We woke up this morning, ate breakfast, formed groups and headed out in different directions to get to work. A few went off for some final interviews with our host families, others to get more footage around the city, and Hispano and I stayed back at our home base, La Coordinadora, and I sat with him while he worked to edit the short film. I marveled at how much concentration, skill, and dedication he displayed to finish the editing, complete with music, in time for a showing with our EcoViva and Mangrove Association hosts this afternoon. It was extraordinary to watch the reactions of those attending and to get their feedback on the film. After the showing, Hispano led a discussion on what the film’s title should be. Several suggestions were put forward, and the final vote (a two-round vote!) was for “El espíritu de la bahia”, or “The spirit of the bay”. The showing was a great way to round out our week of work. Next, we headed back to Ciudad Romero for a pupusa-making session with some women from the community. Today was Hispano’s birthday, so we surprised him with a cake and cookies. Finally, we were back at La Coordinadora for what is a traditional closing event for delegations like ours, the sharing of “glows, glums, and gains” from the trip. It was a great chance to reflect on our time, celebrate all the great experiences we had, commiserate about the challenges, and share what we learned. It’s our collective hope that the film making we did, and will continue doing, will have positive impacts on people and the environment here and beyond. –JC Brown
Today was the day that the team was really put to the test. It was one of the hottest days we have had here yet. With a team of people being in the sun all day, it was starting to take its toll on our members. We pressed on, but not without appreciation for the people that have worked so hard to survive in this climate and go through that everyday.
Hispano continued his workshop teaching the art of editing to those youth who were available from the first day’s workshop on short fictional film. We were able to see a rough cut this afternoon. It was remarkable and we are all excited to see the final cut.
Meanwhile, a crew of two went to the Hospital, down the street, to discuss the problems of chemical pesticides and its harmful affect on the people in the communities. It not only affects the food and is ingested that way, but it gets into the water and air. Many of the people, in the community, develop critical kidney problems or other health problems.
Tied to that, Karen and I travelled to a local farm to see how diversifying crops helps maintain and support the land’s health, environment, and other plants, that otherwise could not be grown. The farmer there used no pesticides and had a variety of crops and plants growing. It was a forest full of fruit and vegetables that were organically and safely produced. We were able to sample some of the organic oranges he grew. They explode with juice in your mouth and a sweet tang that I have never experienced before.
This evening, we recorded music from a local group of musicians. They played in the Catholic Church down the street. The church itself has so much history built into it. Having the band play songs about leaving their home during the war and their return to El Salvador was very moving. It was to our great surprise that our friend Antonio, who first told us the history of this community, came to sing the vocals; he was brilliant and it made for a very special occasion.
Today our group was focused on the shooting of a film. This film is the result of an intensive workshop aimed to motivate a youth group of Ciudad Romero in the use of short fictional films for telling their own local stories. The workshop started yesterday with the screening of El lugar de la cruz, a twenty-eight minute short film I created last year in collaboration with a group of young amateur filmmakers in San Sebastian, western Honduras. Following the screenings, we encouraged the local participants to come up with local stories dealing with environmental sustainability. Three stories were pitched, all great. But through voting we selected one of them to be the basis of a short fictional film. The selected story focused on Chepe, a young fisherman that learns how to use sustainable fishing techniques. The film was going to be shot the next day in Isla de Mendez, a fisher community in the Bay of Jicalisco, twenty-five minutes from Ciudad Romero.
Early this morning we departed to Isla de Mendez with all our filming gear, and we packed enthusiasm, our most valuable tool. We had five scenes to be filmed by 3 p.m., so we started shooting as soon as we arrived. The first scene took place in the town’s graveyard, right next to the beach. In this location we filmed Chepe, our main character, passing by his father’s grave, while listening to voices that plead with him not to use bombs for fishing. Next, we shot two scenes in the water, next to the mangrove forest. We used a floating watch house to place the camera. From there we shot a scene in which Chepe speaks with the spirit of his father, and another in which Chepe joins a fishing cooperative to practice pesca limpia, or “clean” fishing techniques. At noon we had lunch in a local restaurant, where many of us enjoyed fried fish caught in the bay. After lunch we filmed two more scenes, and by 3:00PM we were done with the shooting.
