18 With a Bullet , The World's Most Dangerous Gang , Hijos de la Guerra , and Ross Kemp on Gangs . This week, NPR's program On The Media broadcast a segment critiquing such coverage of the gang and the portrayal of Mara Salvatrucha as "the World's Most Dangerous Gang." The basic argument of researcher Kevin Pranis is that the coverage is overblown because the gang is neither as dangerous nor as organized as the mass media would have people believe. He also asserts that the coverage is actually counter-productive because it has had the impact of glamorizing the Mara Salvatrucha brand and actually making it more attractive to certain youths. I had some reactions as I listened to that segment on the radio. First, since I don't think many mareros read my blog, I am not too concerned that my blo

Rains of 2007

Storm systems spawned by the passage of Hurricane Dean to the north of El Salvador have dumped great quantities of rain on El Salvador this week. Although El Salvador was suffering from something of a drought earlier this year, the rains have now arrived with force. La Prensa Grafica has devoted a special section of its web site to the rainy season which includes news, video, weather forecasts, and current infrared satellite views of the weather over Central America. This week's rains have hit the eastern part of the country the hardest. Flooding in La Unión has impacted more than 3000 persons. You can see a photo gallery of the floods' impact at this link . The eastern part of the country remains under yellow and orange alerts for further rain and flooding.

Ancient fields where Mayas cultivated manioc

Archaeologists from the University of Colorado recently made findings at the village of Ceren archaeological site in El Salvador that the ancient Mayas cultivated manioc (also known as cassava): A University of Colorado at Boulder team excavating an ancient Maya village in El Salvador buried by a volcanic eruption 1,400 years ago has discovered an ancient field of manioc, the first evidence for cultivation of the calorie-rich tuber in the New World. The manioc field was discovered under roughly 10 feet of ash, said CU-Boulder anthropology Professor Payson Sheets, who has been directing the excavation of the ancient village of Ceren since its discovery in 1978. Considered the best-preserved ancient village in Latin America, Ceren's buildings, artifacts and landscape were frozen in time by the sudden eruption of the nearby Loma Caldera volcano about 600 A.D., providing a unique window on the everyday lives of prehistoric Mayan farmers. The discovery marks the first time manioc cu

Others are funny

One failing of this blog is that it's never funny. (Although sometimes the comments can be pretty amusing). So I was happy to discover El Salvador Post , a Spanish/English blog which pokes fun at all things Salvadoran. Here's an example : Baseball? Suchitoto, July 5, 2007 (ESP). When questioned by the press and the international media on what happened last Tuesday when he visited Suchitoto to announce the Decentralization of National Services, president Saca responded vehemently: "Ah, please, do not be misled. CAFTA and dollarization have had so much success in El Salvador, and north american influence is such nowadays, that baseball has become the national sport, so popular indeed that people play it on the streets!"

Monitoring shows San Salvador's air pollution problems

Air quality monitoring by El Salvador's Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources confirmed that air pollution remains a serious health issue in San Salvador. The Ministry recently issued a report on air quality levels for 2006. Tragically, the area with the highest levels of nitrogen dioxide and particulate pollution was in the area around the city's maternity hospital. The report also disclosed the level of particulates in the air throughout all monitored areas rose "very considerably" from the measures in 2004 and 2005. A 2005 study found unhealthy levels of volatile organic compounds created by motor vehicle exhaust in San Salvador's air. Respiratory ailments caused by air pollution is a serious health issue for children in and around San Salvador

National Assembly increases penalties for "public disorders"

With the votes of ARENA and the right wing PCN deputies, the National Assembly approved today a change to El Salvador's penal code to increase the penalty for "public disorders" to 4 to 8 years in prison. Proponents of the measure want to use it to punish participants in events such as the looting and destruction of property which happened during street vendor disturbances last May 12 . Previously the government had been using its anti-terrorism law to punish such actions. Advocates for social change in El Salvador worry that this legislation, like the anti-terrorism laws, will be used to repress legitimate popular protests in the streets. Where does "popular expression of opposition to the government" leave off and "public disorder" begin? Let me suggest an answer to my own question. Civil society and other organizations which take to the streets in protest must also be outspoken in denouncing violence, looting, and rock throwing whenever it

