Moving Forward in El Salvador

Whether it’s the memory of a drawn-out civil war, stories of gangs and violence, or the influence of one of Central America’s most prolific emigrant communities, El Salvador’s complex past directly relates to the challenges it faces today.

El Salvador’s modern history stems from its Civil War, officially fought between 1980 and 1992. Waged within the context of the Cold War, the conflict pit an established national army, backed by the Reagan administration, against a leftist guerilla force known as the FMLN. The guerillas were based in the rugged and remote mountains of northeastern El Salvador, in a region known as Morazán.

Due to its agricultural roots and rough terrain, Morazán was the poorest county in El Salvador, and the constant federal assaults on the region devastated its infrastructure. The stronger and better-equipped army forces struggled to deal with the ragged and often disorganized guerillas on their home turf, and as their frustration mounted civilians in Morazán became associated with the revolutionary forces. In the early 1980s, the government adopted a policy to quitarle el agua al pez (take the water from the fish), methodically destroying the towns of Morazán and forcing an exodus of refugees to Honduras and Nicaragua. Included in this offensive was the 1981 massacre of civilians in the town of Mozote, an incident forcefully denied by both Salvadoran and American government for years to come.

As the fighting slowed in the late 1980s and army forces left the region, European aid workers from refugee camps across the border gathered with seventeen community leaders in Morazán to rebuild their communities. Morazán had no public services – no schools, no hospitals, and in many areas no roads. Their organization came to be known as PADECOMSM, a Spanish acronym for the Fund for Community Development in Morazán and San Miguel.

For the last twenty years, PADECOMSM has been working to support the return of families and communities displaced by the Salvadoran Civil War through development projects. Their microfinance arm, PADECOMSMCrédito, started with three clients, a typewriter, and one employee, and today has grown to a portfolio of more than $3 million and almost 3,000 loans. The organization continues to grow, and its talented and dedicated staff of forty is working to expand services to more isolated areas within the region.

By providing their clients with access to capital, PADECOMSMCrédito enables them to start businesses and organizations that provide needed services to the people of Morazán. As the local economies within the region continue to grow and prosper, infrastructure improves, and new opportunities emerge for economic advancement.

Making a loan to a PADECOMSM client supports more than a single entrepreneur; it supports an entire community.

The monument in El Mozote, remembering those killed in the massacre

Brandon Vaughan (KF12) is learning and living the history of El Salvador every day as a Kiva Fellow with PADECOMSMCrédito en Departamento Morazán. Loan to a PADECOMSM client or join our lending team – we’re posting more and more loans every day.

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