Monday, July 04, 2022

PVC 1990 Delegation – Part Six: CRIPDES

The following notes have been edited to correct errors and to add explanations and updates. Parenthetical notes and remarks from the original are enclosed in parentheses. Present day [2022] updates are italicized and enclosed in square brackets.

3 October 1990, 9:00 AM – CRIPDES

[CRIPDES began in 1984 as the Christian Committee of the Displaced. After the Peace Accords were signed in 1992, it became the Association for the Development of El Salvador. Its partnership with SHARE is on-going, strengthening community organizations in their work on justice issues. The SHARE Foundation is a U.S. based non-profit organization committed to supporting and accompanying the people of El Salvador ​​and Honduras in their struggle for social justice and sustainable development. During its early years PVC received security training and assistance in engaging guide/translators from SHARE.]

Our interview begins with brief background remarks. The CRIPDES headquarters was invaded and destroyed in April 1989, and sixty to seventy workers were captured. SHARE gave them the funds to purchase the current location. They are the group which organized the returns from the Honduran refugee camps, Mesa Grande, Colomoncagua, etc. Now they are trying to organize the return to their places of origin or choice of those who are displaced within the country.

We begin by going around the circle and introducing ourselves. The refugee coordinator gives us words of welcome. She says that our presence encourages them in their work with refugees.

Question: How and why was CRIPDES formed?

"There has been social injustice in El Salvador for the past sixty years or more. Thousands of Salvadorans have historically been marginalized, denied the basic rights of housing, land, education. Organizations have formed to respond to this situation. We had a situation where thousands of persons joined together to march in San Salvador and demand their rights. But we have never received a favorable response to our petitions. Always the case has been that when people demand their rights, the government responds with indiscriminate oppression. In 1932 40,000 were slaughtered when they took to the streets. Since then the oppression has intensified. Not only did we have to bear the lack of land, education, medical care, etc., but we also had to put up with the military.

PVC 1990 Delegation – Part Five: Morning in La Peña

 

The following notes have been edited to correct errors and to add explanations and updates. Parenthetical notes and remarks from the original are enclosed in parentheses. Present day [2022] updates are italicized and enclosed in square brackets.

2 October 1990 - Morning in the village in San Miguel

We settle for sleep overnight in the common house, the eight women on four reed-mat beds in an inner room, and the men on mats on the porch. The room is damp and colder than outside; I think that I am the only one not wishing for a heavier covering than our flannel sheet. Gail and I share a bed against the far wall. I must have slept for a few hours; she claims that she has slept not at all. By quarter after four my need to use the bathroom has grown greater than any concern for disturbing the others. I whisper to Gail that I am getting up, and she decides that she will, also. We draw on the skirts and shoes which had been the only garments removed for the night, and I pin up my hair as best I can, tucking it under the Totes hat which serves as my protection from both sun and storm. Then with hands covering flashlights we make our way around the prone bodies of our comrades and out into the pre-dawn air.

The room had been utterly black, with no perceptible difference between eyes closed and eyes open. Outside we are greeted by a sky brilliant with more stars than I can remember ever having seen before in my life, and a nearly full moon making its way toward the western horizon. The "facilities" are across the clearing, around the bus, and into the woods – left turn for the men and straight ahead for the women, then pick your tree. A concrete latrine in this village will be a major improvement, once they get it built.

Sunday, July 03, 2022

PVC 1990 Delegation – Part Four: Meeting with the FMLN

The following notes have been edited to correct errors and to add explanations and updates. Parenthetical notes and remarks from the original are enclosed in parentheses. Present day [2022] updates are italicized and enclosed in square brackets.

1 October 1990 - late evening, meeting with the FMLN

After our walk around the community we return to the house which seems to be the common gathering place, and where we will be served a supper of scrambled eggs, fried chicken, and tortillas. The people stand around the table and watch as we eat. We feel embarrassed, knowing that the feast in front of us represents more than most of these people would eat in a whole day, yet knowing also that they are very proud to have the resources to entertain us this well and that they would be deeply hurt if we refused to eat and enjoy.

Word has come to us that there is a group of FMLN [Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional/Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front] soldiers in the area who would like to meet with the international delegation if we are willing. Of course we are willing! This is a rare opportunity which cannot be planned ahead of time. The guerrillas wait until it is quite dark and most of the women and children in the village have gone back to their own homes. Then quietly they come out of the darkness and surround the porch of the common house, where we have been eating and talking. A generator has been wired to a single bare light bulb suspended from the porch roof, and into the pool of light steps the guerrilla leader, who introduces himself as Nino. Most of the heavily armed men [and women, as it turns out] on the periphery of the light appear to be little more than boys in age, I am reminded that the campesinos refer to the guerrillas as "los muchachos" - the boys.

PVC 1990 Delegation – Part Three: La Peña, San Miguel

 

The following notes have been edited to correct errors and to add explanations and updates. Parenthetical notes and remarks from the original are enclosed in parentheses. Present day [2022] updates are italicized and enclosed in square brackets.

1 October 1990 - late afternoon, a small community in San Miguel

[After a substantial breakfast at the guest house, we loaded luggage and supplies into the bus and set out for our first visit, a mountain village in the Department of San Miguel.]

