Human Rights in El Salvador 2013

Eight SMU students, led by Perkins School of Theology Professor Harold J. Recinos and Embrey Human Rights Program Coordinator Sherry Aikman, are in El Salvador through Jan 16. The group is looking at human rights atrocities that have occurred in the Central American country during the last 40 years, including the El Mozote massacre, the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero, the Zona Rosa guerrilla attack, the rape and murder of three American nuns and a missionary, unlawful civilian killings by security forces, forced prostitution, child labor and more. “They’ll also be focused on issues of national reconciliation, truth commissions and healing,” says Embrey Human Rights Program Director Rick Halperin.

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Voices of change

An update from Jake, a first-year transfer student majoring in human rights and minoring in Spanish:

Today we traveled to Santa Ana to meet with the ASAPROSAR, a nonprofit organization that works on improving rural health. They recognize that multiple facets create health and that they need to assist the poor in multiple ways. For example, they enter into communities and educate families on the necessity of their children’s education while also providing microloans to families in need of assistance.

In one situation, ASAPROSAR gave a women who fed her family from a trash dump and lived in a makeshift home a microloan that enabled her to successfully start a business and raise her family’s status of living. After we discussed human rights with the organization’s leaders, they gave us a tour of their center for eye health that provides much needed assistance for people from as far away as Guatemala and Honduras. We then left to meet with a daughter organization of ASAPROSAR.

When we stepped out of the bus, seven enthusiastic student leaders greated us with hugs as we gathered in a circle to discuss Barefoot Angels, a school established to keep at-risk youths out of gangs. We immediately discovered that our greeters, despite environments of poverty and violence, had a voice stronger than many young people in the United States. We met with the community leaders who provided the help necessary for the organization to continue without problems in the gang-controlled area.

I found this meeting the most inspiring and rewarding of our discussions so far because of how much happiness, strength, and hope the youth leaders showed in the face of poverty. Reluctantly we said adios and left to eat some delicious pupusas with the ASAPROSAR representatives.

Before leaving Santa Ana and heading back into San Salvador, we said hello to a group of engineering students from MIT who were working with ASAPROSAR in communities on projects like a stationary-bike sorbet maker, a solar dryer, and affordable energy.

Back in San Salvador we stopped at UCA, the University where six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, Elba Ramos, and her daughter, Sicilia Ramos, were massacred on November 16, 1989. First, we entered the museum and viewed the belongings of the priests, their blood-stained garments, and pictures of Elba and Sicilia, whose body was found in her mother’s arms. Later, we walked to the garden where they had been murdered by the soldiers. Roses grew in their memory and for all of the innocent victims of the civil war.

We walked to the chapel, where we sat and admired the religious and artistic work on the back wall that represented the life, death, and resurrection of Archbishop Romero. We also admired a painting that symbolically captured the civil war and images of torture that were used for the Stations of the Cross. I felt the familiar tug of sadness. The whole day reaffirmed for me how fortunate I have been to be a part of the trip.

Our group

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