Mauricio Funes website

There is a new web site which provides regular analysis (in Spanish) of news in El Salvador. The website is Notientrevistas and it is associated with well-known Salvadoran television journalist Mauricio Funes. This appears on a page titled "Who are we?": We are an institution whose mission is the formation of public opinion oriented to strengthening processes of democratization and real development in El Salvador. Each morning from 6:15-8:00 a.m. El Salvador time, the website carries a live webcast of Funes' popular interview program called "The Interview with Mauricio Funes." In addition the website has a good weekly summary of news topics which appears on the site each Friday or Monday. For example, the most recent weekly summary covers A network of hitmen for hire discovered within the PNC Fiscal policies of the government Bus companies threatening a national stoppage An increase in the price of the basic marketbasket of consumer goods The 2009 electora

Remittances from US still growing

The US may be tightening control over its borders, more Salvadorans than ever may have been deported back to the country from the US, and the US economy and job growth may be slowing, but remittances sent back to family members in El Salvador just keep on growing. El Salvador's Central Reserve Bank just reported that in the first half of 2007, remittances totaled $1.82 billion dollars. In June alone, remittances totaled $383 million compared to only $277 million in June 2006. The Central Reserve Bank projects that the total for all of 2007 will close approximately 10-15% higher than the prior year. At that level, El Salvador's remittance income from exporting its people, could equal or exceed the income of $3.5 billion the country received from all exports of goods and services.

Bilingual children's books by Salvadoran authors

Wonders of the City Here in the city there are wonders everywhere. Here mangoes come in cans. In El Salvador they grew up on the trees Here chickens come in plastic bags. Over there they slept beside me. This is one of 21 poems about a child's experience of emigrating from El Salvador to the US in the book A Movie in My Pillow/ Una película en mi almohada ,written by Salvadoran author Jorge Argueta. Argueta writes bilingual children's books, and I learned about him when I stumbled across a blog entry by another Salvadoran writing children's books, René Colato Laínez . One of Colato Laínez' children's books is I am René, the Boy . Here's how that book is described in one of the reviews at René learns in school, to his surprise, that in the United States his name is also a girl's name. The boys in his school tease him because of his name. A resourceful child, René researches his name in the school library and finds the meaning of his name. In

El Salvador's gangs in multi-media

El Salvador's gang members -- in video and photos. It can be unnerving and scary. Check out the 45 minute documentary from British network Sky One at this link which takes an inside look at Mara Salvatrucha in El Salvador. Then view the photo gallery by Eros Hoagland at this link .

Sex in El Salvador

I am sure to be accused of writing this post (a) as a blatant attempt to increase my search engine hits, or (b) to show that I am willing to write about any subject so long as it mentions El Salvador. The truth is, I found comparing some recent surveys of sex lives around the world to be kind of interesting. El Mundo recently published the results of a survey about the sex lives of more than a thousand Salvadorans from greater San Salvador. There is also a 2004 survey published by ABC Dateline regarding the sex lives of a similarly sized group of people living in the US. Finally, I came across a small article from the BBC about the sex lives of person in the United Kingdom. For the most part, and perhaps not surprisingly, the surveys showed a great deal of consistency between Salvadorans and those in the US regarding the levels of satisfaction people report having with their sex lives, with the frequency of having sex, and other aspects of their intimate relationships. Here ar

Court continues injunction against immigration officials

In 1988, a US federal court entered an injunction against the Immigration and Naturalization Service because of the illegal manner in which it handled the asylum claims of Salvadorans fleeing the civil war plaguing the country during the 1980's. That court decision, known as the Orantes decision, required that the INS provide procedural safeguards, including access to lawyers, providing information about their rights, and a hearing before deporting a Salvadoran believed to be in the US illegally. [Because the injunction was handed down in a class action brought on behalf of Salvadorans, it does not require similar rights be provided to migrants form other countries]. One impact of the decision is that thousands of Salvadorans now languish for weeks or months in detention centers in the US, waiting for the hearing which the Orantes decision requires. Until the last few years, because of a lack of detention space to hold them, US authorities simply gave Salvadorans who they pi