When we arrive at the village in mid-afternoon, after several delays on the road, we are met by a small instrumental group which has obviously been waiting for us for quite a long time. There are two guitars, a fiddle, a three-stringed bass, and maracas. Their repertoire consists entirely of lively dance tunes, most in a strong 4/4 tempo which reminds me of some of our kolos. [Balkan folk dances. “Kolo means “circle.”] Our group stands around the square listening and clapping along as the group entertains us. Then Chris comes over to me and asks me if I want to play the fiddle. After a moment's hesitation, during which Chris assures me that they would love it, and it would be a good way to help our groups relate to each other, I say sure, I'll give it a try.

Chris explains to the musicians what is proposed, and the next thing I know, I am at the center of a circle with the fiddle in hand. I ask Chris to tell them that what I will play is a song by a young girl to her boyfriend, telling him that she wants to dance and party. Then I begin "Ajde Jano." After the first chorus, the accompaniment joins me, a bit tentatively at first, then more firmly, pulling the rhythm from 7/8 into 4/4. The strings are all gut, the D and A in tune with each other, though somewhat lower than 440. The G is definitely not a fifth below the D; I never do figure out how it is tuned. After five or six times through I end the song, thank the fiddler for the use of his instrument, and return it to its proper owner.

PVC 1990 Delegation – Part Two: Evening in the Guest House

The following notes have been edited to correct errors and to add explanations and updates. Parenthetical notes and remarks from the original are enclosed in parentheses. Present day [2022] updates are italicized and enclosed in square brackets.

30 September 1990:

Four parish workers have come to the Guest House to talk with us on our first evening in El Salvador. They include Father T., a diocesan priest who works with Base Christian Communities; J., a parish worker in Comunidad Veintidós de Abril [22nd of April, a poor community on the outskirts of San Salvador known as a center of activism] who also works with the BCC's; and two female parish workers. Also present is BD, a North American who has worked in El Salvador for nearly four years.

Father T. opens by telling us that several days ago he had gone with Bishop Medardo Gomez [Lutheran Bishop of El Salvador] to give an address at a church. There the people told him that recently soldiers had invaded the church, forced people to lie on the floor, demanded to know where the guns were hidden, and then robbed them. He sees the role of the church as trying to institute a project of peace while living in a situation of war.

Giving us a brief history of the 22nd of April community, he explains that it dates from 22 April 1971, when people who had been living under bridges, on the margins of life, took over the city garbage dump and built a community. When the war started in 1980 there was an influx of the displaced, and many of the original settlers left. There are now two sections: Credisa, which is more settled, urbanized, with a stable working class population, and 22nd of April, which is poorer than Credisa, an area of much oppression, many disappearances and murders.

Saturday, July 02, 2022

PVC 1990 Delegation – Part One: The Delegates and Getting There

 

The following notes have been edited to correct errors and to add explanations and updates. Parenthetical notes and remarks from the original are enclosed in parentheses. Present day [2022] updates are italicized and enclosed in square brackets.

 

Project Via Crucis (PVC) is a Lutheran-based interfaith group in South Central Pennsylvania working in solidarity with the churches and people of El Salvador. Our mission is two-fold: education of people in our area about the reality of life in El Salvador, and how U. S. policy affects that life, and accompaniment of the people in El Salvador by sending visiting delegations to observe and learn from them. From this two-pronged mission has come a third, that of gathering funds and material aid to help support the work which is being done in Salvadoran communities. PVC was formed in early 1987, and has sent a delegation in October of each year since that time. [PVC’s active work continued through 2008. After several years of minimal activity, articles of dissolution were filed in 2012. Records were transferred to storage by the Lower Susquehanna Synod, ELCA.] I have been peripherally involved in the project from the beginning, through a close friend and co-worker who was one of the founding members. In early 1990, after attending a rally in Washington, D.C. commemorating the recently assassinated Jesuit scholars and their two housekeepers, I decided to join the 1990 delegation.

The notes which follow are transcriptions of the notes which I took while on the delegation. Because my Spanish is minimal, my handwritten notes of conversations were done from the translations provided by our leader and others. Quotation marks indicate my best attempts at recording precisely what was said, as translated, but are not intended to imply a complete verbatim transcript. Names of individuals, and in some cases of small villages, are disguised for security reasons. Exceptions to this are persons and villages with such high international visibility, such as Bishop Medardo Gomez, and Comunidad Ellacuria, that naming them as having received international visitors does not increase their already vulnerable positions.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Surviving Mozart ~ Barely

 In recent years I have come to enjoy listening to the Mozart “Clarinet Quintet in A, K 581.” I appreciate the finesse and musicality of the performers, the contrasting moods of the several movements, the tight-knit construction of the piece and its overall charm.  It is, after all, by Mozart ~ one of his superb mature works. But it was not always so. For many years I cringed whenever it came on the radio and even avoided attending concerts on which it was programmed.  Why did I feel such antipathy to this outstanding example of the chamber music repertoire? Let me tell you a cautionary tale.

Back when I was still a performing member of the Lancaster Musical Arts Society ~ it must have been in the mid- to late 1980s ~ a well-known Lancaster violist called me with a request.  A clarinetist in the organization, wanting to fulfill a lifetime dream of performing the Mozart Quintet, had asked the string quartet which she led to play with him on a Musical Arts program the following spring.  Unfortunately, their first violinist would be out of town on the chosen date. Would I be their sub? Learning a major new work at that particular time was not something I was eager to do, but she had baled me out a couple of times when I needed a viola on short notice, so I said Yes.