A Moment for Darfur

I want to take a moment and talk about the situation in Darfur. I know it might seam a little off topic for this blog but I think there are some connections and it is something that I feel needs some attention.

If you are not familiar with the situation in Darfur, the government of Sudan is committing genocide against the African people who live there. There are reports of government backed militia wiping out entire villages, mass killings, and a policy of rape. The is more detail on the Darfur conflict on Wikipedia.

The Holocaust Museum in Washington DC had a special section on Darfur when I was there last month. However I was not able to spend much time looking at it. I really didn’t know anything about the conflict until I downloaded this free NBC News Special from iTunes last night. Its about 30min long and provides a good overview of the situation. There are also some videos on YouTube.

I think its important to talk about whats going on because of the Human rights violations that are taking place. In El Salvador there were similar human rights violations such as the El Mozote massacre were 900 civilians were kill in an anti-guerrilla campaign. The scale in Darfur is much larger which makes it all the more important to bring attention to the situation. Its hard to believe that even after the Holocaust events like this still take place all over the world in places such as El Salvador, Kosovo and Rwanda.

I wonder in this day and age of technology, what if the people in Darfur were able to blog and tell the world about their experiences? I Think there might be a much bigger outcry by the international community. The real power of blogs and new media is that it gives everyone a voice and a chance to be herd. Since the people in Darfur do not have a voice I feel it is up to us to speak for them.

I’m not here to preach or tell what you should do. I know people are busy and don’t take the time to look into these things. I know I didn’t. I also know these situations are difficult to hear about. But now that I do know I’m going to find out what I can do to help.

Its worth looking into and I’ll leave the rest up to you…

If you would like more information about the situation in Darfur please look at the Wikiepdia entry and www.savedarfur.org

Iraq is the new El Salvador? – by Nelson/Roberto

This weekend I watched Salvador which is a movie about photo journalist Richard Boyle who travels to El Salvador during the begging of its Civil War. The movie depicted the violence surrounding the country at the time. It stars James Woods and was directed by Oliver Stone.

The movie takes place during the early 80’s. This was also around the same time that I was born and separated from my family.

On one side you have the right government forces who control most of the couturiers wealth. On the other you have the peasants and farmers of El Salvador who are supposedly getting help from communist countries.

I found my self drawing many parallels with the current war in Iraq. There is a very sobering scene about half way through the movie where Richard Boyle is arguing with the US military general. Boyle has just returned from the mountains of El Salvador where he has taken pictures of the guerrilla fighters. The general is drilling him for about the types of weapons that the guerrillas have. When he explains that they have simple rifles the general refuses to believe him claiming that “military intelligence” says that they have RPGs and other weapons supplied by communists.

This sounds all to familiar to me. I remember very clear George Bush making claims that Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction” and was being backed by terrorists nations. I think its sad really. Are we doomed to repeat our mistakes?

There is also a clip of Ronald Reagan talking about the communist terrorists and how they could take over Central America and then even north America. Once again this sounds all to familiar.

In El Salvador we funded the war because we were afraid of communists. We invaded Iraq because we were afraid of Terrorists. Honestly I think the only different between then and now is September 11th. Because of 9/11 congress allowed President Bush to lead us into a war we had no business starting. Thankfully congress did not let Regan invade El Salvador because it might be like Iraq is today. Even so it is still a very violent place to be and it might be getting worse.

Another interesting scene in the movie was when Boyle interviews the guerrillas. There was footage of them training. I can only wonder if this is what my father went through. They also mention and act out what was known as “the final offensive.” This was supposed to be the last big push by the rebels to take over the country. However it turned out to be just the beginning of a bloody 13 year war. My mother mentioned this in her last letter.

Overall it was a really good movie and I recommend if you are interested in El Salvador’s Civil War or want to see the parallels to Iraq that I mentioned.

Was it all in vain? – by Nelson/Roberto

While surfing the web this week, looking for other blogs about El Salvador I came a across the A Different View of a Good Life blog. The author meg has spent some time living in El Salvador and she writes about her accounts there. In this post she talk about the violence in El Salvador.

