The Presbytery of Long Island Delegation

We had another wonderful delegation last week. They came to spend a few days in their partner community of Santa Cruz. Muchas gracias por su visita, and many thanks to the Pastoral Team, Kristi of RUMES, and the community for all their hard work to make this delegation happen!


The delegation is welcomed by beautiful decorations and a talented band!


The children of Santa Cruz participate in an interactive project/reading of the book “The Rainbow Fish.”


The mothers of this community love craft projects as much as their kids do!


The view from Santa Cruz. Please pray that it keeps raining and stays this green!


No delegation is complete without a soccer game. 

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The Art For El Salvador Delegation

Next up in my mad attempt to update you on all our recent delegation activity, we wanted to give a huge thank-you to the people from Art For El Salvador for visiting us last week. We had a wonderful time visiting the communities of Loma Alta and Virginia, as well as spending lots of time in the community of Mediagua. We also visited a school in Perquín, Morazán called Amún Shéa, which has become an expert in experimental, problem-posing educational methods!

Many thanks to the communities of Berlín and the Pastoral Team for their hospitality, as well as Art For El Salvador for their continuing commitment to use art in all of its forms to increase educational access in impoverished Salvadoran communities. Also thanks to the Amún Shéa school for letting us visit!

Be sure to check out Art For El Salvador’s Facebook page, too!


A mural in the Salvadoran Anthropology Museum that depicts the history of the country.


Blanca admires a small wooden car made by hand by Jonathan, the young man to the left. He’s been making things like this by hand since he was a toddler, his mother tells us! The kid has some serious talent!


The delegation accompanies the middle schoolers on a field trip to the ice cream store in Berlin. They all loved it!


One of the delegates teaches the students a sacred dance/sign language performance in Mediagua.


At the Amún Shéa school, the students grow their own food using hydroponic systems. 


Murals at the Amún Shéa school, designed and painted by the students themselves. From left to right, they depict issues of immigration, preserving Salvadoran culture, gender equality, and the dangers of global climate change. These kids are very smart and world-aware.


A bulletin board at the Amún Shéa school. The Dostoyevsky quote reads, “True security is better found in solidarity than in isolated individual effort.” Too true.

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The Rooted In Hope Delegation


Katie, one of the co-founders of Rooted In Hope, draws water from the small, hard-to-access spring in the community of Los Yánez.

I just wanted to take some time to update you on the awesome delegation that visited us earlier this month. We were so delighted to have some folks with Rooted In Hope, a USA-based NGO dedicated to helping rural communities find their own local solutions to global problems. They were here to help install low-cost, easily-installed drip-irrigation systems in several different Berlín-area communities, and to hold a workshop about these systems at the Pastoral House. Please do take some time to read about their work all over the world, and enjoy the pictures! Thanks for the visit, Rooted In Hope!


We visited Los Muñoces, as well. People are really excited to try out these drip-irrigation kits.


The folks in Tablón Centro were also eager to try planting some vegetables with these systems!


A follow-up with Los Yánez, who received a drip-irrigation system last year.


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The Brown Memorial & Friends Delegation

I am incredibly behind on posting delegation pictures, but I wanted to make sure I have a proper THANK YOU to the awesome folks from Baltimore, MD who joined us two weeks ago. This delegation of mostly Presbyterian and Muslim youth from Baltimore, MD was diverse in almost every way possible–race, class, sexual orientation, culture, gender–you name it, we embodied it. But we managed to hold all those things in love as we explored the struggles of Salvadoran youth and their families from the oft-violent streets of the La Chacra neighborhood to the sunny and hot corn fields of Berlín, El Salvador. This delegation was a long-form experiment in intersectionality. And it worked. It worked.

Thanks for being such an awesome group, thanks to the communities of San Isidro (for letting us spend the night in their homes!), El Corozal, and La Chacra who took us in, thanks to the Pastoral Team for coordinating everything in Berlín, and a very special thanks to the Pastoral Juvenil and everyone else at María Madre de Los Pobres in San Salvador.

(And I’ll try to catch you all up on the other two delegations that have visited us recently soon!)


