Thursday, March 23, 2017

El Salvador, a place to learn about Resilience and Solidarity

I had the greatest opportunity to go down to El Salvador for the very first time to learn 

about the current battles and victories involving economic, social, environmental and 

agricultural issues. I have to thank Zulma from U.S Sister Cities - El Salvador for her 

moving presentation on the current issues in El Salvador. I also have to thank Victor for 

planning such an amazing and informational delegation, and most importantly I would 

like to thank all of the communities, and especially my host families for welcoming me 

(and the other delegation members) into their beautiful homes.  

Being in El Salvador for less than two weeks flew by quickly but in that little amount of 

time, I learned so much. I learned more about the country’s past than I ever would have 

in a book, the current struggles but I also learned the battles won, and how motivated 

the people of El Salvador are. In that short time, I also fell in love with the country, the 

landscapes and especially the people.  While there, what struck me was the 

overabundance of youth involvement. It was truly great to witness.

To be honest, when I signed up for the delegation I thought I would be doing hands on 

work in El Salvador but after spending some time in El Salvador, I realized that the act of 

solidarity is stronger than the act of trying to be charitable. Everyone that I met on the 

delegation were truly strong, inspirational and extremely motivated people. I (along with 

the delegation) visited many communities, from Guarjila , San Jose Las Flores, Aracato, 

to Carasque, and many more. We visited many communities and their projects, which 

were absolutely amazing! From the bamboo project in Las Flores, to the composting 

projects, and reforestation projects and the women initiatives. All of the projects were 

incredible. It was so great to see the empowerment of women and youth in the 

communities as well as the great organization and the strong unity of all of the 

communities we visited. It was also an honor to meet with many great organizations like 

MOPAO (Popular Movement for Organic Agriculture), CRIPDES and many more.  It was 

amazing to hear and learn about the great projects that are in store for the next couple 

of years.

While there were so many things that really stuck with me on this trip, there was one 

part of the delegation that really hit me and it was standing on top of the hill of the 

virgin of the resistance because of its extreme significance with the resistance of mining. 

The symbol of hill honestly speaks for itself and the people’s fight against mining. It 

made me realize that resistance is power. If it wasn’t for those people in the San Jose Las 

Flores standing up for their rights and environment, the mining company would have 

won, but it was the community’s persistence and energy that won the battle. There have 

been many battles won against mining, one of the most recent one being Cinquera 

municipality in CabaƱas, which is now the fifth territory free of mining. (Yay!) Though 

there have been many victories, there are unfortunately still many battles to be won and 

though there are still many battles to be won, it’s certain that there is no stopping the 

people of El Salvador from winning those battles especially those against mining and the 

use of agrochemicals, I also know for certain that I will forever stand in solidarity with 

the people of El Salvador.

There are so many places, and people that I didn’t mentioned in this small reflection but 

know that every part of this delegation influenced me in such a profound way. El Salvador 

is such a beautiful country, and people, both beautiful inside and out. Once again, thank 

you to everyone who welcomed the delegation and me with open arms.

Forever in Solidarity,


Thursday, March 16, 2017

US-El Salvador Sister Cities Solidarity Model

"I don't believe in charity. I believe in solidarity. Charity is vertical, so it's humiliating. 

Solidarity is horizontal. It respects the other and learns from the other. I have a lot to 

learn from other people."

- Eduardo Galeano

Solidarity is the most beautiful act that embraces the struggles from people to people 

to reach human dignity, and with it sovereignty of the people around the world. The 

Salvadoran communities have gone through brutal realities since the very beginning 

of so-called “Discovery of America”, and recently with the economy models, such as 

neoliberalism (In the same way, this cruel barbarity has prevailed in every country 

throughout America. It´s important to point out that there are some countries that 

have already started to break that chain of oppression). We know that the current 

economy model are affecting the vast majority of the dispossessed. It doesn’t matter 

your location in this world, but if you are not one of the owners of the multinational 

businesses, in some way you are affected negatively by this economy model.

