Meet Our New Program Director, Elizabeth Velasquez!


My name is Elizabeth Velasquez and I am excited to assumethe position of CISPES program director. I am Salvadoran but have been living in the U.S. for over five years, workingwith Olympia CISPES for much of that time. Both growing up during theSalvadoran civil war in the 1980s and being involved with the solidaritymovement in the United States more recently has given me both a first handexperience of the peoples struggles for social justice and change in ElSalvador, as well as the opportunity to get to know incredible [email protected] to that struggle in the U.S. CISPES has introduced me to an amazing,solid, and radical solidarity movement I had not imagined finding. 

As a child growing up in time of war, I witnessed first-handrepression and injustice. I still remember the numerous times I worried that myparents would not make it home from the National University,a checkpoint, or because they had been targeted as Nicaraguans. Even though Iwas just a child, it was obvious that the levels of repression and injustice welived in could not continue; ElSalvador needed a change.

With the signing of the Peace Agreements in 1992, the armedconflict came to an end. This gave birth to a new Salvadoran social andpolitical context, opening up new spaces to continue the effort to build thejust and democratic alternative society Salvadorans struggled for during thewar.  Out of a guerrilla movement theFMLN transitioned to become a political party, and other new institutions werecreated to facilitate the construction of the society we dreamt about.

As ElSalvador was reshaped, I had the urge tolook deeper into the Salvadoran history of                                  struggle. Myown years of inquiry about Salvadoran history taught me about the recent yearsof  repression and injustice faced bypeasants, workers, students, and teachers from the 1930s through the1980s,events that led the social movement to rise up in arms.  This learning led to several discussions withmy classmates at the NationalUniversity and othersabout the role of the social movement and the FMLN in building this alternativesociety. These conversations gave me the opportunity to learn more about theSalvadoran history of struggle and gave me a post-war understanding of thesocial context. This period consolidated my belief that we needed to support asocial movement that strives for the construction of an alternative, socialist,anti-neoliberal society.

In the late 1990s, I met people from the internationalcommunity for the first time. People from different countries had come to El Salvador asinternational observers. They expressed how they converged their beliefs andpractice of social change through solidarity work with El Salvador. For the first time, Iwas introduced to a hopeful, energetic, international community who not onlyunderstand the concept of international solidarity they actually practicedit! Yet I still was not warmhearted about [email protected] The whole idea of separatingpeople from the US fromtheir governments policies still didnt totally make sense in my head since Ihad grown up under repression and had learned about how U.S. militaryaid helped to nearly destroy my country. But destiny played its cards and Iended up living in the U.S.,putting to test these challenging beliefs. Of course my mind did change and Ibegan to get more involved with CISPES.

Now, as I write  I cannot stop smiling, thinking about how exited, overwhelmed, and surprised Icontinue to be about CISPES and community members who are deeply engrained inactivism, organizing work, and who have a commitment to social change, as wellas solidarity work with the people of El Salvador. I am glad to be part of thisvibrant and solid Left community in the U.S., and there is no other placethat I would rather organize with than CISPES. 

In the next coming two years, CISPES has a great roleto play in the history of ElSalvador. The 2009 Salvadoran municipal,legislative, and presidential electoral processes are giving the internationalsolidarity movement the opportunity to organize people in the United Stateto support and contribute to the shift to the left in LatinAmerica. As the social and economic crisis continues to deepen in El Salvador, and as the social movement growsstronger and pressures the ARENA government to stop the implementation ofCAFTA, the FMLN has a great opportunity to win power in El Salvador.  Now, as CISPES we are presented with thebeautiful challenge to defend the democratic electoral process as well as toprotect the victories and the upcoming struggles of the people of El Salvador.

 ¡En solidaridad, venceremos!


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