The delegates visit San Isidro and help the youth there assemble a drip-irrigation kit for their community.


The delegates have a good time playing icebreaker games with the awesome youth group leaders at the Mary, Mother of the Poor Parish in San Salvador.


The delegation visited El Paisnal, where Fr. Rutilio Grande, SJ (along with an older man and young boy who accompanied him) was buried. Fr. Grande was a great friend and inspiration to Monseñor Romero.


The youth group of María Madre de Los Pobres and the youth delegation from Baltimore, MD.


The delegates visit the school that operates within the Mary, Mother of the Poor Parish. 


The delegates take in the vista at the new monument at El Mozote, the site of the worst (known) massacre in modern Latin American history.


The Baltimore youth and their brave leaders play soccer with the community of San Isidro.


The Baltimore youth spend some time talking about daily struggles for rural youth in Corozal–and try to teach one another some English/Spanish!


The Madre kids/youth teach the delegates how to drum. Video to follow, if YouTube cooperates!


The delegates ALSO played a lot of basketball at Madre. I swear, they didn’t stop moving the whole time that they were here!


The delegates visit the Iglesia El Rosario, the site of a massacre during Romero’s time as archbishop. It is known for its modern architecture and beautiful windows.

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Community Updates, June 2016


Look at how green everything is! This is what it looks like in Berlín when it’s raining! Thanks to Cecilia for the picture.

Once again, we have some updates for you from the communities of Berlín! These updates were taken via survey at the last General Community Meeting on June 16th. We asked all the community representatives the following questions:

  1. How is the food security situation in your community? Do your families have enough beans? Corn? For how many months?
  2. How is the water situation in the community?
  3. Have there been any deaths in the past few months? Has anyone had a baby?
  4. Has anyone left the community to seek work? In another city? In another country?
  5. Have you had help from any NGOs/other institutions recently?
  6. Are there institutions helping with food security or the drought?
  7. Has there been any celebration, wedding, party or other happy occasion in your community in the past few months?
  8. For what problems or worries should the Iowa churches and/or your partner church be praying for?

It has been raining more in Berlín this year than it did last year, which is an enormous blessing! However, many corn crops are being affected by a worm infestation, which means reduced yields for already-desperate farmers. Please pray that it keeps raining and that the crops do well this year!

Caserío Casa de Zinc

  1. Well right now the majority of families do not have beans and corn we do not have [any] because the the harvests did not give us product. Many are purchasing by pounds.
  2. There have been no births or deaths.
  3. No.
  4. We do not have aid.
  5. We do not have aid.
  6. Yes, just the Masses and Rosaries of the month of May.
  7. For food and that the corn fields give us a harvest and for the security of our country. For our families that they may give us much blessing.

Caserío Casa de Zacate

  1. Bad for the whole year.
  2. A baby has been born, no one has died.
  3. Five people have left to work outside the community.
  4. No, none.
  5. No, there is none either.
  6. Yes, religious holidays.
  7. For all the problems that affect us.

Colonia El Cedro

  1. No.
  2. Yes, an old woman [died].
  3. No.
  4. Yes.
  5. Yes, the FAO with home gardens.
  6. No.
  7. For the poverty in our country.

Tablón Centro

  1. The food situation in El Tablón is critical. The families finished their corn and beans. They no longer have anything owning to the fact that last year the harvests were bad.
  2. We have one person who died in the month of May.
  3. We have 2 young people that have left for San Miguel in search of work.
  4. No, not a one.
  5. No, not a one.
  6. None.
  7. #1 so that this uear may be good and we may have a good harvest. #2 so that security is maintained in our community and for health.

Tablón Cerna

  1. There is no longer any food in the community.
  2. Yes, one was born.
  3. Yes, one.
  4. Yes, 15 irrigation systems with the FAO and mayor’s office.
  5. No.
  6. No.
  7. So that the families may ave food and health and so that the community may have security.

