A Week in El Salvador

I got back to Los Angeles (California, USA) last night after a week of RC in El Salvador. Things went even better than they did last year.

Rolando picked me up from the airport, as he has for my last two visits. He is a part-time mechanic, driver, and event organizer (weddings, parties, and so on) who has provided transportation to Co-Counselors for years.

Last year as we were driving, I gave him a short introduction to RC and we had a mini-session. He laughed about my timer but seemed not to mind, and I was encouraged by the interest he showed in Co-Counseling. Later I wondered if he had tried RC out of courtesy to me and if I had pushed him to do something he hadn’t really wanted to do.

This year, after leaving the airport, he and I did another mini-session in the car and talked more about RC ideas. I gave him a copy of Cómo Dar a Los Niños Una Ventaja Emocional (How to Give Children an Emotional Head Start). Rolando is the father of a four-year-old. He seemed pleased about our RC mini-class and mini-session, and we confirmed plans to do some sightseeing during the coming week.

Later I met with a second friend, C—, and did a mini-session—the first of seven we did during the week. (It was challenging to find time in people’s lives for long sessions, so we did the best we could with minis.)

On Saturday afternoon, I went to the hostel where Lorena (María Lorena Cuéllar Barandiarán) teaches her classes. There I led a half-day men’s workshop with a group of guys Lorena has brought together. They seemed committed to learning RC and did a good job of keeping each other laughing. We spent the first hour on introductions and discharging on our family and personal histories, which the men appreciated. The second part was on the good human nature of men and on our relationships, followed by turns discharging on positive early memories of men in our lives. Next we talked about men’s oppression and liberation, the ways we’re conditioned as boys in an oppressive society, and the institutions of men’s oppression. Then we did another round of discharge turns. The last part was on building an alliance between women and men to end sexism, male domination, and all oppression, again with discharge time. I was impressed by how brave these men are. They stand up against sexism and male domination despite the reactions they get from other men.

On Sunday, Lorena led an all-day workshop for her whole class, with me as an assistant. At one point I mentioned closeness as a key contradiction to distress and talked about a direction I’d been using in sessions: ”It’s possible that you love me (as much as I love you).” Lorena then suggested that she and I use my direction in a demonstration on closeness in our long-term relationship. It was very alive, with lots of discharge for everyone. After that she organized people into two discharge groups and encouraged everyone to try the direction. At least one of the women and two of the men were able to discharge tears—for the first time in six months of classes.

After lunch Lorena suggested that I lead the afternoon class, so people could have access to another leadership style. The workshop was the last meeting of six months of classes, and she wanted people to think of RC as a long-term process. So I focused on RC’s long-range vision of human liberation, including both personal re-emergence and the need for social activism outside of RC.

I did a demonstration with one of the women on the idea of having a committed Co-Counseling relationship with someone for the rest of her life. Both she and others discharged when they heard this idea. I explained that a commitment was not an obligation—that it meant not letting restimulations interfere with the relationship, and that it needed to be intelligent and flexible. We also worked on each person being in charge of her or his universe and on the necessity of long-range goals.

We ended by reading the 2013 environment goal* in Spanish and having a mini-session. I distributed ten Spanish versions of the Sustaining All Life pamphlet plus five copies of El Varón (The Human Male).

People were pleased with the work we did, and most seemed ready to sign up for an ongoing class.

On Monday morning, Rolando and I drove up into the hills above San Salvador to see the view from Los Planes de Renderos and La Puerta del Diablo, two beautiful natural areas surrounded by coffee fields and orange groves. The view of the city was stunning. Rolando answered my questions about the poor and working-class neighborhoods and the maquiladoras (assembly plants), the labor unions, an Indigenous town where people still speak their language (Pipil), the economic oppression, and the environmental issues. I learned that the minimum wage is $4.00 to $6.00 (U.S.) per day for most working-class jobs, while prices in the stores are almost comparable to those in the United States. The water system is largely contaminated, and many people can’t afford bottled water.

Later I taught more RC to Rolando at a pupusería (restaurant with traditional Salvadoran food). It was a pleasant setting—good for keeping attention off distress. Rolando grasped the significance of the theory, related it to his own experiences, and talked about its implications. On the way back to the city, I learned that he’d already started teaching a friend the basic ideas. There is something especially inspiring to me about connecting with people from groups underrepresented in RC who are far from organized Communities and seeing their minds light up about our theory and practice. By the end of the morning, it was clear that Rolando and I had become friends and Co-Counselors.

On Tuesday, my friend C— and I went to a rural area outside the capital to spend time with his family. I had met them last year, and once again we had long conversations. This year they shared more openly, including about their experiences during the civil war of the 1980s and early 1990s. They also described how climate change is disrupting the seasonal cycles that farmers count on and creating even more hardship in terms of food dependability.

The next day, C—, Rolando, and I drove through beautiful green coffee fields and milpas (corn fields) to Lake Coatepeque, considered by some to be the eighth wonder of the world. It is an enormous lake, formed when a volcano collapsed. I had thought that we might have a three-way session. Although it didn’t work out this time, C— and Rolando talked a lot on the trip and seemed to feel more and more comfortable with each other.

After we got back, C— and I went to the movies in an affluent mall in San Salvador. The impoverished parts of the country and the relatively wealthy areas often seem like two different universes.

I spent my last day and a half doing mini-sessions and preparing to return home. On the way to the airport, Rolando told me how happy he was to have found RC and how it had the potential to transform his country. We will be staying in touch by e-mail. He said I could mention him by name and gave permission to use any of the photos he took during the week.

Victor Nicassio

Los Angeles, California, USA

(Present Time 185, October 2016)

* A goal adopted at the 2013 World Conference of the Re-evaluation Counseling Communities:That members of the RC Community work to become fully aware of the rapid and unceasing destruction of the living environment of the Earth. That we discharge on any distress that inhibits our becoming fully aware of this situation and taking all necessary actions to restore and preserve our environment.Distresses have driven people to use oppression against each other and carry out destructive policies against all of the world. A full solution will require the ending of divisions between people and therefore the ending of all oppressions.The restoration and preservation of the environment must take precedence over any group of humans having material advantage over others. We can and must recover from any distress that drives us to destroy the environment in our attempts to escape from never-ending feelings of needing more resource.

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00