The needler in the haystack.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

El Centro celebrates 30 years of service

El Centro celebrates 30 years of service.

Friends and supporters of El Centro Hispanoamericano, known to all as El Centro, gathered at Spain Inn on Friday evening to celebrate the nonprofit's thirty years of service to residents in the Central Jersey area.

Plainfield Mayor Adrian Mapp and his wife Amelia were among the guests and the mayor delivered a proclamation honoring the organization's achievements in helping immigrants.

El Centro was begun as an outreach to those fleeing civil war, violence and human rights abuses in Central America during the 1980s.

El Centro continues to provide services and assistance to immigrants and their families. In the most recent year, nearly 1,800 turned to the agency for assistance in legal and immigration matters -- including 30 cases seeking asylum.

I am printing below remarks by Ivan Flores, longtime Plainfield and El Centro activist, as delivered in English and Spanish at the celebration --
During the late 70”s and early 80”s the headlines in America were not much about the Middle East but about how the Soviet Union was trying to extend their hold in the Americas by supporting the guerrilla movement in Central America, right where many called America’s backyard. With that argument the US supported barbaric right wing governments that were killing their own citizens. Mostly in Guatemala and El Salvador.

Al final de los anos 70 y al principio de los 80, las principales noticias no eran mucho acerca del medio oriente. Los noticieros reportaban como la Union Sovietica trataba de extender sus garras en el continente Americano al ayudar a los movimientos guerrilleros en Centroamerica, el lugar que muchos llaman el patio trasero de Estados Unidos.

 Civilians caught in the middle of the fighting, people accused of sympathizing with the guerrilla movement, and peasants made the bulk of the thousands of death during the 1980”s. Among the worst cases was when they killed Bishop Oscar Romero while saying mass, the death of four American nuns in their way back from Nicaragua, and the killing of the six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter inside the Central American University where they lived and work.

Civiles atrapados en el fuego cruzado, personas acusadas de simpatizar con la guerrilla, y campesinos fueron la mayoria de las muertes que costo miles de vidas en los anos 80. Entre los peores casos se encuentra el asesinato de Monsenor Oscar Romero mientras daba misa, la muerte de cuatro monjas estadounidenses cuando regresaban de Nicaragua, y la muerte de los seis curas Jesuitas, su sirvienta y la hija de ella en la Universidad Centroamericana donde vivian y trabajaban.

All this violence made parents being terrified about their kids being killed or disappeared, and all of the sudden you noticed all these mostly young people fleeing El Salvador and Guatemala by the thousands escaping a war in their own home, a war where the victims were seen simply as collateral damage of the conflict. That made thousands to flee to many countries, but mainly to the United States a stable country well known for its freedom, and also a country where many of us had relatives already living there.

Toda esta violencia sembro terror en los padres de familia quienes temian que sus hijos o hijas fueran ser asesinados o desaparecidos. De repente uno se da cuenta que miles de personas, la mayoría jóvenes están huyendo esa guerra que se esta dando en sus propias comunidades. Una guerra donde las victimas eran vistas simplemente como daño colateral normal del conflicto.
Most of us arrived to the United States by crossing the southern border, those who could, would come to the States by plane on a visa permit. We just needed to get out. Once we got here, we found ourselves in a foreign place where we did not understand the language, a place with a very different climate, and it was also the country that was helping the governments of El Salvador and Guatemala kill their own citizens.

La mayoria de nosotros llegamos a los Estados Unidos cruzando la frontera Sur, aquellos que podian, lo hacian por avion con visa. De cualquier manera, teníamos que salir del país. Una vez llegamos aquí, nos encontramos en una tierra extraña donde no entendíamos el idioma, un lugar con clima diferente, y también era el país que estaba ayudando a los gobiernos de El Salvador y Guatemala a matar sus propios ciudadanos.

 We felt somewhat isolated. We were in need of knowing what was going on in the countries we left and where we still had our families. We also felt the need to tell people in the US what really was happening in Central America to counter what the US government was feeding the US media. Some of us started going to New York City to a place called Casa El Salvador to get updates on the war, but after going to a forum on El Salvador , we met a Maryknoll priest who helped us get in touch with some residents of the Plainfield area who were receptive to what was going on in Central America.

