Sister Community Updates

A cordial greeting on behalf of the Communal Association of the Heroes of April 11th of Arcatao.  We hope this letter finds you well with your families and your daily life.  We are grateful to have contact with you and would like to say thanks for the support and collaboration we had with you during our consultation against the exploration and exploitation of mining. 


CRIPDES San Vicente is excited to welcome their newest team member, Douglas, as the youth and scholarship promoter.  It is an especially proud moment for the scholarship program, as Douglas is a graduate of it and owes much of his leadership formation to CRIPDES.


Edith Portillo is the Secretary of the CRIPDES National Board of Directors, works as the Coordinator of Women's programs for CRIPDES San Vicente, and is part of the leadership of the National Roundtable of Rural Women. She started working with CRIPDES in 1999, and considers herself the fruit of the work of CRIPDES in rural marginalized communities throughout El Salvador.


By Catie Johnston, former volunteer in San Vicente and new Sister Cities Co-Coordinator

This weekend I went down to Houston to visit my host brother.  The last time I saw him he was riding into the sunset in the back of a pickup truck, leaving El Salvador to try for the American Dream.  I stood beside his mom, who at 33 years old, had just put the title to her home and small piece of land on a loan so her oldest son could go to a place where he might have a future.  She didn’t cry until the next day, her son’s 18th birthday, because he wasn’t with us.


From the Fair Trade Delegation, March 2008: 

         Woven into many of USESSC's sistering relationships are 'sisters' working in the North to promote the goods created by co-operatives in our sistered communities in El Salvador.  Such co-operatives are a natural part of daily life in the organized communities of CRIPDES, part of an economic model that strengthens community life and sufficiency.  Four women, representing four Sister City projects in the US, just returned from a two-week Fair Trade Delegation to El Salvador.  Our goals were to strengthen and build our sistering relationships, and to share experiences and strategies about the fair trade work we do or hope to do. We visited our respective sistered communities, plus several others with active cooperatives. During the meetings, we learned about the development of the cooperatives, the new savings and loan women's groups some communities are forming, their hopes and their dreams. We placed orders, discussed ideas for new products, and saw the great potential of ordering from one another here in the states. 

         Looking ahead, we plan to have a session on fair trade work at the 2008 Sister Cities National Gathering in Bangor, Maine this coming October; we also will have a marketplace for goods produced by our sisters.  A second fair trade delegation is in the works for 2009.  We invite you to talk to us, order goods for events, and learn more about the fair trade work group: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  Read on for some of the highlights and our full delegation report.


            Bangor has had a long relationship with the crochet and sewing cooperatives through the Bangor-Carasque Sister City Project and has been marketing their goods in Maine for over 10 years. The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA, part of the MOFGA-CCR Sister relationship) and the Carasque crochet coop have worked together to develop a string shopping bag, also sold in Maine. We met with the 25 members of the co-ops in their lovely, new building. In addition to orders from Bangor and MOFGA, these co-ops make uniforms for their own and surrounding communities and sell goods to visiting delegations. The community is currently building a store where they can sell their co-op and agricultural goods.

Products produced:  by the Crochet Co-op: purses, hats, baby clothes, hammocks, water bottle carriers, head bands, string shopping bags; by the Sewing/Embroidery Co-op: embroidered totes, aprons, bread cloths, runners, tablecloths, baby clothes


          The Madison-Arcatao Sister City relationship is one of the oldest in our network. They have worked with the cooperatives at different levels over the years; currently, Madison has a plan to increase this part of their work. We visited both youth projects and the embroidery co-ops to see their beautiful products. The embroidery group has been at it for 19 years and some of their pieces are of museum quality! A lot of enthusiasm and ideas were shared.

Products produced: by the Embroidery co-op:  aprons, runners, tablecloths, t-shirts; by the Youth group:  jewelry, note cards, straw bags, wood products


Juan Chacón Coffee
            We met with Ernesto Morales, head of CORDES in Chalatenango, at the coffee processing plant in Amayo to discuss the exportation of coffee to the US. The ultimately successful coffee importation project of 2006/07 was extremely challenging, with steep learning curves on both sides. Unfortunately, exporting of coffee will not happen this year, with money being the greatest obstacle. Both CORDES and Just Coffee (the co-operative roaster in Madison, Wis.) are looking for alternatives for financing. There is firm commitment on both sides to try again next year.

Products produced by Chalate farmers: coffee, indigo   


         This spirited community welcomed us with open arms. The Crystal Lake-Chilama relationship is USESSC's  newest sister city project, and Chilama has fewer material resources than the other communities we visited. There are currently no cooperatives producing goods; lack of daycare for the children and lack of training for the women are contributing factors. Some interest was sparked when we talked about what other communities are doing, and through the regional organization of CRIPDES-Sur and the Crystal Lake sistering relationship, we will be in close contact, ready to go forward with initiatives the women develop.


To purchase goods and learn more about Sister Cities' fair trade work, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  We are working on a website marketplace for fair trade goods.