December, 2021 – All Politics is Local

For the Salvadoran diaspora including the Mauricio Aquino Foundation, the conventional wisdom behind the phrase “All Politics is Local ” proved accurate. Our campaign achieved historic wins by securing the recognition of our Disappeared loved ones in cities across the U.S. In fall 2021, various cities across the U.S. unanimously passed resolutions declaring Aug. 30th the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances in El Salvador as a special tribute to the many Salvadorans in those communities. Despite the fact that the United Nations established August 30th as the international day to recognize and honor the victims of enforced disappearances, the Salvadoran government still refuses to acknowledge this sacred day despite the calls from the organizations of Mothers of the Disappeared and other human rights groups in El Salvador and the U.S. 

As we faced silence, inaction, and at times outright hostility of the current Salvadoran administration with respect to human rights in El Salvador, including the resolution of of the forced disappearances of our loved ones, the Mauricio Aquino Foundation made the strategic decision this past year to shift our focus on local political activism in the U.S. Specifically, we sought to build local community support, develop local leaders, and garner local political support in various key U.S. cities, with the ultimate goal of securing city resolutions recognizing our Disappeared loved ones from the Salvadoran civil war. In addition, our goal was to build power and leadership among the Salvadoran diaspora and our allies, from, the local, state, national, and ultimately international levels. 

We are incredibly proud to share that we were successful in securing unanimous resolutions for our Disappeared in 5 cities and counties. These include:

  • Los Angeles, CA
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Berkeley, CA
  • Washington D.C.
  • Prince George’s County, MD

The community and local governments support for these resolutions demonstrates the strength and dedication of our network of families and allies of our Disappeared. Members of our network have been searching for truth and reconciliation nearly 30 years after the end of the Salvadoran Civil War during which over 10,000 Salvadorans were forcibly disappeared. These cities and counties received the largest number of Salvadoran refugees fleeing the violence of the armed conflict, and these are the cities and counties that the majority of Salvadoran Americans call home. For the Salvadoran diaspora, the families of El Salvador’s disappeared, and human rights leaders in El Salvador, the recognition and solidarity by these U.S. cities was meaningful and powerful. Especially, because the current government in El Salvador does not appear to prioritize the resolution of these horrific crimes. 

These resolutions also demonstrate the power of organizing and leadership development. In Los Angeles, Rossana Perez and Mayron Payes spearheaded the local effort and brought their city’s resolution to fruition through their emails, phone calls, conversations, relationship-building, community connections, and their knowledge of the local political scene. As Los Angeles Councilmember (and LA mayoral candidate) Kevin de León said in his announcement, this resolution serves as a “bridge of knowledge to continue to educate and empower younger generations of Salvadoran Americans and the larger public of what has been endured by this integral Angelino community.” 

We are proud of our accomplishments in 2021, but much work lies ahead for finally finding and honoring our Disappeared. Given the current deeply concerning climate in El Salvador, we at the Mauricio Aquino Foundation and the Our Parents’ Bones campaign know that now, more than ever, we must step up to support the courageous human rights leaders, the NGO leaders, the attorneys, the journalists, those who dare to protest the current regime’s attack on El Salvador’s democracy and the rule of law. 

It is especially incumbent on those of us based in the U.S. to use our voice, our power, our privilege to push the international community, especially the U.S., to pressure El Salvador to re-engage in the defense of human rights, the resolution of past crimes like the forced disappearances of our loved ones, including the current disappearances from gang violence, and protecting El Salvador’s democracy.

As we close the chapter on 2021, we ask you to imagine the power of dozens of cities and states and nations recognizing nuestros Desaparecidos, our Disappeared, saying their names, supporting El Salvador to move towards truth and reconciliation. Nuestros Desaparecidos demand us to be courageous. Will you join us?