San Pedro Masahuat, El Salvador send representatives to Celebrate status as Watsonville’s new Sister CityBy Edita McQuary
There was a bilingual buzz on the back patio of Jalisco’s Restaurant in Watsonville mid-afternoon on Saturday, August 17. A good-sized crowd of Salvadorans and a few Anglos awaited the arrival of the Vice President of El Salvador, Salvador Sánchez Cerén, and the mayor of Watsonville’s new sister city, San Pedro Masahuat, Carlos Ramos, at a private meeting.
Accompanied by Watsonville Mayor Lowell Hurst, they arrived a bit late after a press conference to be enthusiastically greeted by about 60 fellow Salvadorans and a few Anglo friends of El Salvador.
One of the people accompanying them was Prof. Hector Perla of UCSC who had given a presentation on July 2, 2013 to the Watsonville city council on establishing a sister city relationship with San Pedro Masahuat. The council voted that day and unanimously approved the proposal. Former Watsonville mayor Oscar Rios, a Salvadoran and a supporter of the proposal, was also here to greet them. Prof. Perla introduced the guests in English and Spanish. Mayor Hurst’s welcoming remarks were translated into Spanish.
Since the end of the country’s 12-year civil war in 1992, times have been extremely difficult for most of the Salvadoran people. International organizations have tried to help the country get back on its feet. Several non-governmental organizations from the U.S. have a presence there. One of these is Santa Cruz al Salvador, an ecumenical outreach of six Monterey Bay Lutheran and Presbyterian churches. For almost 20 years, this organization has made two trips a year to the Guillermo Ungo region to participate in medical aid missions and educational scholarship ceremonies for their “prayer” children. Board members Ruth Cruddas and Lisa Johnson came to welcome the two government officials.
Dr. Steven T. Tanaka, D.C., of Watsonville who is the “Co-organizador, Mision de Doctores Quiropracticos El Salvador” and the “Coordinador, Mision Quiropractica Guatemalteca” was also present. He has been traveling to El Salvador each year since 1992 as a medical practitioner to help the people and spends part of each trip vacationing there. He has been going to different cities but the last four years he has been in Chinameca. Although he has been near San Pedro Masahuat, he has not visited there. He will be leaving for El Salvador in early September. He says, “The people of El Salvador are the most wonderful people in the world!” Salvadorans, whether wealthy or poor, are known for their hospitality.
Two young students, one of whom had spent six months living in Central America, represented a national non-profit organization with a branch at UC Santa Cruz, the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES). This organization has been working for nearly 30 years to help the Salvadoran people. www.cispes.org
The following day, Sunday, August 18th, there was another welcoming event/fundraiser in Santa Cruz at the Darling House put on by Three Americas, a non-profit educational and action organization connecting the people of North, Central and South America in fostering social, environmental, and economic justice. You might remember them from the Café de la Esperanza coffee sales at the Aptos Farmers Market. www.earthlinksinc.org/three-americas-inc.
Because this was a fundraiser to benefit El Salvador, there was a $40 per person charge. About forty people were expected but well over a hundred showed up! President Cerén arrived about 3:30 p.m. and took his time in greeting every person. Bill Monning, Bruce McPherson, and many other local and state politicians were on hand to present a plaque or proclamation.
Tom French, local businessman who had been to El Salvador in 2012 with Santa Cruz al Salvador, was there with nine other members of SCaS. He had made up badges with the Vice President’s photo in the center framed by an American flag and a Salvadoran flag. The words beneath the flags were “Santa Cruz Welcomes Vice President Salvador Sánchez Cerén August 18, 2013”. Of course, the V.P. loved it! Rumor has it that he may be El Salvador’s next president – elections are in February 2014.
Great food, an enthusiastic crowd and beautiful weather made for a wonderful afternoon.
The Central Coast seems to be a hotbed of people wanting to help those less fortunate – both here and abroad!
Thanks go to Ruth Cruddas, Tom French, and Dr. Steven Tanaka for their help with this article. Visit www.santacruzalsalvador.org for more information about Watsonville’s Sister City.