A New Era at Los Angeles CISPES
(from fall El Salvador Watch newsletter)
By Don White, CISPES-LA
The twenty-six year saga of the Los Angeles CISPES chapter has been a rich history encompassing every aspect of international solidarity and domestic struggle. As a founding city of CISPES in 1980, Los Angeles has been the scene of protest marches, civil disobedience actions, trainings, public forums, congressional visits, tours, delegation report-backs and scores of other reflections of our solidarity with the people of El Salvador. In the 1980's, the chapter raised huge amounts of money for material aid, and continued such efforts in later years when disasters like earthquakes struck the region. The peak of our capacity, of course, was during the war years when the chapter offices were usually packed with volunteers and staff. But our viability continued through the Peace Accords and the 1994 elections in El Salvador, and CISPES-L.A. will always have a profound history of struggling side-by-side with the Salvadoran people.
Now, CISPES-L.A is once again on a roll! The chapter has just hired a new chapter coordinator, Salvadoran organizer Frankie Flores, a torture survivor and a veteran activist in Central America and the U.S. Frankie is bringing a new dynamic, energetic and creative spirit to our work, especially focusing on connecting with youth activists and the Latino community. There is renewed momentum and positive vibrations in the CISPES-L.A office.
L.A. was the scene of massive immigrant rights marches this past spring, and Frankie worked closely with the CISPES chapter and many Salvadoran groups in organizing those events. He has a long history of community organizing and commitment to the struggle in El Salvador, and is a key player in the “Stop the Impunity” caravan to the School of the Americas (SOA) protests in Fort Benning, Georgia this November. Frankie also writes about developments in El Salvador to a world-wide audience, helping to prepare updates and emergency alerts for solidarity activists from as far away as Australia.
In early September, CISPES National Executive Director Burke “Miguel” Stansbury visited Los Angeles and our chapter hosted a reception for Burke and Frankie. Over 30 guests arrived, including natives of El Salvador, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Colombia, Venezuela, the Philippines and the U.S.! During Burke's visit to our chapter an ambitious fall plan was also developed, focusing on continued chapter development and solidarity at this critical moment in the history of Latin America. Rebuilding CISPES—and our capacity to provide solidarity to El Salvador—was at the heart of our chapter strategy.
A few of our planning goals are building an Emergency Response Network, visiting college and high school campuses, a caravan to the School of the Americas, hosting the fall tour from El Salvador, moving forward the campaign to shut down the ILEA, media and congressional work, and a focus on building chapter membership. We will also continue to play an important role in coalitions like the Emergency Coalition on Human Rights in El Salvador and various alliances in the fight for immigrant rights.
A twenty-six-year-old is still young! At 26 CISPES-L.A. is feeling younger and more vibrant every day. With the energy of a new coordinator and new chapter members, CISPES-L.A. is looking forward to a revitalized period of solidarity struggle. And everyone here agrees that it is the inspiring resistance and alternative in El Salvador that keeps us going.