Sr. Noemi of the La Pequeña Sisters was in the U.S. and spoke to a group in Royal Oak, Missouri in November 1988. She spoke of the repression, war, and struggles of the Salvadoran people and encouraged us to enter into a sister community relationship. Several of us there that evening decided to do that, and the Missouri Sister Community was formed. In February of 1989, we met with Francisco Ramos and Delcia Villalta from Semilla de Libertad, which was CEBES’s office in Chicago. In April 1989, Francisco Ramos and Secundino Rameriz of Semilla de Libertad met with us and gave us our sister community of Jocoaitique.
Our community was originally in Jocoaitique. During a visit to our community in 1993, we learned that, with war over, the original inhabitants of Jocoaitique would be returning and our community had to leave Jocoaitique. They told us that they had no place to go, and were extremely worried about this. That winter we received a call from CEBES saying that a parcel of land near Jocoaitique was up for sale and CEBES would purchase it for the people to settle on – if we would be able to cover the cost. We raised the $5800 required for the purchase of the 7.5 manzanas of land that winter. The land was purchased in 1994 and in the summer of 1996, 50 houses were built. Families occupied the houses in December of 1996. In March 1997, the community was dedicated to and named in honor of Monsignor Romero.
In the early years in Jocoaitique, our donations helped purchase a few cows for milk and to expand their sugar cane crop. Starting in 2000 we began to help provide funds for uniforms and school supplies for the grade school in the Colonia and sponsored scholarships for youth to attend junior and senior high, and eventually post secondary education. We helped fund a small banana tree grove early on. In response to the mothers’ desire to have a place where their youth could gather, we obtained a 3-year grant for the construction of a Youth Center, which was dedicated in 2003, and for equipment and projects for the youth. Animal granges were started in 2004 – chickens, then rabbits and goats. Vented, fuel-efficient cook stoves were constructed in many of the homes that year, and a grill was purchased to make pupusas. An outdoor oven for bakery production was constructed. In 2006 5 sewing machines were purchased and a sewing instructor hired to conduct a tailoring class for many of the women and girls.
And yes, we have had numerous delegations over the years.
We are very happy that our sister community relationship has continued over these nearly 20 years! Our biggest contribution is sharing ourselves, helping them have land of their own to live on, and working with our community on education and their many self-development projects.
Perhaps the most important gifts we have received is the friendship and solidarity we feel with our Salvadoran community and knowing that we are part of their life. We have been deeply touched by the beauty of their person, their faith, their resourcefulness, and their hope despite long and great suffering.
We have great memories of our visits with the community over the years, of their kind hospitality and welcoming us into their lives. It is great to know that walking together, we have helped enable them to achieve many of their dreams and hopes.
We hope that our relationship will endure and continue to grow. We hope that we can introduce more people to our Salvadoran friends, and to involve them in our mutual journey.