I began 2015 with 16 fellow classmates on the trip of a lifetime. We traveled to a place where a civil war ended the year I was born. A place that experienced social injustices and oppression by its own government. A place where the United Nations reported nearly 75,000 people were killed and an unknown amount “disappeared” during the war. We traveled to learn about this time in the country of El Salvador and educate ourselves on current social injustices surrounding the people. All of this was structured and made possible through an organization known as Crispaz.
Crispaz focuses on creating relationships and solidarity between marginalized El Salvadorian communities and the United States and other countries. As ‘Christians for peace and justice’, Crispaz hosts delegations from across the world coming to learn about social injustices of the past and present in El Salvador. I was lucky enough to be in the first group of delegations to San Salvador for 2015. During my week in El Salvador I experienced and witnessed many things which changed the way I view social justice issues at home and around the world.
Crispaz emphasized throughout our stay their goal at the end of every trip was to have each delegation return home to tell their story.
This is mine.
As soon as we arrived in the country, our 16-person group soon became 17 with our Crispaz guide, Christy. She led us in our journey starting each morning at breakfast through evening dinner and quickly became more than just a guide but also a friend. Crizpaz’s program encourages delegations to be a part of a community rather than just witnessing as an outsider. My delegation traveled to Arcatao, a small town in the mountains right on the border of El Salvador and Honduras.
For our duration in Arcatao we were divided and stayed in different homes throughout the community. My host mom, Elia, lost her father, brother-in-law and countless other relatives during the war yet was the kindest soul to everyone she encountered, including myself and my friend who stayed with her. She gave up everything she had so we were able to eat and sleep in a comfortable and safe environment. Elia greeted us with smiles and coffee each morning and pupusas (a traditional Salvadorian dish) with a side of laughter every evening. Turns out laughter is the same in every language.
While in Arcatao, we witnessed the town’s post-war rebuilding efforts and climbed a mountain -a very tall mountain- together with the youth of the community. A climb that pushed each member of our group physically, mentally and emotionally. A climb where we heard testimonies of people who experienced the war first-hand, who didn’t climb that same mountain for recreation but for survival.
In San Salvador there were emotional visits to Monseñor Oscar Romero’s home, tomb and place of assassination. We relived the deaths of the Jesuit martyrs, their housekeeper and her daughter at the Universidad Centeroamericana. We sat with people whose lives are still adapting to life after the war. Crispaz also makes it possible for groups to visit El Salvador’s congressional building and meet with members from the ruling political parties, the FMLN (left wing) and Arena (right wing), to hear their perspectives and goals on changes in the country.
Post-war social justice issues were also addressed. Visiting a home for boys, eating lunch with artisans and hearing testimonies of women working in sweat shops were some of the experiences bringing us face-to-face with the daily struggles and injustices still present in this recovering country.
Crispaz gave me the opportunity to visit a place I never would have imagined and to experience it in a way I never could have dreamed. I learned to build a community within the known of those I traveled with along with the unknown people of El Salvador. Crispaz pushed me out of my comfort zone by allowing me to, quite literally, experience life in someone else’s shoes.
Whether the push you need to step out of your comfort zone is by venturing to El Salvador yourself or donating to make it possible for someone else to do so, Crispaz is the organization to choose. Its efforts help to educate the world to see injustices on local and global scales.
To learn more about ways to donate, volunteer or be a delegation, visit www.crispaz.com
“This is what we are about:
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.”
–Monseñor Oscar Romero