Back in Ciudad Romero, we recorded the voices that Chepe hears. For one of them we had the participation of Chungo, the head of one of our host families. We had a successful shooting that would not have been possible without the commitment of our team, the enthusiasm of the participants, and the willingness of the people of these communities of the Bajo Lempa.
We cannot wait the to take a look at the footage tonight. -Hispano Durón
Today was the first day of our fiction film workshop with local youth from the Bajo Lempa region. We began bright and early by watching a documentary made during a similar workshop, conducted by Hispano Duron in his country of Honduras. The purpose of the workshop was to produce a short fictional film relating a local story about environmental sustainability. Hispano started by introducing the components and goals of fictional film--of which I was happy to hear--aim to educate and entertain. Following this, we formed three different groups to come up with potential ideas for the film. The stories were great; we had to choose between one about crabs, 'talking trash', and bomba fishing (that's fishing with explosives). We agreed that all of them would make wonderful films, and hopefully they will—as the youth (and all of us as well) are learning the entire process. We voted as a group for bomba fishing for our subject, and together we crafted the story. After a quick lunch we packed up the van and headed out to check out the area where we'd be filming.
Even though we returned at four, our work was far from done. With a quick dash, we made our way to Don Chungo's for an interview for our documentary work, and we learned his personal account of a Salvadoreño's exodus and repatriation. We hurried back for dinner before having a serious meeting to create our game plan for tomorrow when we will do all the shooting for the short film. We are all working well now together and it's very exciting to see everyone contributing and making things happen! With the intention of withholding any spoiler—as the film will make our blog upon completion—all I will say for now is that our story will take place in a fishing community, Isla de Mendez, and tomorrow we'll be shooting parts of the film on the water! So much excitement!!
Be sure to stay tuned!!!!
It was another day filled with a bit of everything. It began with an impromptu visit to a sugar cane field, with us running through the fields to capture the farmers’ hard at work. Then we were on our way to Puerto Parada, but first we had to make our way through the bustling city of Usulután, which makes the traffic and drivers back home seem extremely scarce and uniform. After forcing our way through the crowded streets and down through some more countryside, we arrived at Puerto Parada, located on the magnificent Bay of Jiquilisco. We brought our equipment far out into the water, almost losing two of our cameras in the process. But the risk was well worth it, as the interviews with the fishers, and the other shots we gathered, were some of the most rewarding footage we’ve gathered to date. We went back on shore where we had an amazing lunch, with fish, shrimp, rice, vegetables, and of course, tortillas, and on top of that, some of the most amazing fresh juices we have ever tasted. Then it was back to Ciudad Romero and a few of us attended a Salvadoran Catholic mass service at the same church where we learned about the history of Ciudad Romero the first day. The evening was composed of logging footage, while rolling thunder and lighting passed above. It was another busy and demanding day, but it was definitely memorable. –Eric Warren
The night before was very inspirational. Our group engaged in very creative conversation about how we could achieve the highest quality filming and interviews the next day! We organized everyone into crews: interviews, sound, and B roll; we planned some shots and discussed possible solutions to potential problems. The next day we visited the Centro de Interpretación, Interpretation Center of the Mangle association, a circular open building designed for meeting and for tourists. Murals of turtles, crabs and mangrove forest adorned the circle. We started the interviews in the Center, and what Hispano had proposed turned out great, with a sound person, microphone person, camera man and interviewer each doing their job; my role was sound woman. During the day my experience in the mangrove was an experience of sound. I changed from my habitual role of picture taking to one in which my attention was fully focused on capturing the surrounding environment through my ears. The interviewees today were young tourist guides, artisans and leaders that work for the conservation of the manglar, the mangrove forest. Their personal stories and motivations were very inspirational, as my dream is to contribute to the conservation of nature. The mangrove we visited is actively being restored using a new method called REM (Ecological Mangrove Restoration). The project we visited started in 2010, and the results are now visible, with some adult trees forming the forest and many young trees, “candelitas”, forming a tapestry in the mangrove soil. The soil was full of holes where we saw hundreds of violinista and chichimeca crabs peeking through. The open water channels gave me the sensation of fluidity among the entangled mangrove; the sunlit reflection of the roots in the water invited me to imagine the mangrove trees' seeds traveling free. Exiting the mangrove, we walked, capturing the diversity of environmental sounds—birds, insects, our footsteps. Walking and listening to this diversity, I imagined the big efforts of all the people that had participated in this ecological restoration project, and I was marveled to see the results of a community working in such a united way for the environment. This filled me with energy and deep happiness. -Carolina Pardo
After the long journey yesterday I went to bed with a lightning bug dancing around the ceiling and woke to a bright new day with the sun, to a town alive with activity. Today was our first full day at Ciudad Romero. We visited the Cashew Cooperative that started through the Association by a local women's group, and an early care center where “mother educators” help with the youngest children while their families work. We also learned about the history of the community from Don Antonio, one of the leaders of Ciudad Romero. Just like any community elder he feels “a moral duty” for the health and growth of the people in the community . . . this translates in any language.