Salvadoran successes in the US

This year's August festivals were dedicated to those Salvadorans living abroad. And so here are two stories, from different perspectives, about Salvadorans succeeding in the US. From the Los Angeles Times : Sometimes called the "Germans of Latin America" for their strong work ethic, Salvadoran immigrants in California had higher rates of employment, citizenship, voter registration, high school graduation and college attendance than their Mexican counterparts, according to a 2001 UCLA study. More Salvadoran immigrants than Mexicans also have computers at home, the study found. In addition, a U.S. Census study of Latinos in America, released this year, found that Salvadorans had lower poverty rates than Mexicans and other Central Americans, and 41% of them owned their own homes with a median value of $221,000. Among Mexicans, 49% owned their own homes with a median value of $130,500. In Southern California, Salvadoran immigrants have been civically and economically activ

The politics of sainthood

Many people continue to wonder whether slain Salvadoran archbishop Oscar Romero will be declared a saint by the Roman Catholic church. A new AP article looks at how politics may be slowing down the process of beatification: [T]he archbishop's activism was not universally admired. Romero was pressing for social justice at a time when Vatican officials were battling Marxist-inspired liberation theology in Latin America. The archbishop's work was of great concern in Rome. Romero also had a difficult relationship with his fellow Salvadoran priests, and at one point the Vatican received a request to send an apostolic visitor to El Salvador to either replace Romero or appoint a superior to control him, according to Roberto Morozzo della Rocca, who wrote a 2005 biography of Romero called "Primero Dios." The archbishop's detractors within the clergy -- in El Salvador and Rome -- may still oppose his beatification. It didn't help that Romero became a political hero

Dollarization not helping El Salvador

The Los Angeles Times looks at El Salvador's economy in an article titled Many Salvadorans find dollar a curse, not a cure . Although I think the article's suggestion that dollarization immediately had an inflationary impact lacks solid evidence (the premise is that store owners "rounded up" when switching prices from colons to dollars and cents), the overview of how El Salvador's economy has fared in the years since El Salvador abandoned its own currency for the dollar is useful reading: Dollarization, advocates say, preserves workers' earnings and savings against the monetary mischief of their governments. The move lowers inflation and interest rates, reduces transactional costs with other dollarized nations and encourages fiscal discipline by preventing treasuries from printing money to finance spending. But dollarization isn't a panacea for troubled economies, nor is it a one-size-fits-all strategy. The use of dollars doesn't automatically make a

August Festivals

El Salvador's patron saint festivals, which run from August 1 through August 6, have commenced. See La Prensa's photo gallery of images from the opening parade in San Salvador here . La Prensa has another nice photo gallery of images of the famous Monument to the Divine Savior of the World at this link . Well worth reading again are the two guest posts by our friend Carlos about "La Bajada," the culminating religious celebration of the festival week. You can find what Carlos wrote here and here .

Was Just Garments just a fraud?

Over the past two years I have referred to the textile factory which operated under the name "Just Garments" as "worker owned" and "paying a living wage" and "respecting worker's rights." That's what many people with solidarity organizations in the US wanted to believe. That hope led them to give tens of thousands of dollars to support the experiment at Just Garments . That same hope made it difficult for them to recognize that Just Garments was not living up to its name. In a by-lined series of articles in El Diario de Hoy , reporter Jorge Ávalos has laid out the lack of substance behind the utopian image of Just Garments as a different kind of factory where workers interests were respected: The truth, confirmed by an abundance of testimonies and documents generated by 19 workers claims, is that the workers were not paid what was owed them. Under false promises and social pressure of "just employment", the employees suffe