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Showing posts from March, 2018

Holy Week in El Salvador: Good Friday

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This is the third in a series of stories which I am writing during this Holy Week...

Viernes Santo or Holy Friday in El Salvador is a day for processions.  El Salvador is historically Roman Catholic, and cathedrals and churches across the country continue to be the centers from which Holy Friday processions emanate.  Many communities carry on the tradition of creating beautiful carpets in the streets.  Youth groups, church groups and community organizations create designs made from colored salt, sawdust and wood chips.  The designs include images from nature, geometric designs, religious symbols and portraits of beloved saints.

During the day, communities often walk the Via de las Cruces (the Way of the Cross), following the Roman Catholic tradition of reflecting on 14 moments at the end of Jesus' time on earth,  beginning with Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane and concluding with Jesus being laid in the tomb.  Often, the local parish has a statue of Jesus carrying the cros…

Holy Week in El Salvador: Holy Thursday

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This is the second in a series of stories which I am writing during this Holy Week...

"Not too many people will come," we were told.  Still, for the pastor Holy Thursday would clearly be a very important day.  He sent a Facebook message Wednesday night saying he was busy preparing.  Through the washing of feet the people would learn how to be the church.  So we got up early, and we drove out to the community.

The buses were still running.  They were full!  People were getting to their destinations before everything shuts down tomorrow.  "No one works on Good Friday," we are told.

The air was stifling hot inside the church.  A little circle of bright green plastic resin chairs was set before the altar.  Each chair held a Bible and a song book.  Two men were already seated in the circle.  One is blind.  Pastor Santiago looked lovingly at his friends of twenty-five years.  He said that between the two, it is hard to tell who is accompanying whom.  The blind man knows …

Holy Week in El Salvador: Palm Sunday

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This year, for the first time, we are spending Holy Week and Easter Sunday in El Salvador.  I am planning to write a series of stories about our experiences during this week.  This is the first...

La Semana Santa, Holy Week, begins with the Sunday of the Palms, el Día de los Ramos.  The streets of San Salvador appeared no different than any other Sunday, with not much traffic and a few folks out jogging or riding their bikes.  As we made our way into the countryside, we passed by bus stops where families stood holding small bundles of palms - evidence that perhaps they had attended early mass.  We approached our church community and were greeted by clergy and pilgrims from the local Catholic Church marching with their palms and carrying a large statue of Jesus.  We climbed the hill to the Lutheran Church, where we were greeted by children, purple balloons, and a large banner featuring the face of Monseñor Oscar Romero.  The words on the banner: "You will not kill."  For many,…

Reflections on Romero

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March Lent Elections International Women's Day World Day of Prayer Heat and Dust and Wind Spring and Snow Women's History Month World Water Day March Madness Marches Marches in El Salvador Marches in the United States Rutilio Grande Oscar Romero Marches Holy Week Marches March
Today is the anniversary of the founding of our sister church and sister church community in El Salvador.  It is not an accident that the anniversary for Los Héroes en la Fe is the same as the anniversary of Archbishop Oscar Romero's assassination. The people who struggled and suffered during El Salvador's civil conflict, who were refugees in their own homeland, who on March 24, 1996 walked up the hill and planted a church and a community named after Heroes in the Faith, dreamt of a community and a society that would live in peace and work for justice. That dream has been challenged over 22 years of joys and sorrows. The struggle to realize that dream continues. 
After setting off fireworks well before dawn, the com…

Election Observing in El Salvador: Crayons and Paper

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Salvadorans vote with paper ballots.  One of the most important roles of the election observer is to keep an eye on those paper ballots.
The system is set up to be secure.  The ballots arrive in the sealed box of voting supplies assigned to the voting table.  The ballots are printed and glued on one side to form tablets of 600 - one ballot for each of the 600 voters assigned to each voting table.  Prior to the start of voting, the table secretary counts the stacks of ballots to ensure that there are indeed 600 ballots in the tablet.  For the 2018 election, the voter received 2 ballots - one for the national election and one for the local election.

The light pink paper was the ballot for the local, mayoral election.  This was the simple ballot.  It contained the political party flags for different candidates who are running for mayor.  To vote, the voter hands his or her identity card to the president at the voting table.  The secretary signs and stamps the ballot and tears off one, p…

Election Observing in El Salvador: Cardboard and Tape

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Aside from the tens of thousands of election volunteers, hundreds of international and national election observers, and more than 10 million printed paper ballots, the recent election in El Salvador could not have happened without 2 things:  cardboard and tape.

On March 4, 2018 there were 9422 voting tables set up in more than 1400 public schools, fair grounds and other voting centers.  At 5:30 AM, the 262 Municipal Election Board (JEM) delegates are responsible for delivering the 9422 sealed voting packets to each of the voting centers in the municipalities.  This is done with police escorts and much vigilance, as one might imagine.

When the packets arrive at the voting centers, each voting table president is responsible for opening the packet with all of the table members present, and within the eyes of the party vigilantes. The contents of the packet are verified.  The roll of tape is extracted, along with paper lists.  Then the taping begins.
On March 3, 2018, stacks of cardboard …