Cantón El Colón

  1. The food security is low because there is only corn and beans for a month while the harvest is coming up.
  2. Yes, two people died and no babies.
  3. Yes, in other countries.
  4. Agricultural packet from the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock.
  5. Up until now, none.
  6. None.
  7. For the security of the town and the community and food and health.

Cantón El Corozal

  1. No, no one has corn and beans.
  2. No, thank God.
  3. A few people.
  4. From the mayor’s office we received some sheet metal to build the community house of the Cantón.
  5. Just basic grains that the Pastoral House donated.
  6. Yes, the celebration of Saint Anthony.
  7. For us to remain healthy and to be able to get food for our families.

Higuerral, Women’s Group

  1. No beans. Corn until about September.
  2. 1 baby in May, 1 baby in April.
  3. Yes, two members.
  4. No.
  5. No.
  6. May prayers in the Catholic Church.
  7. For health and peace in our country. And so that our children may have good thinking pray for them.

Cantón Las Delicias

  1. In my community those that have beans and corn are very few the majority are buying them.
  2. That someone has died, no. 2 children recently born.
  3. Yes there are three on their way to the United States.
  4. Yes, the FAO coordinating with the municipal government have installed 14 irrigation systems and Procomes has given loroco and maracuya plants.
  5. No.
  6. No.
  7. For peace and solidarity and for the canonization of Monseñor Romero.

Caserío Mediagua, Cantón San Lorenzo

  1. [Community leaders misunderstood this question to be about security in general, not food security.] The men always take care of the community at all hours of the day.
  2. Deaths no, a girl was born.
  3. Yes, to San Salvador
  4. No.
  5. No.
  6. Yes, Mother’s Day.
  7. For the drought and that we may harvest from the corn fields and bean fields this year and for food.

Caserío Muñoces

  1. The food situation is bad at the moment because the majority of the people are buying beans and corn.
  2. Just one person has died. Three children have been born.
  3. Just in this country at the moment.
  4. Just a little project of vegetables from the mayor’s office.
  5. None.
  6. Patron Saint Festival in our community.
  7. Principally for the sick, and for the needy.

Caserío El Rescate, Cantón San Lorenzo

  1. There is no [food security]. There are not enough corn and beans.
  2. There are no deaths, there are no babies.
  3. No.
  4. Yes a water tank project.
  5. Yes.
  6. No.
  7. For health, for food, and so that we might harvest corn and beans this year.

Cantón San Felipe Pajuilar

  1. We have been buying [food] since January.
  2. Up until this date there are no deaths. Births: 3.
  3. Several working in other cities.
  4. Up until this date there is none.
  5. No.
  6. No.
  7. So that there may be a good rainy season, good harvests, and good health.

Cantón San Francisco

  1. It is very bad.
  2. No.
  3. Yes.
  4. Yes the installation of a few tanks to collect water.
  5. No.
  6. No.
  7. For hunger and poverty and the delinquency in our country.

Cantón San Isidro

  1. Very bad. At least 40 families are already buying corn and beans and those who have [any] it is very little now.
  2. No deaths. A boy was born in May.
  3. Yes there are 3 outside the community and the city of Berlín. And one outside the country in search of a better life in the USA.
  4. Yes working with Caritas, in the planting of 3000 cacao trees. 4 families involved. Support from the municipal government of 50 dollars to 2 young people that are studying for their high school degree in the the Institute of Berlín.
  5. Just Caritas with an educational (theoretical) project.
  6. The Patron Saint Festival of Saint Isidore from the 14th-16th of May.
  7. For family unity, so that there may be sufficient rain for the crops.

Colonia Villa Rosa, Cantón Concepción

  1. It isn’t very good because the majority of families are workers in the coffee plantation for periods for this reason there are not enough resources for sufficient food.
  2. There were no deaths. Yes, there is a one-month-old baby.
  3. Yes there are people that have had the necessity and the obligation to leave to look for work in other cities.
  4. It has not been possible.
  5. There are no institutions that support our efforts.
  6. There have been no celebrations or parties. But we did have the celebration of the blessing of the community church in Cantón Centro Los Cañales on 5/28/16.

