El Salvador Blog: Awareness Raising and the Story of Nuevo Gualcho (From St Albans & Harpenden Review)
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El Salvador Blog: Awareness Raising and the Story of Nuevo Gualcho
As part of my role as community relations, this week our team organised a día de concientización, or awareness day. It turned out to be a great success, with over 200 people from the community attending!
I was blown away by how willing everyone in the community was to help out. I mentioned to someone that we might need a sound system, and on the day microphones, speakers and someone to commentate were all there!
We had games, dancing and singing, and people helped us to make the eco-bricks that we have been working on every day in order to construct the recycling centre. These bricks are made from plastic bottles filled with earth and crisp packets, and we need to make around 200 in order to make just one wall.
It was wonderful to share with everyone what we have been doing, and to see locals so interested and supporting the youth group.
Another activity that we are doing as part of the project is a study into a potential ecotourism route in the community, which would generate some much-needed income for the local youths. This would consist of the posa (natural pool), a viewpoint of Nuevo Gualcho and the ruins of the old hacienda (ranch).
My group is investigating the hacienda: the story it has to tell is fascinating, and is something older generations who founded the community nearly 24 years ago are keen to pass onto younger generations.
A famous battle between Francisco Morazán and the armed forces took place in the 1800s (the plaque with the dates was sadly robbed several years ago). The people of Nuevo Gualcho, who had fled to Honduras to escape the violence of the civil war, chose the area because it had two rivers and good land for farming.
When they arrived in Nuevo Gualcho, the only building that existed was the hacienda, where everyone slept together. The organisation that they had created amongst themselves in Honduras, with committees and workshops to teach each other new skills, continued when they founded the new community. These workshops included hammock making, musical instruments and shoe making.
There was a cooking committee that cooked for everyone, and they all slept together on the floor. This level or organisation exists today, as I have discovered when I met ADESCO, the leaders’ committee, as well as the women’s and youth committee.
They stayed in the hacienda for four years, and during this time built all of the (roughly 500) houses I can see today. It really amazes me how these people, not all of whom knew each other before arriving in Honduras, came together in order to create a new life for themselves, from what was essentially just desert land.
It is also interesting to note that the women own all the properties, in order to ensure that the women and children don’t lose their homes in the event of a divorce.
Today the hacienda is in a state of disrepair, as there is no funding or resources available to maintain this historical site. Two earthquakes in recent years caused several of the walls to crumble, and locals have also used some of the materials to build new things. Nevertheless, the site remains an important part of Nuevo Gualcho and its history, and is publically owned by the whole community.
Next week will be the 24th anniversary of the founding of Nuevo Gualcho. With only two more weeks left of our stay here, I am sure there there will be lots of festivities and celebrations to come!
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