Nos sentiamos un poco aislados. Necesitabamos saber que estaba pasando en nuestros países que habíamos dejado atrás y donde aun vivian nuestras familias. Tambien necesitábamos decirle a las personas aquí en los Estados Unidos lo que realmente estaba pasando en Centroamerica para contrarestar la propanda del gobierno Estaounidense. Algunos de nosotros empezamos a ir a un lugar llamado Casa El Salvador en la ciudad de Nueva York para enterarnos sobre la guerra, y después de ir a un fórum sobre El Salvador, un sacerdote Maryknoll nos ayudo a comunicarnos con algunos residentes del area de Plainfield quienes entendían la realidad de lo que estaba pasando  en Centroamerica.
  This same group of local residents was concerned about the war  impact here at home, in the Plainfield area, with more war refugees coming from Central America. Most of the members of the group were leaders of local churches who were already familiar with the real causes of the war in Central America, and decided to get together and form a more formal entity to educate the American people and take a stand against the US support for those military dictatorships. That is how the Plainfield Area Committee on El Salvador and Central America in born in the early 1983.

Este mismo grupo de personas del area local estaban preocupados del impacto de la guerra aquí mismo, en el area de Plainfield, ya que mas refugiados llegaban de Centroamerica. La mayoría de los miembros del grupo eran lideres de iglesias locales y ya estaban familiarizados con las causas reales del conflicto en Centroamerica, decidieron unirsey formar una entidad mas seria para asi poder educar al pueblo Estadounidense y poder también abogar en contra de la ayuda Estadounidense a las dictaduras militares de la zona. Asi nace el Comité del Area de Plainfield sobre El Salvador y Centroamerica a los principios de 1983.
At the beginning the committee focused on educating the American people about the US military aid to the region , how this military aid was impacting  human rights in Central America, and how that in turn was making many of us flee that hell and come to the US.. Educating was done by sponsoring movie forums, home video showings of material about the war, having speakers going to high schools and churches, picketing members of Congress offices, participating in marches against the US military aid to El Salvador and Central America, writing letters to elected officials etc.  As the war continued, more refugees kept coming in to this area. They  were in need of clothing, food, jobs, housing, medical care, etc  The committee decided that opening a Center for Refugees was the best way to meet the needs of the newcomers, and El Centro de Refugiados Centroamericanos opened its doors, in Plainfiield, on November of 1984 within the grounds of Grant Avenue Community Center.

Al principio el comite se enfoco en educar al pueblo  sobre la ayuda militar estadounidense en la región, como esta ayuda estaba impactando los derechos humanos en Centroamerica, y como esa situación estaba obligándo a muchos de nosotros escapar ese infierno y llegar a los Estados Unidos. La educación se daba patrocinando fórums con películas, demostrando videos sobre la guerra en las casas, enviando representantes a hablar sobre la guerra a escuelas e iglesias, organizando demostraciones frente a las oficinas de miembros del congreso, participando en manifestaciones en contra de la ayuda militar a El Salvador y Centroamerica, escribiendo cartas a los miembros del gobierno elegidos por voto, etc. Mientras la guerra continuaba, mas refugiados venían al area de Plainfield. Ellos necesitaban ropa, trabajo,housing, cuidado medico,etc. El comité  decide que el abrir un centro de refugiados es la mejor manera de lidear con los refugiados, y asi El Centro de Refugiados Centroameicanos abre sus puertas en Noviembre de 1984 dentro del edificio del Centro Comunitario de Grant Avenue

Most of the refugees settled in the city of Plainfield as it already had a small group of Spanish speaking residents, some of us had friends or relatives in the city, but Plainfield  also offered easy access to public transportation, it is close to cities with a large manufacturing industry, and its residents welcome us. After all these years, many of those refugees and their extended families still call Plainfield home. Plainfield is a city where it does not matter your where you are from, what the color of your skin is, or what your sexual orientation is, you will always feel welcomed.

La mayoria de los refugiados se quedaron en Plainfield ya que habia un grupo pequeno de residents que hablaba espanol, algunos de nosotros teniamos amigos o familiares en Plainfield, pero tambien nos quedamos aqui porque en la ciudad había transporte publico, Plainfield esta cerca de otras ciudades donde habían muchas fabricas, y los habitantes de Plainfield nos recibieron bien. Despues de todos estos anos, muchos de estos refugiados y sus familias aun viven en Plainfield. La ciudad de Plainfield es un lugar donde no importa de que país es uno, o el color de la piel uno o la orientación sexual de la persona, uno siempre se siente bienvenido.
Congratulations to El Centro and best wishes for the next thirty years!

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this. Everyone in the City of Plainfield should read this for better understanding.