El Salvador Update – December 2003

El Salvador Update – December 2003

By: Marta Benavides

My very dear sisters and brothers, I send my best to all and each one of you.

The rainy season started early this year. Since much of our work is in the hilly countryside, this complicates traveling, and often meetings must be delayed, either because of flooding or because it is raining so hard that we cannot hear each other! The flooding also causes the spread of many epidemics – eye viruses, respiratory viruses, and Dengue Fever.

It is hard to believe, during these floods, that 1/3 of El Salvador is on the verge of becoming a desert. It is hard to believe, during all of this rainfall, that large numbers of people and communities do not have access to drinking water, and that the government is taking steps to privatize water – now a commodity – making it even more expensive. This picture can serve to reflect the social and economic conditions of our country at the present moment. The presidential campaign is already underway, for elections next March, with all of the related disturbances, promises and rumors. 300 Salvadoran soldiers are now in Iraq, and 300 more scheduled to take their places after six months.

Here at the Institute, we do the work of Siglo XXIII, the 23rd Century. We initiate and carry out, in cooperation with many others, educational and cultural programs, creating spaces and opportunities for us to manifest now what the immediate future could be. We are working to manifest our dreams for the future, and to continue with our existing commitments. We practice cooperativeness, solidarity, celebration, care of our Mother Earth, of water and air, intentionality and creativity.

We continue to give trainings to develop the tools that will enable us to be consciously the creators that we are, for we are always creating. Every decision is a creation. We are always cause and not effect. That is why we must be conscious of who we are, so we can choose to intentionally create. Otherwise, we live to work, instead of the other way around. We are all born to enjoy, to BE joy. We must be mindful of this, and in spite of anything else, do all possible to manifest this.

On October 12, Columbus Day, or as we know it in El Salvador, the Day of Indigenous and Aboriginal Races, we had a big celebration in coordination with the churches. We gave thanks for the gifts we receive from Life. We celebrated our Indigenous roots, First Nations’ culture, the World Day of Food, the World Day of Rural Women. We had exhibits on Indigenous popular art, medicinal plants, and Rural Women and Development, Indigenous music, solar energy, water purification, trash & environmental education, information on Dengue Fever, eye viruses and AIDS. We coordinated with many organizations for this festival, and the money raised from the food sold went to help with rebuilding a community church damaged in the 2001 earthquake. We are hoping to continue this festival celebration each year, and to offer an understanding of a different paradigm on these issues.

We continue with our regular programs in the context of the Decade of Education for a Culture of Peace. We offer educational opportunities for all throughout life: the ecological house; the permaculture farm; the program in support and celebration of the Indigenous Grandmothers; sewing classes for women, men and youth.

The social and economic situation here continues to be difficult. Since the dollarization of the economy, all prices have gone up. Violence is still rampant. The government seeks to develop stringent laws to control and repress us rather than to promote solutions which would result in peaceful transformation. In the case of the Institute, we were robbed again, and have had to repair windows and the roof as a result of this, as well as to replace the stolen items. Though this is difficult, it is small compared to what is happening to others. We are still able to do our work and support all of these communities and programs for $1500.00 per month, as we continue to figure out the best ways to make the most money render the best service. We still do not have a truck, so we need to find special support for our water campaign, which is to work on water purification, management, halting desertification and insuring access to clean water and sanitation for all.

We want to thank you again for your accompaniment, prayers and support. We are happy to be in partnership with you.

Much love,
Marta Benavides
International Institute for Cooperation amongst Peoples
Reclaiming’s El Salvador Friendship Fund & Circle of Love