is a partnership between the Washington Ethical Society (WES) and thepeople of El Rodeo, El Salvador using the Community Capacity Building model to empower mutual understanding and support. Through that relationship, Global Connections inspires WES, the people of El Rodeo and the broader community to engage in cross-cultural experiences and social justice and advocacy work with the Salvadoran people. Our goal is personal and societal transformation and a lived experience of Ethical Culture values for youth and adults.
El Rodeo, El Salvador
by Ross Wells & Julie Farrar
Perched on the side of a mountain in the highlands northeast of San Salvador, El Rodeo is a tiny subsistence farming community that is home to approximately 30 families with a total of 125 people in the community including 47 children. They raise primarily corn & beans but also sorghum and some fruits and vegetables. The total land area is approx. 56 ”manzanas” or approx. 90 acres. It is in the “Canton:” of Santa Marta and only a few kilometers from the “center” of town of that name. At one time, Santa Marta was the “Sister City” of Takoma Park, Md.
Global Connection’s decision to work with El Rodeo emerged from a careful process. First our friends in El Salvador who work with many communities recommended three that were thought to be both in need of support and open to working with us. Following a fact finding trip to El Salvador where each of the three communities was visited by WES Global Connections members Ross Wells, John Taylor, and Sean Taft-Morales, the Global Connections committee reviewed the profiles of each community. We unanimously voted for El Rodeo because of the combination of people, history, need, location, and interest.
The setting is beautiful: rugged, incredibly green hills interlaced with foot-trails, winding through the woods and fields, connecting one small house to the other. Residents of this area were forced to leave their homes during the war that raged from 1980 – 1992, fleeing to nearby Honduras. Many of the farmers in the area were members or supporters of the guerilla’s forces who were fighting against the U.S. backed government in San Salvador. As a result they were persecuted relentlessly by the army. The refugee camps were barren and dangerous but provided some protection and support during the war. There were a series of “returns” beginning in 1987. The last one was in 1992, when a truce was signed and the U.N. sponsored peace accords were negotiated.
Despite its tiny size, El Rodeo has a government supported elementary school for grades pre-K-5. After that, the children go to Santa Marta, a 20 minute walk, for school. There are no other public buildings. Most but not all residents have electricity. Water is hauled from a community spring, a shallow hole in the rocks, big enough to dip a bucket into. It is not a protected source and has caused a number of health problems, especially for the children. There is no plumbing and each home has an outhouse or sometimes only “hole in the ground” latrines.
Following the peace accords in 1992, many NGO’s traveled to Santa Marta to work on development and infrastructure projects. The people in El Rodeo have a good relationship with Santa Marta and have benefited from some of these projects, such as the clinic. However, most of the benefits seem to have never reached down the road to El Rodeo. The residents formed their community elected government or “Adesco” in 1996. There are currently 7 members of the Board or ‘Directiva”. Most are in their 20’s and 30’s and are intelligent, hard-working, and articulate, with a deep commitment to improving life in their community.