Nueva Esperanza, meaning New Hope, is a small rural community tucked in the rolling hills about an hour and half from San Salvador. The original settlers of this community were once internal refugees of the armed conflict that had englufed El Salvador for almost twelve years. The people had removed themselves from the grave conditions of a church basemet in San Salvador for political asylum in Nicargua. When the conflict had “ended,” they chose not to abandon one another, but rather begin a new community with a mission of promoting a life and society of social justice and social liberation. This new community became Nueva Esperanza.
This is a community with a social consciousness as high as the Empire State Building and a connection with their history as close as white on rice. In one word it is, beautiful. They have hung onto their history, but have not dwelled on it. They have take a proactive stance on their lives and know what can happen if a people allows itself to remain complacent and stagnant. These people have struggled, and continue to struggle for justice. They live humbly. They have roofs over their heads and food on the table. The children are vibrant and connected.
Nueva Esperanza and surrounding communities are working together to create a better life for themselves. Whether it is the education system, or making necessary improvements to the levee system along the Lempa River so that the yearly flooding may cease to exist in the future. The community initiatives are the products of a collective voice, addressing the most important issues. We visited an agricultural cooperative right in Nueva Esperanza and learned of the struggles that the cooperative has had, but also of the many achievements. One being how the cooperative’s yield of seed corn last year was entirely purchased by the government. Also, they are setting out on a new adventure with cattle, currently making the necessary infrustructural improvements to accomodate the cattle.
The most profound experience throught the weekend in Nueva Esperanza for me was not just the hospitality and sense of community, but the cultural connection we were able to have with the youth of the community. Music has a beautiful ability to cross bridges and connect strangers. In an informal get-together with the local youth group, our discussion turned into the sharing of cultural aspects: food and music being the largest topics. Being able to interact with people our age, and also learn about one another’s culture was beautiful. That evening, the local band, Sin Casa, made up of local kids put on a small concert for us. It was an evening of dancing and cultural expression. The band playing songs that spoke of Salvadoran culture; Drew, Joe, Elle (pronounced “L”), and I improvising a couple of raps. Being able to share our talents and the simple expression of music was something that I enjoyed very much. The musical talents of the local band were immense—panflutes and all. Sharing the stage with the very talented Drew, Elle, and Joe (Joe is our program facilitator and none of us knew he could totally rock out on the drumset) was surely a bonding experience and also a very organic music performance (we all had never played together before) improvising as we went.
Nueva Esperanza is just that, a new hope. A new hope for justice, solidarity, community, and social consciousness. Having grown out of conflict and blossomed into a beautiful community that speaks to the resilience of its people and El Salvador. A community deeply connected to its history and culture, both adults and youth. Struggles continue, but strength to keep fighting is infinite.