CISPES Chapter Update: Santa Cruz
by Nidia Bautista, Santa Cruz CISPES & National Office intern
The University of California Santa Cruz is home to the newest CISPES chapter on the West Coast! Santa Cruz CISPES was formed at the start of the academic year by students from a wide range of disciplines and backgrounds, including some who attended the CISPES Radical Roots Delegation and Activist Summer Camp this past summer. Since September, students with different levels of experience with activism have regularly come together to discuss and strategize how to organize at UC Santa Cruz in a way that’s aligned with the struggle for justice in El Salvador.
Ourchapter has grown in numbers and commitment by hosting the ¡Viva La Resistencia! speaking tour featuring Orlando Velasco, a community organizer with the Association of Friends of San Isidro, Cabañas (ASIC) in October. Mr.Velasco has stood with ASIC at the forefront of the struggle against Canadian mining company Pacific Rim’s gold mining projects and represents ASIC in the National Roundtable Against Metallic Mining in El Salvador (La Mesa). Mr.Velasco spoke to us about the anti-mining struggle in El Salvador and the devastating effects of free trade agreements like the Central American FreeTrade Agreement (CAFTA), which allows foreign corporations to sue the government for upholding environmental regulations that “infringe” on their profit. He emphasized the importance of continued international solidarity andsupport for community organizations like ASIC. Many of the students whoattended were impressed by Mr. Velasco’s commitment to justice in Cabañas andhave since increased their commitment to Santa Cruz CISPES!
Wehave been able to connect with other student organizations that feel passionate about social justice and feel connected to the struggle of the people of El Salvador. We have formed strong bonds with La Unión Salvadoreña de Estudiantes Universitarios (USEU) and have shown solidarity by supporting events with organizers from the National People’s Resistance Front (FRNP) of Honduras. As a sign of commitment to a true and participatory democracy and economic justice in Central America, CISPES was there to discuss the golpe de estado that occurred in June 2009 and that the Honduran people are facing today. We have also developed connections with Centro Americanos Unidos (CAU), a student organization that focuses on Central America and its cultures, traditions, and issues. Much in the way CAU welcomes students from all backgrounds, we aim to create a broad network of members and supporters interested in learning more about transnational solidarity.
We have a unique opportunity to educate and mobilize enthusiastic undergraduate students to join the struggle in El Salvador. The majority of undergraduate students are eager to learn and want to get involved, as well as to develop connections between their academic studies and real-world struggles for justice. For example, one of our members focused on the anti-mining struggle for her human rights class and was able to translate the analysis and history from El Salvador into a media project accessible to all students!
Since this is our first year, we feel it is important to educate ourselves about the organization’s history and the successes achieved by activists who came before us in the struggle against US imperialism, as well as to establish a solid understanding of the Salvadoran people’s history of revolutionary struggle. In the upcoming months, we plan to host several Education Nights on the history of the Latin America solidarity movement and an anti-mining workshop to continue educating the broader community about the struggle in El Salvador and the international campaign to stop the mining companies’ lawsuits against the Salvadoran government.
We are also excited to work together with the Salvadoran community and other organizations in the city of Santa Cruz to organize off-campus events with the broader community. We believe this would be a key role for us to play in creating a stronger solidarity movement in the Bay Area. This is an exciting time for Santa Cruz CISPES! ¡Siguendo la lucha ensolidaridad con el pueblo de El Salvador, CISPES presente!