This community’s history is deep and has involved the fight for basic human rights through many decades of suffering. The city is named after the late Archbishop Romero, who raised awareness about human rights abuses during El Salvador’s civil war. The people of Ciudad Romero lived in exile in Panama during the civil war, and they have held fast together as a community ever since. This impresses me and I admire how committed everyone is to the well being of others here. Without this solidarity, they could not have persevered through all they have encountered. Caring for each other and striving to make a better situation for the community as a whole have brought them much success. It is a lesson that more should hear and take to heart.
Hola! Our small group arrived in El Salvador this afternoon and is happily settled in Ciudad Romero. I have the honor of writing the day's blog post, and there is much to remark on, seeing as it's been a full day of meeting people, bus rides, getting a jump start on filming and equipment check...and food. Delicious food. We have also learned about the joys of composting toilets!
We left Lawrence at 3 am yesterday, in the middle of a gorgeous Kansas thunderstorm. After a short layover in Atlanta, we were off! From the moment we stepped foot in San Salvador, we have been welcomed by the Mangle and EcoViva staff. From the city, we took a bus ride to Ciudad Romero, stopping for a delicious lunch of black beans, rice, shredded beef, tortillas, and fresh aguacate (avocado). Upon arriving at the community building, we became acquainted with the staff, Aaron, Chema and Jeanne. La Coordinadora, or community building, is surrounded by mango, papaya and cashew trees. There is noise and life everywhere; in the afternoon, storm clouds and thunder was on the horizon, and we set up a GoPro camera to capture the storm. Farmers guided their cows back into town after a full day of grazing, dogs panted in the sun, chickens pecked at bugs, and families passed on the road on bicycles. I found a comfortable hammock and tried to find the breeze as I thought about the upcoming week—all the scenes to capture for our project, and all the people to interview working for a more sustainable community and world. After that, we met our host families and had dinner before heading back to La Coordinadora to hear about the workshop that our compañeros Carolina and David did with the local youth about video production and mangrove ecosystems.
All in all, it was a beautiful first day. It was so exciting to be in Latin America, practicing Spanish and eating fruit fresh off the tree. I successfully avoided the “mean” goat that is tied up in the front yard and ended the busy first day with a refreshingly cold shower. More updates to come! -Jaden Gragg
Road Trip to Authentic El Salvador Cuisine in Kansas
Today , a group of us took a road trip to one of the few authentic El Salvador cuisine restaurants in Kansas. Located in Overland Park , off of Santa Fe, we discovered the true meaning of flavor and gained a small insight to the delicacies of Central America.
To start off, we shared an array of pupusas that were absolutely phenomenal. The homemade tortillas and fresh stuffed ingredients, were a wonderful surprise of flavors and the start of a new possible addiction to Central American cuisine. We also tried the platanos fritos with con crema', which literally melts in your mouth, leaving your taste buds with a sweet caramelized flavor. Accompanying these wonderful appetizers, were the delicious main courses. Each of us ordered a different dish , sharing our flavor experiences and the ingredients each contained.
The trip was a great success and start toward our journey to Cuidad Romero, El Salvador. Excitement arises, as we take a step closer to learning and helping the peoples of El Salvador generate and maintain a sustainable way of living. Hopefully, we will also catch a few recipes along the way.
Till next time - Salud!