“Our defeat was always implicit in the victory of others; our wealth has always generated our poverty by nourishing the prosperity of others – the empires and their native overseers. In the colonial and neocolonial alchemy, gold changes into scrap metal and food into poison.”
― Eduardo Galeano, Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent
A professor of mine once explained the irony of Latin America being a region rich in resources, but poor economically. An overly-simplified explanation of why this is is because the wealth the region boasts historically went outward, that is, through exportation of goods and exploitation of people.
El Salvador is no exception to this phenomenon. In 2004, the Canadian mining company Pacific Rim applied to dig for gold in El Salvador. The company promised the mining would be “eco-friendly” and provide jobs. However, they did not provide an environmental impact report and with 90 percent of the country’s surface water already contaminated, the Salvadoran government refused the proposal. Pacific Rim fought back. In 2009, the company filed a lawsuit against the country of El Salvador. The lawsuit is now at $301 million and a verdict is expected this year.
While this is happening, the people of El Salvador are not idly sitting by. In 2006, CRIPDES and SHARE (grassroot organizations that Sister Cities is a part of), began to stand by communities through education outreach and fundraising efforts to allow the people to decide for themselves what was best for their community. Starting in 2014, communities in the provinces of Chalatenango and Cabañas have been holding consultations where citizens vote “Yes” or “No” on whether they want mineral mining in their communities or not. So far, three out of the three municipalities who voted responded with 95 percent against allowing mineral companies into their region. Complications arise because mining is not banned nationally, but these are the stepping stones the people must take to reach that goal and protect their water source. Read more here.
What does this have to do with “Adventures in Arcatao”?
Holding a consultation in a municipality is a five-step process.
Arcatao just finished the second step, which is getting 40 percent of the population to sign a petition that they would like to vote on this topic.
The third step is voting! The municipality of Arcatao will go to the polls on November 8th. A delegation will be coming with representatives from Canada, Germany, Honduras, and the United States. The delegation’s main purpose is to observe the voting process. This lends validity to the consultation and brings it to an international level, making it increasingly difficult for mining companies to exploit these towns.
Katie and I will be working with leaders in the community to help organize the consultation, as well as being a part of the international delegation coming in November.
This is an exciting time for Arcatao, and we will do our best to keep you posted in the coming months!