Twenty-eight years ago, in the thick of a U.S. funded war in El Salvador, the town of San José Las Flores reached out to Cambridge for help. Cantabrigians responded to pleas from the rural community, Cambridge and Las Flores have been sister cities ever since.
A group of CRLS students recently visited Las Flores over April break. The delegation included CRLS juniors Maribel Rawson-Stone, Emma Ramsdell, and Jesse Simmons; CRLS media staff member Erica Modugno; CRLS alumna, researcher, and activist Stephanie Guirand; Amigos School music teacher Sharon Hamel; Nancy Ryan, Register Forum Correspondent Cathy Hoffman, and Rachel Wyon, founders of the Cambridge-Las Flores Sister City Project.
The delegation’s first stop involved a series of meetings in El Salvador’s capital, San Salvador. Discussions addressed the lasting repercussions of the war and other issues in El Salvador today, including gang violence and women’s rights.
In Las Flores, the delegation met with students and town officials. Hamel brought songs and letters from students at the Amigos School, and received letters and drawings in return from the students of Las Flores. Guirand shared a presentation about racism in the U.S. with community members, who in turn expressed issues their own community is facing.
Ramsdell described this experience of solidarity saying, “I found the whole town of Las Flores, even the students, to be very politically conscious. They were very aware of the problems in their country, such as the threat of gangs and mining companies as well as a constant struggle for water and protection of resources. A lot of their problems still come from the U.S., and this trip has motivated me to do more to support them from the U.S.”
Solidarity and exchange between communities is what delegations to Las Flores strive to achieve; as Hoffman put it, the delegations symbolize a “truth and reconciliation process” between the U.S. and El Salvador. With a high literacy, 100% health care coverage, and a well-organized infrastructure, cities like Cambridge can learn from Las Flores, even though they may be many miles away.
Rawson-Stone concluded, “It was a very educational trip but also very emotional. I definitely think more students should go because it’s an important experience.” Simmons added, “I never realized how much the U.S. played a part in other countries and how much I have a responsibility to try and make a change.”
To help raise money for the Las Flores community, the CRLS juniors on the delegation will be selling bracelets and bags made in Las Flores. To hear more from the delegates about their experience, and enjoy food and dancing, come to “Salsa for El Salvador”, a fundraiser for the Sister City Project at the Amigos School on May 15th from 6-9.
This article was published in the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School April bulletin 2015
Vol. 127 No. 8