El Salvador has a culture of violence and trauma reinforced by a history of a brutal civil war; a war that ended with some peace accords that basically lied to the people by saying things were going to change. It is true, things did change. Many say that the poverty rate is worse now than when it was in the war. Imagine that, the people have gotten poorer? The rich politicians have brought in their neoliberal politics and trade agreements (CAFTA) to benefit their friends in corporations. And the people are slowly losing their right to march and protest the injustice going on in their country because as the government likes to say, the protests of the left are terrorist acts, so now there is new terrorist legislation.

Then there are the gangs. The gangs of El Salvador originated in the US, but with the slick deportation process of the US government, El Salvador found a new problem to deal with. The gangs are neither leftist or rightist, but Tony Saca likes to think the gangs are all leftist (even if Arena does pinta y pega with gang members during the elections). And so, with the easy solutions of the Arena government, all the youth of El Salvador are a target. So much for treasuring your future!

So when you couple a history of violence with a people in growing need for food, shelter and jobs, youth who are being targeted, gang members who target everyone (especially busses), and the slow political process that takes human rights away one by one, one might find a breading ground for a whole mess of effects brought on by this culture. One such effect is widespread violence.

A lot goes on in this country every day. Busses are attacked and burned if they didn’t pay the gang fare. Patrons of busses are robbed or killed every day. In the night there are shootings, and we have a homicide rate that is through the roof. Occasionally there are protests, but the last one turned into a police instigated riot with helicopters equipped with gunmen.

A few months ago one of my cousins almost died her when her husband shot her and killed their baby son. This was very hard on my grandmother and it took her a while to get over it. Maybe a year before another cousins on my fathers side died in a car jacking incident.

I wasn’t close to either of them but in a way this is so depressing to me. I mean my family lost so much in this war. My mother gave her life and my father lost his home, his wife and his son for 16 years. For what? so that the country could become even poorer?

He has been through some very hard times in his life and you can see how the war has affected him. I would hate for him to find out it was all for nothing…

Part 2: My origins, how I was separated – by Nelson/Roberto

With the introduction of my birth family came the information of my past and the story of my life.

My story begins even before I was born. My birth father and mother where around 20. My father had been influenced by high school teachers to join the revolutionary movement in El Salvador. Soon after he began his work he met my other Ana Milgro Escobar. Despite objections from her family she joined the movement as well. They were married shortly after in a ceremony of arms.

The group they were a part of the was called the FPL which was one of the sub groups that made up the FLMN. My father was a body guard to the head of the FPL while my mother worked to coordinate the different cells. (In the war people worked in smaller groups called cells. If one cell was captured it did not know enough to give away any information.) This was a very important potion for my mother who had just turned 20.

Later that year, my father was in a gunfight somewhere in the mountains of El Salvador. He was shot inches away from his heart. He spend 3 long days in hiding barely hanging on to life. If one of his brothers had not given him blood he would have surely died.

He was taken to Nicaragua for surgery. He managed to survive the operation but needed a second one to remove the bullet. This required him to go to Cuba. After four months in Cuba he had not gotten the operation and returned to Nicaragua to see my mother. At this point, my brother and sister had been sent to live in Costa Rica with my Grandmother. It was around this time that I was born. My mother and I lived in El Salvador for three month before it became unsafe to live there anymore.

My mother was supposed to meet up with my father in Costa Rica, but it never happened. She was reassigned on a new mission. She and two other men kidnapped a businessman in Honduras. We lived in a safe house for a few months, but the Honduran government found out where she was living. They stormed the house and killed my mother and the two men. This was three days before my first birthday. The police found me in a back room with two other little girls.

They did not know what to do with us so we were put in an orphanage. I stayed there for a whole year before I was adopted. They put sever notices in the paper saying that if any was missing children or knew the who we were they should come forward and claim us. No one came forward and after a year in the orphanage I was adopted.

