David and Nancy Slinde Speaking at their "Sending Service"

Friday, February 25, 2011

Rio Grande II

This is the second in a series of our accompaniment with the vulnerable people of the Rio Grande San Miguel Basin.

Oikos Solidaridad held the second meeting of the 18 communities that reside along the Rio Grande San Miguel on February 21. We met in a different pueblo, a site centrally located. Approximately 37 residents attended, many new faces; many from the first meeting were absent.

Again the meeting was an hour long. Guillermo from Oikos lead the meeting and invited participants to express their comments. During the meeting Guillermo asked the leaders of the community directivas present to come forward so all could identify them, one woman and four men.

The action plan developed to send a delegation of 10 leaders to the government ministry in San Salvador Monday February 28. The group’s goal is to meet with the Ministry of Civil Protection and then invite the Minister to the area for a tour of the river basin.

With this phase of the plan presented and accepted, the meeting ended.

From the meeting site we drove deeper into the Parada communities, stopping to view a shrimp farm in Santa Rosa and getting a bag of freshly caught shrimp to cook at home. The farm was a project of the government to employ veterans after the civil war. It’s a huge area, waist deep water, next to an estuary. The tide was coming in and gushing water flowed through narrow channels bringing fresh sea water into the farm. The manager took us to his home and showed us his recent catch, a 12 foot, 500 pound crocodile that had been eating the shrimp and fish.

We couldn’t get out there fast enough! We then headed even deeper into Puerto Los Flores. With the tide coming in, it is obvious that most of Puerto Los Flores is a tidal basin. Some homes and sections of the road are above water level in this dry season, but the rest of the area is a lowland swamp. Debris and trash float on the surface; the area looks like a floating landfill.

It’s highly populated and why anyone would live or remain here is a mystery to us. We have seen homelessness, hunger, poverty, city ghettos, but we think this is the worst yet.

It’s dusk when we reach the city of Puerto Parada. It’s a little port with shops that are closed for the day, it’s getting dark, some people are milling around. The local ferry is pulling in to the port from the island in the estuary. It would be great to stop and take some pictures but Guillermo says it’s too dangerous - we have to keep moving.

We end the day with pupusas and beer in Usulután. We decided to continue in accompaniment with the leaders of Parada and will travel with them Monday to visit with the government minister. They are delighted that we will remain in accompaniment with them.

David y Nancy
To read the first of the series go to: http://oslcslinde09.blogspot.com/

Friday, February 18, 2011

Rio Grande

When we returned home Sunday evening, we discovered a new hole in our roof. A large avocado dropped from the tree and into the living room. The winter rains are two months away and we observe many repairing roofs with metal sheets, replacing the former clay-like tiles that we have.

The residents of the area of Puerto Parada are also thinking about the rainy season. There are 18 communities in the municipality of Usulután along the Rio Grande San Miguel. The river zigs and zags its way through Puerto Parada. Last year the dike of mounded earth broke during the torrential rains. We saw where the water was three feet deep in El Limon for months, leaving the communities isolated, crops destroyed and families at risk.

Oikos Solidaridad was approached to help these 18 communities become organized to be an effective voice for the people. We attended the first information session conducted by Oikos. Forty residents, men and women, from 10 of the communities attended this first meeting.

Some community leaders shared their experiences of approaching the government to express the concerns. Their efforts went nowhere because they were just a small group - a small voice. The government responds to larger contingencies, therefore they are anxious to start again by building a united coalition of Rio Grande San Miguel communities.

While many attendees were listeners, they all share the same fear and desire for safety and protection. As community leaders spoke to the issues, a chart of strategies was developed and a plan of action for the next meeting was formed. The people were urged to contact the other communities and invite them to come to participate in this formation.

The major issue is that the federal and local governments are not maintaining the river banks, thus the threat of the dikes being breached is a high risk. While repairs to the breach are being made, the dike is not yet fully repaired. A new concrete wall has been erected in one area, but it needs an earth barrier behind it. Further down the river, there are simply dirt mounds and rocks not strong enough to withstand powerful storms.

Leaving the community we stopped to walk to the river and stand on the highest part of the dike, looking down at the calm Rio Grande San Miguel as it meanders its way to the ocean. When the rains come, the river rises 80 feet and is a violent swirling mass of energy that is capable of moving mountains.

We expect to have more information for you after the next meeting. Here is a 2 minute video clip of the river and the dike at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F6gVoE54QNg

David y Nancy