Leading and Learning in El Salvador

Things went well during my six days in El Salvador. On Saturday morning, Lorena1 and I had a Co-Counseling session and talked about my plan for the RC introduction that afternoon. She stressed the importance of U.S. leaders speaking respectfully as peers and encouraged me to talk about my previous visit to the country and connections with Salvadoran people in my life.

The introduction was held in San Salvador. Lorena had drawn on longtime friendships to get people there, and she created safety with her caring and powerful leadership. Sixteen of us attended, including five experienced Co-Counselors and eleven new people. The participants were mostly poor, working-class, and campesino/a2 folks. A majority were women, but there was a good group of men, too. There were also a few middle-class people, two university students, a few ex-guerillas, and several people from Mejicanos, a poor and working-class part of San Salvador with tough conditions, gang activity, and a high level of violence. My Salvadoran friend attended and also came to the event for experienced Co-Counselors the following day.

I shared basic RC theory in Spanish. Lorena did the demonstrations, as we thought they would flow more easily with her native Spanish. We introduced mini-sessions to the new people and did several of them. After four hours together, there was a positive, enthusiastic tone in the room, and most of the new people registered for Lorena’s next RC fundamentals series. Lorena seemed pleased afterward—that was one of my highlights.

The next morning we had a second four-hour gathering of seven experienced RCers—three women and four men, which people said was a rarity (usually there are mostly women). The topic was Community building and working-class leadership, including work on the working-class commitment.3

This time I did both the theory and the demonstrations, in Spanish, and it was fine. (I am grateful for the support and appreciation I received.) I shared my perspective from the work I had done in Los Angeles (California, USA). Because I didn’t want to duplicate Lorena’s work, I focused on a few areas that the local Community had not yet done much discharging on. One of these was the genocide of Indigenous people in El Salvador. I remembered enough from the last issue of Heritage4 to offer perspectives and directions, and there was some deep discharge.

After the weekend, Lorena went back to work and I stayed in a hotel for a few days and did sessions and informal Co-Counseling classes. In the afternoons we visited the nearby University of Central America, where in 1989 six Jesuit priests, an employee, and the employee’s daughter were brutally killed. There is a Monseñor Romero Center5 with photographs and history of that period. A quote on the wall of the center was useful to me in a session: “With Monseñor Romero, God passed through El Salvador,” or, in my words, “A glimpse of the benign reality passed through El Salvador” at a time when the people really needed it.

The RC gatherings were the first events of their kind I had led outside of southern California. They were good for my re-emergence. I would like to go back and see if I can continue to be a useful ally. Doing working-class work in a Latin American context is also helpful to me in my Community building in Los Angeles.

Victor Nicassio
Los Angeles, California, USA

1 María Lorena Cuéllar Barandiarán, an RC leader in San Salvador, El Salvador
2 Campesino/a means peasant or farmer.
3 The RC working-class commitment: I solemnly promise that, from this moment on, I will take pride in the intelligence, strength, endurance, and goodness of working-class people everywhere.
I will remember to be proud that we do the world’s work, that we produce the world’s wealth, that we belong to the only class with a future, that our class will end all oppression.
I will unite with all my fellow workers everywhere around the world to lead all people to a rational, peaceful society.
I am a worker, proud to be a worker, and the future is in my hands.
 Heritage is the RC journal about Native liberation.
5 Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez was a bishop of the Catholic Church in El Salvador. He became the fourth Archbishop of San Salvador and spoke out against poverty, social injustice, assassinations, and torture. He was assassinated while offering Mass in 1980.

Last modified: 2017-04-06 23:03:12+00