It is in this way that U.S-El Salvador Sister Cities has been joining efforts for more 

than 30 years as alternative to work in partnership with small rural communities in El 

Salvador. Through these partnerships, which began in 1986 as a citizen-based 

response to the U.S. intervention in El Salvador’s civil war, Sister Cities members 

work to develop economic and social justice throughout El Salvador and in their own 

communities in the U.S. 

Nowadays, the U.S. committees and their sister communities share political and moral 

solidarity, and strategy and advocacy for common struggles for peace and justice.  We 

each have much to share and much to learn.

These are some ways of showing solidarity from people to people in Sister Cities:

 Phone calls/Video calls

Send letters /banners     


Advocacy work in US cities/Visiting communities in ES

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Struggles for Women’s Rights of Two Different Cultures

A perspective of a USESSC member living in El Salvador.

The struggle of women’s rights in the United States has a long history.  Although in March of 1776, 

Abigail Adams wrote in a letter to her husband, “remember the ladies,” it wasn’t until the 1830’s and 

40’s that the struggle really began with the abolitionist movement and the quest for women’s suffrage 

which finally passed in 1920. 

When I was growing up in the 1940’s and 50’s, 

women’s place was still considered to be in the 

home.  If women did work, opportunities were 

limited mainly to being a teacher, a secretary or

nurse.  However, in the 60’s changes were 

taking place.  I participated in one of many 

consciousness-raising groups whose purpose was

to raise awareness about our status, and the 

National Organization for Women was founded in 1966.  In January of 1973, the U.S. Supreme 

Court recognized that the constitutional right to privacy extends to a woman’s right to make her own 

personal medical decisions — including the decision to have an abortion without interference from 


Women now have many more options in choosing a career.  In 2007, Nancy Pelosi became the first 

woman to be elected Speaker of the House of Representatives, and in 2016, Hillary Clinton was the 

first woman nominated to be president by a major political party.

Although progress has been made, there is still a long way to go.  The Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act 

was passed and signed into law by President Obama in 2009 yet there is still an 8% pay gap between 

men and women in the U.S.  On average, a woman earns 80 cents for every dollar a man earns.  Only 

21 women out of a total of 50 members, or 21%, are serving in the Senate in 2017.  Women make up 

19% of the House of Representatives – 83 out of 435 members.  Only 4 out of 50 state governors are 

women.  Women, who want to work in fields typically dominated by men, such as construction type 

jobs, find that they are harassed on the job. 

As a frequent visitor to El Salvador, I can’t help but contrast the struggle for women’s rights in that 

country to that in the U.S.  Salvadoran women have the added disadvantage of living in a culture of 

machismo where domestic violence, unequal pay for equal work and women in poverty are norms.  

However, women here are very well organized and are demanding to be heard.  One area, which is 

extremely troubling, is the law against abortion for any reason including when the life of the mother 

is in danger or when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.  This law has resulted in women 

who are serving time in prison just for having a miscarriage. 

However, I find encouragement in seeing women worldwide marching, protesting and demanding 

equity and equality.  We must continue the struggle and never give up until all women are treated 

fairly and given equal opportunities.  

- Ann Legg.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Sanctuary Cities is the way to support migrants in the U.S

My name is Beth. I am an active member of the Arlington-Teosinte Sister City Project.

 Arlington is currently holding public debate over whether to become a Sanctuary City. 

Volunteers with the Arlington-Teosinte Sister City Project are taking this opportunity to 

"put a human face" on immigration, and to share information about the impact of US 

policies in Central America. Here are some tips from our experience.

Unite, don't divide. Acknowledge that the loss of federal funding is a real and legitimate 

concern. While so far legal precedent suggests that the Trump Administration could only 

legally cut off Department of Homeland Security funding, Sanctuary City supporters need 

to commit to standing up to defend residents' access to federal funds for subsidized 

housing, for schools and other programs, if it comes to that. Likewise, if possible frame 

your support for Sanctuary Cities as supporting your community police in doing their 

rightful job, and in encouraging all people who live and work in your community to feel 

safe reporting crimes.

