Moments of Inspiration from the Mofga-Chicago Delegation fromShira Hammann,

Chicago-Cinquera Sister Cities
Many moments from the January delegation stand out in my mind:

  • The staff of the community radio station Radio Sumpul telling us how, in the mid-'90s, they prevented a police shutdown of the radio by ringing a bell in the early morning that summoned dozens of community members to come stand in the way of the police trucks that were carting away their equipment
  • Two little girls playing in a pool by the spring in El Zapotal, their fun resting on the efforts of community members who are working to keep the community's water clean through organic agriculture. 
  • An ex-guerrillera, Miranda, in Buena Vista reflecting that while the guerillas did not win all that they hoped for, today people can say what they believe without fear they will disappear in the night
  • Don Pablo in Cinquera standing surrounded by oranges, lemons and mangoes lying on the ground where they have fallen, happy in the abundance he is creating, but concerned for the next generation that is impatient with rural agricultural life
  • Guillermo, a recent high school graduate from Cinquera who is playing in the community batucada (Brazilian drumming band) group, learning music from the internet, and planning to begin college next year, talking about the isolation and confusion that many youth face as they confront the threat of poverty and a rapidly modernizing society
  • Countless pupusas, and laughter, and the surprise delight of cracking open a "cocol" and discovering a delicious little coconut-like fruit the size of a macadamia nut inside.
Immeasurable thanks to the people of Buena Vista, El Zapotal, Las Vueltas and Cinquera, for welcoming us into their homes and communities. Thanks to Sister Cities, to Alex and Estela and everyone else whose efforts made the trip possible, and who keep the conversation going as all of us in El Salvador and in the US continue the struggle for healthy vibrant communities!

By Jim Hoover, Chicago-Cinquera Sister Cities

Between January 21st and 31st, I participated in a sustainable agriculture delegation with members of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association and a fellow member of Chicago-Cinquera Sister Cities.  We stayed in Buenas Vista, El Zapotal and, our sister city, Cinquera and learned about the communities’ small business projects and sustainable agriculture programs.  It was a very educational and inspirational delegation with much good feeling and solidarity.

The community council of Buenas Vista was very welcoming and put us up in their homes, which was a fantastic way for us to get to know the community better.  We also spent time with the womens committee discovering how they make different natural products like shampoo and cough syrup.  They even gave us a sample of each product as gifts.  Later, members of the Juan Chacon cooperative showed us the famr on which they are raising tilapia for sale in the area and raising cows for a government milk program and local consumption.  They also have beehives which produce a huge amount of honey, about 35 barrels worth.  At the end of the visit, the community council had a community party for us and asked us for our advice and opinions about their town.  I didn't expect that at all.  We gave some good feedback to them and expressed our appreciation for their wonderful hospitality.

The community council was also very warm, at our second stop, the hillside community of El Zapotal.  They showed us their progress in emergency management, which they started working on when the community was hit by a terrible landslide a few years ago. Ever since, the community council has been dedicated to promoting organic agriculture and the protection of the mountains and springs around the community. We also toured the community’s water system and local medical clinic where we talked to the only doctor in the area about the challenges he faces providing medical care.

Cinquera was our last stop.   Our visit started off with a meeting with the local organization, the Rural Association for the Development of the Municipality, the ARDM.   Members of the elected council of the ARDM told us about the political challenges that they face with the upcoming election and their hopes for winning back control of the municipal government.  We explored the community’s  fruit dehydration facility, the iguana farm and the defunct butterfly sanctuary, which the community hopes to restart with an expected influx of more funding.  We also learned about the ARDM’s wonderful sustainable family farm program which has 40 families participating from around the municipality. Through this farmer to farmer educational program, the ARDM is promoting organic farming and healthy lifestyles among the families.  This is truly ground-breaking because farmers in Cinquera, like in many small rural communities, are very wary about moving away from conventional agricultural methods for fear of losing income. It was great to strengthen our ties with our sister city and learn about all the inspirational work they are doing to make Cinquera more just and peaceful municipality.

Alex and Estela, the Sister Cities coordinators in El Salvador accompanied us throughout the whole trip and  served as our translators and confidants. They were both very professional and helpful. Muchas gracias to Alex and Estela and all the communities that made our trip so amazing!

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