Cantón Virginia

  1. Right now we have nothing we are just waiting for what we have planted.
  2. Two children recently born.
  3. No.
  4. ISTA is with a few members of the community with a tilapia project.
  5. None.
  6. 24th of May the Patron Saint Festival was celebrated in the community.
  7. So that we may be blessed with the harvests and we may have good production and for the health of the families.

Caserío Los Yánez

  1. In our community we no longer have basic grains we are buying them.
  2. No.
  3. Yes we have lots of young people who have had to leave our community to look for work to be able to buy beans and corn for their families.
  4. Yes, we have the electricity project.
  5. We do not have anyone to help is in this problem it is a very critical situation.
  6. We have the Mass that we celebrate monthly and other religious activities.
  7. Well, as churches that are working for the good of our community we want them to pray so that at this time of harvests and that we plant Mother Earth we wish that we may have the food that we need for our families and also we ask God that he may bless our godmother churches.

Cantón El Zapote

  1. In truth we are going through a lot of needs we do not have either corn or beans.
  2. There are three babies that were born, there are none who passed away.
  3. Yes there are several who leave in search of better opportunities within this same country.
  4. No.
  5. No.
  6. No.
  7. So that this year may be good for the harvests and for our well-being and to pray for our community churches.




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Letters to the World: Mediagua


The community of Mediagua gathers to receive fertilizer from the Pastoral House of Berlín.

In this new blog series, “Letters to the World,” I am giving this space over to the communities we serve with. Since this mission always strives to lift up marginalized voices, I thought that this would be a beautiful way to let oppressed people tell their own stories using their own words. So I posed this question to the people we serve with, “If you could tell the whole world anything about your community, what would you say?” Read. Listen. Open you hearts to people who live the struggle–and pray that they triumph in that struggle. 


My name is Brenda del Carmen Ayala. I live with my spouse and daughter. My spouse’s name is José Heriberto Campos and my daughter Aslay Sarahi Campos.

We live in Cantón San Lorenzo, Caserío La Mediagua, in the city of Berlín, Usulután department of El Salvador. This village depended for a long time on the cultivation of coffee, corn, and beans the land is lent for these crops in these rural areas.

A lot of time is given to agricultural production, minimal only to cover the needs of one’s family. [Because of] the lack of work and for this reason of income in the municipality women as much as men leave their homes having to look for work in the capital and return once a month [or] every fifteen days because in the municipality there are no jobs. The economy based on coffee and agriculture had consequences, of an economic, social, and environmental character, because of the overall losses of the grains [in 2015] that the organizations of coffee and agriculture are pointing out.

With regards to the energy industry, the city is 3 kilometers from the energy generation plants from the geothermal vapor that is currently co-administered by the Geo corporation.


In vegetation the flora is the typical flora of a subtropical rainforest. The most notable tree species are the pepeto tree, often used for the creation of shade in the cultivation of coffee, madre cacao, pino de ocote, chaparro. The most notable orographical features in the Municipality of Berlín are the hills.

The best way to arrive in the town from our community Cantón San Lorenzo Caserío La Mediagua is in the cars that transport us twice a week to the town to supply our homes and if we cannot go in car, we walk some thirty minutes to the town. By car it is 15 to 20 minutes.

In agriculture in the cases when there are surpluses of production in basic grains, corn and beans, they are sold principally in the urban area of the municipality. The production of small species like poultry yard birds is also oriented for consumption and on a small scale for sale.

In health in truth we are in bad shape because each year they change doctors and it takes a long time for the replacement to arrive. For example this year we went through January, February, and March and part of April without a doctor and if we go to the main health clinic they do not attend to us because we have a health clinic apart from that one. If a pregnant woman goes urgently to the hospital she has the baby on the way because we are very far away from the hospital of Santiago de María and there are times that we do not have transportation. And when we call the police so that they do us the favor of taking us urgently they never have gas, or they do not feel like helping, or they are afraid of going at night or in the early morning.

In security we are good we all contribute to take are of the community we take turns to watch the road twice a day.

