Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Wrapping up

I continue to be amazed by so much of what we do here and so many of the people we meet. This morning we had a meeting with Father Fernando Cardinal, a Jesuit priest who was involved in the revolution and later named the Minister of Education in the FSLN revolutionary government. He also led the first major project of the Sandinista government, the national literacy campaign.

He shared with us his stories of involvement in the pre-Triumph organizing of the revolution as well as his experiences as Minister and in his work since. He is the only priest in the more than 400-year history of the Jesuits to be expelled from the priesthood and then later reinstated. (He did, however, have to redo his year of noviciate, after more than 30 years as a priest. But he laughed when he talked about that requirement.)

Then, as a sort of sending off, he told us to take advantage of life, to live authentically and intentionally. He talked about what a sad situation it would be if, in 15 or twenty years, we had children who came to us and asked, ¨Where were you in 2009, when X happened? What were you doing? Didn´t you know?¨ Then he presented the converse of that situation, in which we are able to answer, ¨I was in the front row, out in the streets, educating myself and acting.¨

In her final for El Salvador, Arpita wrote a letter to herself in 10 years. One of the lines that has stuck with me is her injunction to herself: ¨Make me proud to be your past.¨ As we all enter into a new leg of our experiences together, I think those of us here are thinking a lot about what the future self might look like or do. I´m not sure about any others, but I for one vascilate between having NO idea and having far too many ideas of what that might be. Ultimately, though, I think a lot of it does come down to this idea. The person I am already becoming had better be someone I would be proud to be after having lived this experience and grown and changed over the last few months, together with this wonderful group of people in this astounding context.

Monday, December 1, 2008


I am in the midst of writing an exam on trade, particularly trade liberalization in Central America. Obviously, one of our main foci is CAFTA, the Central American Free Trade Agreement. It is an agreement between the US and Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica which largely openned borders between the countries. It has had (and will continue to have) troubling impacts particularly in the agricultural sectors of the Central American countries.

When we drive around town, there is a lot of graffiti. One of the most common phrases is CAFTA NOS MATARA (CAFTA will kill us).

So I would like to recommend an article to folks about the process by which CAFTA was negotiated. It is by a man we met with earlier this week and was published in Revista EnvĂ­o, a journal published by the Nicaraguan campus of the Central American University.

¨CAFTA will be like a brand-name Hurricane Mitch¨

Related to CAFTA (and a throwback to our last country), one indication of the desired relationship between El Salvador´s political establishment and the US: the Salvadoran negotiating team signed CAFTA sight unseen. A document of more than 3000 pages and they didn´t even bother to look at it first. (The relationship is often described as one where Salvador is the step-child trying to gain the love of the US.)