My close compa Emily recent sent out this tendril of solidarity for a Salvadoran community she's close to which was recently hit hard by a hurricane. They've been left largely to fend for themselves and in serious need of material support. Please be generous, but even for those of us dealing with our own personal financial crises, our dollars can go a long way in El Salvador so even small amounts are worth kicking down...
Dear Friends and Family:
I am writing to you today on behalf of some dear companions and remarkable community activists and advocates in Colima, El Salvador. I apologize in advance for the length of this missive, but my hope is to try to provide a context in which the acuteness and urgency of this situation at the moment (as well as some of its larger roots and consequences) is clear. As many of you may or may not have heard/seen (esp. since it has received very little U.S. coverage), across this past two weeks, Nicaragua and El Salvador have been blasted by hurricanes, flooding and tropical storms. Within just ten days, El Salvador received over 60 inches of rain - more than it usually rains in an entire year. The rain was catastrophic: flooding, landslides, immense damage to roads, homes, and bridges, leaving tens of thousands displaced. Nearly 70% of this year’s crops across the country were washed away.
This follows on the heels of disastrous flooding which occurred only a little over year ago, that likewise wiped out the crops and harvests of nearly 3/4s of Colima’s residents. In both cases, it should be understood that this represents a loss of not only whatever self-produced food security folks might have access to, but also all hope of future income from labor in harvesting or working the fields of some of the larger local landplots. In other words, it means the crippling loss for poor families of an already barely survivable nutritive and economic base simultaneously.
Further, since Colima lies directly on the banks of the Acelhuate River, it has been particularly devastated by these recent inundations. This particular river was completely reshaped some thirty years ago by the introduction of massive hydroelectric dams along its route (whose power-production is aimed not at residents but heavily polluting export industries) that have left the marginalized communities on its banks as the victims of intense toxic contamination/exposure and frequent wash-outs. As a result of the storms of last week, between one-third to one-half of the houses in Colima were completely destroyed; many, many family are now crowded into small school buildings and the few other community spaces that exist to provide impromptu shelter. Many individuals are without food and without clothing, which is particularly dangerous given that the storms were immediately followed by a fierce multi-day cold front with plummeting temperatures and even snowfall (something Colima has never before seen in history). Indeed, many scientists have commented that because of its geographic position, El Salvador is currently receiving the full force of climate change effects that will also shortly be seen and experienced by many of us elsewhere.
In the worst development yet, as of this past week the floodwaters have risen to the point that all of the family and municipal wells have been flooded over by waters from the Acelhaute River and, as a result, are severely contaminated. Adults and children alike are coming down with fever, diarrhea and serious kidney problems from consumption of this toxic water, but are also in desperate need of hydration, forcing them to consume still more of it. They are without the material resources to purchase potable water or collective filtration systems and thus find themselves in increasingly vulnerable positions in terms of the capacity of their immune systems to weather or survive the conditions in which they find themselves. Last week on the phone, Morena recounted to me how a father came up to her and Noemy’s doorstep seeking water for his 7 year old child who was flush with fever and how she had to tell him tearfully that she had nothing to offer. In their own house at that time, they were reserving what miniscule water was available for the three children of their own (out of 6) who were also ill with fever, diarrhea, and throat infections at the time.
My two dear friends Noemy and Morena are the single openly queer couple in Colima. Further, the neighborhood they live in, Los Potreritos, is made up almost entirely of households headed by single women with children. Its houses are almost entirely made of tin, lamina, and plastic sheeting with neither doors nor caulking to keep the elements at bay. While some residents of Colima more largely have been able to appeal to relatives residing outside El Salvador for some assistance and financial support, the neighborhood of Los Potreritos is in a uniquely precarious and resource-sparse position in this regard. Two companions and I here in the U.S. have been generally trying across the year to provide emergency support as able, but the scale of the current disaster requires a much larger community effort. What little resources myself and others have been able to send Colima’s way in this past set of days has been immediately redistributed in the form of food, water and basic necessities throughout the entire neighborhood and then further afield. The women in this neighborhood (and Noemy and Morena in particular) are a source of constant inspiration for me in terms of their capacity for self-organization, collective caretaking and the ability to make very few materials make a very significant impact. In these current hours, the necessity for just that simply couldn’t be higher.
Most of you receiving this are yourselves members of variously queer, poor and marginalized communities here in the United States, and as such, many of us are intimately familiar with the struggle, gift and necessity of forging alternative family and support structures in those moments when neither the state nor other institutions either can (or can be bothered to) provide access points to basic survival needs. Increments of $5,$10,$25,$50 will make a huge difference right now in terms of helping folks there in Colima to make it through this acute stage until the waters recede. Although the entire upcoming year is without question going to be a very difficult one there - given the crop destruction and decimated houses - this upcoming month presents the gravest immediate dangers in terms of people succumbing to sickness, starvation, cold and thirst.
I am all too aware in writing this that there are hundreds, even thousands, of acute situations going on throughout the world that likewise would benefit from our attentions – many of them occurring mere feet away from our doorsteps, if not within our own households. However, to that reality I can only respond that we have to, as always, practice the solidarity of which we are capable where and as and whenever we are able. And, of course, for me, these are also personal friends whose fear and worry I hear several times a week as they call with updates on what is taking place, who is sick, and what has been destroyed, etc. Beyond that, theirs are the labors of two remarkable queer community activists whose efforts I admire, trust, and aspire to – and whose six children I care about immensely.
If you can donate, in whatever increment, please do. You can either mail it to me or drop it off (at 5001 Chester Ave #1R, Philadelphia, PA 19143) or donate online via paypal by clicking the “donate” link pasted below in this very email. (Who knew technology could be that convenient - sorry I couldn't make it appear as a proper "button".) In every case, whatever comes in I will just bundle together and send via Western Union in their directions. In the words of Noemy and Morena: “Please give our greetings to your friends and family on the part of all the people here in Colima. Many hugs and kisses. Take good care. Con carino.”
And please accept not only their greetings, but also my own. As so many are shouting right now from the various corners across the globe, “Another world is not only possible, it is necessary.” Here’s to all the many creative, difficult, various, tendrilled and amazing ways in which we shall also necessarily have to build it.
And, of course, if you know others who may be in a position to support, feel free to forward. We may also do a benefit show here in Philly at some point in November which I will let local folks know about.
With thanks, love and solidarity,