Around this time my birth father had found out that his wife had been killed and his son was missing. He was furious at certain people within the FPL because they would not let him look for me or give him any information. Disillusioned he left the revolution and warned around Central America. He ended up in Panama where he worked 2 jobs only to earn $20 in a month. One of these jobs was doing silk screening. Think that he could do that on his own he set off to make a better life. He remarried and was able to create a stable business for him and his family.

Through a friend he learned that I had been adopted to a family in America. He began thinking about coming to America to look for me. However he had no idea where I lived so it would be impossible to find me.

In 1992 my grandmother began her search to find me. It took her a year to find an organization that would help her. An organization called Probusqueda spent four more years going though newspapers and whatever government documents they could get their hands on trying to find me. They finally completed their research in 1997 after doing an Internet search to find our phone number. We where contacted by a man working for the Physicians for Human Rights and given a copy of all their findings. After a blood test confirmed that they were my family we made arrangements to meet them during Christmas.

Part 1: The adoption, a leap of faith and a miracle reunion.

My Perfect World – by Nelson/Roberto

A poem by me May 3rd, 1998

My perfect world
I would live with both families
There would be sunny weather everyday
It would be warm
We would live in a place like Costa Rica
There would be no violence
No unnatural death
No bad temptations
It would be the best life ever!
However without this imperfect world
I wouldn’t be writing this poem about
My perfect world

Holocaust Museum – by Nelson/Roberto

Today I went to the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC. If you have not gone to a museum about the Holocaust then it is something I would recommend doing. It’s a very emotional experience. A lot of people have learned about it school and know about the death camps and other horrible things that took place. However you don’t really understand what all that meant until you see some of the images in person. Even then I could not even imagine being there in person and what those people must have gone through.

This was not my first time going to this museum. I had been once before on a school trip in 8th grade. I feel like it meant a lot more. When I went last time it was a really different experience. I was having a bad day so I kind of walked trough it with out taking it in. I also think this time I had more of a connection to it because of what happened to my family. In 8th grade I had not met my family yet and I did not know anything about the war in El Salvador.

While what happened in Germany does not compare to the things that happened in my country I think there are still parallels. For example we had secret police and paramilitary squads death. Some of them would punish supporters of the revolution by steeling their children. Thankfully what happened in my country was not as horribly brutal as what happened during the Holocaust.

I think the most moving part was the hearing the survivors talking about there experiences. They told stories about walking days on end while taking turns sleeping. People being left for dead on the side of the road because they could not carry on. One women had to step on the bodies of the dead to escape a death camp. As they spoke you could see the determination they had to a live and to make it. I truly admire them for that. You could see the pain on there faces as they recalled everything they had been through. I’ve seen that look on my own father’s face as he recalled his experiences in war.

One main cried as he described how he had to leave a 10 year old boy with a farmer. The little boy was to weak to walk with him and the farmer would take of him. The boy didn’t want to leave him and asked why the Nazis were doing this to him. All the man could say is because you are circumcised and Jewish. You could see the choke back the tears as the emotions came flooding in.

That is something I have experienced before. When the pain of memory comes rushing back and it takes everything you have to fight it. Some of my own experiences have been painful enough so I can’t even imagine what he went through.

I think how horrible this was all was and how horrible war is. I think many people don’t realized the way it tears families a part. No matter what side you are on. I’m just lucky that even after everything that happened to us we were able to find each other again and rebuild.

I have to say I am proud of my parents for fighting. They sacrificed so much and they stood up for what they believed in. One of the reasons the Holocaust happened was people did not stand up to the government. They saw an injustice and did not stand by let it happen. People like them and others who stand up for what they believe in make this world a better place.

I also know that its easy now look back now and say that they did the right thing by standing up to the government but I’m sure at the time it was not so easy to pick right from wrong. So like my sister said I don’t think my parents would have done this unless they believed it was the right thing to do.

One of the survivors said something that stuck out in my mind. She said the dead are not here to tell their story and that even the survivors will not be here one day. I that one reason I am writing this. My mother is not here to tell us her story. So by telling mine she won’t be forgotten.