Below are some points that we have shared in our community that are helping to (1) 

educate community members, and (2) build support for the Sanctuary City resolution.
1. In this political climate, a public commitment to sanctuary/community policing is 

necessary to counter what the Trump administration is saying and doing.  Under Trump 

ICE has arrested and deported people who have no criminal record other than being in 

the US without documentation, including a 23-year old DACA (Dreamer) eligible young 

man. Kids are afraid to go to school; parents are afraid to go to work. If we want people 

who live and work in in our communities, without documentation, OR those who 

might be assumed to be immigrants, to feel safe reporting crime to our police, we 

have to make a public commitment and put something at stake, by becoming a 

Sanctuary City.

2. Trump is using immigrants as scapegoats in order to gain power. The rate of 

unauthorized immigration into the US is flat. It is not rising. Immigrants, including those 

without documentation, have a lower crime rate than US-born citizens. Deporting those 

who live in the US without documentation will devastate our economy. Trump's policies 

make no sense - except for him. Scapegoats make a complicated world look simple, and 

give everyone a bad guy to hate. This really does have echos of the rise of Hitler. How 

many of us have wondered why German citizens didn't stop Hitler? The Sanctuary City 

approach is a way to oppose Trump's scapegoating.

3. There is no legal route open for the large percentage of immigrants without 

documentation who are actually refugees. As sister city people, we know the 

"backstory" about unauthorized immigration that many in our communities do not. More 

than half of unauthorized immigrants through Mexico are from El Salvador, Honduras and 

Guatemala. The UNHCR and advocacy groups have done studies, showing that about 60% 

of the migrants from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala meet the criteria to be 

considered refugees. Studies show that without a lawyer, over 90% of those seeking 

asylum are deported. Very few immigrants are able to obtain the services of a lawyer; 

they do not have the money, and there are simply not enough immigration lawyers. 

Despite the fact that the journey through Central America and Mexico is incredibly 

dangerous and many are robbed, raped, or killed on the way, and that Central Americans 

know that they are likely to be deported and that life in the US is no picnic, people keep 

coming. One quote I've heard about this situation: "When your house is on fire, you get 


4. The US government bears a lot of responsibility for the poverty and violence in 

Central America. So many of us spent time in El Salvador during the Civil War, and we 

remember when Reagan's Secretary of State Al Haig called it "America's backyard." The 

US has treated this region as its backyard for a hundred years. One example would be 

the CIA coup which ousted democratically-elected President Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala 

in 1954, and replaced him with the first in a series of US-backed military dictators, and 

the  list is large. Our national culture leans toward forgetting the past and moving on, 

but reality doesn't work that way. Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador (among other 

countries) were set up by Spain to exploit for cheap goods and labor, and in more recent 

decades when the poor majorities have risked their lives to rebalance the scales, the US 

has often pressed its heavy thumb on the side of the wealthy minority who are allied with 

US business interests.

Now President Trump has found a new way to use poor people in Mexico and Central 

America: as scapegoats. Without a scrap of evidence, he blames their presence in the US 

for widespread crime and global economic shifts. So now this region is no longer "our 

backyard." It's a distant land that we want nothing to do with; we'll build a wall to keep 

these people out. With the history of US involvement in the region as a background, and 

Trump's use of scapegoating in the foreground, this is a bleak picture of unfairness.

Let's share what we know about the realities of El Salvador and immigration. Let's 

fight scapegoating, and help our communities see the humanity of our brothers and 

sisters from El Salvador and other countries.

All Best wishes,

Beth Soltzberg.
Beth's children and friends in Teosinte, El Salvador

U.S-El Salvador Sister Cities

The US-El Salvador Sister Cities is a grass-roots network of U.S.

citizens and residents working in solidarity with organized rural 

communities in El Salvador. We represent 16 cities, radio stations 

an dorganizations throught the Midwest and East Coast that are 

sistered with rural communities which are among the 398 

communities that make up CRIPDES, the  Association for the 

Development of El Salvador.

We work for social change by building and defending sustainable 

communities and economies based on solidarity, dignity, and self-

determination. Our work is driven by mutual community 

accompaniment, organizing, education, advocacy, and fundraising.