In the environment some take care of the trees, some of us cut them down, some of us burn them. Same for the garbage, it is burned because there is no garbage truck here. The majority do not find something to do with the garbage the only option is to burn it.


The new middle school building in Mediagua, built with the help of our partners from Art for El Salvador!

In education in past years adults here did not finish their educational studies because there were no possibilities and these days thanks to the Pastoral House group and to the churches that helped us we have middle school. And the other difficulty that we have is that there are just three teachers and every teacher has two grades together. Some first and second and the other third and fourth and for middle school another teacher is needed and they do not have one.

Well, this is what I wanted to say to the world. Thanks to the Pastoral House and the churches.




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Your Weekend Reading #7


First and foremost, “Time for a US Apology to El Salvador is a short but important read. If the US is going to apologize for its role in Argentina’s “Dirty War,” it must logically also apologize for its role in El Salvador’s civil war:

In Argentina, the security forces killed some 30,000 civilians. In El Salvador, more than 75,000 lost their lives during the civil war, which lasted from 1980 until the 1992 peace agreement. The guerrillas committed atrocities, but the United Nations Truth Commission, established as part of the accord, found that more than 85 percent of the killings, kidnappings, and torture had been the work of government forces, which included paramilitaries, death squads, and army units trained by the United States.

The United States went well beyond remaining largely silent in the face of human-rights abuses in El Salvador. The State Department and White House often sought to cover up the brutality, to protect the perpetrators of even the most heinous crimes.

Second, “Gates Foundation : Spearheading the neoliberal plunder of African agriculture” details how NGOs like the Gates Foundation are imposing more industrial methods of farming on impoverished small-scale farmers in the developing world. Sadly, these practices are intrenching more inequality, injustice, and environmental degradation in areas that are already struggling.

Gated Development – Is the Gates Foundation always a force for good?’ argues that what BMGF is doing could end up exacerbating global inequality and entrenching corporate power globally. Global Justice Now’s analysis of the BMGF’s programmes shows that the foundation’s senior staff are overwhelmingly drawn from corporate America. As a result, the question is: whose interests are being promoted – those of corporate America or those of ordinary people who seek social and economic justice rather than charity?

According to the report, the foundation’s strategy is intended to deepen the role of multinational companies in global health and agriculture especially, even though these corporations are responsible for much of the poverty and injustice that already plagues the global south. The report concludes that the foundation’s programmes have a specific ideological strategy that promotes neo-liberal economic policies, corporate globalisation, the technology this brings (such as GMOs) and an outdated view of the centrality of aid in ‘helping’ the poor.

Third, if you’ve wondered how the so-called “Panama Papers” play into Salvadoran public and political life, and whether or not there are any corrupt Salvadoran officials or elites implicated in this scandal, be sure to read Tim’s El Salvador Blog on the topic. It offers both a gentle dose of perspective about the matter and some important straight-up facts:

It may be getting tougher to get away with corruption in El Salvador.    Investigative journalism by online journalists like those at El Faro and RevistaFactum are regularly describing corruption.    The Probidad division of El Salvador’s Supreme Court has open investigations against at least 9 high public officials including two former presidents.   El Salvador’s new attorney general Douglas Meléndez has shown a willingness to pursue cases of corruption involving figures on both sides of the political spectrum.
In twelve years of writing this blog, I don’t think the amount of corruption has changed over that time.   But the amount of news coverage and the number of possible prosecutions certainly has increased in the past few years.   That’s a good thing.
As the most recent example, the online periodical El Faro is one of the periodicals world wide participating in the disclosure of the so-called “Panama Papers.”   The Panama Papers are a leaked set of 11 million documents from a Panamanian law firm which set up offshore corporations used to evade taxes and hide wealth of elites around the world.   According to El Faro, the Panamanian law firm helped the rich and powerful in El Salvador set up at least 200 secretive offshore corporations.

Last but not least, this might be the most important graph you will ever look at. It shows global temperature increases since 1850 in a visually striking way. Climate change is real, it is dangerous, and it is only getting worse. Show this graph to the global warming doubters in your life! IT’S SCIENCE, PEOPLE.


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