May 25, 2007


Yesterday we met with a student group at the University. In the United States, when you say student group you usually mean a group of students that likes to do social activities together. Sometimes, they are organized more around social problems, and volunteer in the community.

In El Salvador, you are talking about a whole different kind of thing. We met the leader of the student group in the Psychology building at the University of San Salvador. He took us through campus to another building, where we entered a dark and somber room. The walls were hung with pictures of Mao, Che, Fidel, Ho Chi Minh, Lenin, Marx etc. An AK-47 painted on the wall had the words Revolution or Death in Spanish underneath. Another wall had pictures of 7 or 8 students who died in a massacre of protesting students in 1975 and for whom the group was named.

And what does this group do? It fights for larger budgets to the university, which the government continually underfunds, and tries to effect structural change within the university. It also fights for larger structural changes in the society. Occasionally they go out to poor areas and help children celebrate birthdays and holidays. But, if there is a march, they will be in the streets with other students, demanding that the system change.

This type of student group, the kind that doesn't exist just as a social club but also puts itself on the front lines of protest, often at the risk of jail or even death for its members, does not really exist anymore in the American university system. It did in the 1960s, at the height of America´s social movements. Unfortunately, years of prosperity and conservative governments have all but done away with this type of organization in the US. We don´t even want the whiff of communism around. But they are still fighting the fight here in El Salvador. I don´t really want to see a Marxist-Leninist agenda implemented, but I admire they are willing to fight and risk their lives for what they believe in, and their willingness to stand up also gives impetus to other, more moderate political student groups with wider appeal to stand up also to oppression and injustice.


Blogger Mary B. said...

My eyes probably would have popped out of their sockets when I saw those pictures on the walls. Having never set foot off of U.S. soil, I forget how different other places can be.

7:37 AM  

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