Friday, May 31, 2013

El Salvador Day 10

We went to the Cristosal offices this morning -- nice offices near the hotel we are staying at. It was good to see and hear about the work Cristosal is doing.

We headed up to Anemona which is by San Martin. Anemona is here because of Hurricane Ida -- 4 hours of intense rain caused land slides. Milagro, the president of Anemona 2 ran door to door walking people in the middle of the night -- houses slid down the side of the cliff, or were covered and destroyed by mudslides from above. She had people stand in the middle of the street in the downpour. Four people died, including a mother and a newborn. At first light they could see the disaster that happened.

There are 16 communities there -- made up of about 168 families. They moved to where they are now -- they do not own the land. It was uninhabited at the time. they set up homes on roads and railroad right-of-ways that weren't being used. They built roads. They've done a lot to get basic services such as electricity and water, but they still don't have legal status here.

Electricity became a headache for them and they made some mistakes. First they set up electricity illegally -- the energy company came, and they negotiated with the energy company in an attempt to become "legal". At that time the energy company charged them one rate, which translated into about $40.00 per month per family -- the energy company based that on the number of electrical appliances, etc. they saw in the houses. Unfortunately, that wasn't a good way to account for electrical use. The intercommunal board worked on the problem. Cristosal started to work with the intercommunal board by knocking on the doors to talk to members of the legislative assembly to totally legal -- and they won this! At that point individually meters were put on each house -- reducing the cost to about $5.00 per month on average.

There is lots of support from the government regarding water. That project went quickly -- they have water, and they pay about $1.00 per month for their water bill. They are currently in the process of trying to install water in each home. Anemona 2 has received the official document to make this happen -- Anemona 6 hasn't received this yet, but hopefully will have this soon. Right now, though, residents have to fill up water jugs and carry them to their homes. Also, currently there is no sanitation system there -- that is something else that needs to be installed in the communities.

The intercommunal board was a board born from the necessities of the different communities. The board has three main goals: the legalization of water, the legalization of electricity, and the legalization of land for them to own where they are right now. The result is that last year legislation was introduced into the assembly for this. The fruit of this work is that they have had visited from functionaries in various branches of the government. Everyone who has come out to see what is happening here is supportive of this. Cristosal has been working on this with the intercommunal board. If you're reading this and thinking "but they stole that land" -- well, technically no. It is state owned and there is a statute that says the state can be petitioned in certain circumstances to give or sell the land to the people. These communities fit into the category to acquire the land.

Legalization of the land is an urgent matter for them. They were accustomed to living in one area, which they owned -- but were forced to move out due to the mudslides. Right now they are living close by, but don't own this land. The primary thing they have been fighting for is to be comfortable and safe -- that's why they are seeking legalization. This place has good access to highways, the city and schools. If they had to move they don't know now where they'd go. Now they have basic services -- but if they moved they'd have to start all over again.

From Cristosal, Jose Lopez is in charge of the work to help with the legalization of land in Anemona. He shared the following: he is working with different people in the government to make this a reality. Public works, housing, the Salvadorian equivalent of the IRS, etc. Each time they have received favorable responses. Assemblyman David Rodriguez, a former priest and FMLN member is the one that is spearheading this in the assembly. Jose and the intercommunal board have faith that they will receive legalization and will one day own the land. There will be a few changes that will have to be made -- for example, the houses too close to the train tracks would have to move a little because a wall will be built between the houses and the train tracks. Also, if a family currently sits on 2 lots, they'd have to move onto just one lot. The title would transfer to family members -- it cannot be sold. This is done to protect the rights of women -- where in some areas when title is finally given, the husband took the title, sold the home and walked away -- leaving the woman with nothing.

Some in the community work in agriculture, but thats seasonal. Some collect cans and plastic and bottles, always thinking about ways to earn income to put food on the table for their families. Climate change and weather affect this community negatively. After storm 12E in 2011, the community reported to Cristosal that they were fine because they hadn't lost any lives. But they looked sad. When probed by members of Cristosal it turned out that many lost all their crops (their income), and they couldn't work. The storm lasted 8 days and the people couldn't get out to go to whatever day labor jobs they could find, which when you are living day to day severely harms your family.

Cristosal works with families and the board to problem solve/reflect on what they could do in their situations. They began to work on economic security of each family. Walter of Cristosal is in charge of the project to create a savings and loan for the community within the community. It is the hope and goal to raise enough for the cooperative to offer scholarships to students to go to college.

We took a walk around the community and saw where the houses slid off the hills -- above and below -- two separate slides. We went to Milagro's home for lunch -- delicious! Fried chicken and rice with vegetables and chicken soup. Milagro has beautiful blue eyes, but is having problems seeing due to cataracts. She can't afford the money for the surgery. She has made her living by picking up used clothing from Catholic Charities, fixing them up and then taking them up into different communities to sell. I told her she is a miracle (that's what her name means). I leave you with pictures of our lunch, Milagro, and her family and friends.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Anemona 2 and 6

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