Our program currently focuses its efforts in El Salvador.
The fate of the United States and El Salvador are deeply intertwined. The US and El Salvador have shared vibrant trade and migration flows since Salvadoran independence from the Spanish empire in the 19th century. From 1979-1992, El Salvador suffered a brutal civil war, fueled by Cold War geopolitics and US military aid. During that time, approximately 500,000 people fled as refugees, many of them arriving in the United States. In 1992, the government and guerillas signed peace accords and ushered in a new period of democratization, but socio-economic inequality became entrenched. The economy depended on remittances sent home from Salvadorans abroad, and labor migration to the United States continued. In 2001, El Salvador abandoned its national currency for the US dollar, and this dollarization deepened Salvadoran integration with the US political economy. By that time, most Salvadoran families had at least one relative in the US, and many Salvadorans living in the US had acculturated to urban American life. In the 1990s and 2000s, the efforts to criminalize and evict Salvadorans from US urban centers sent a wave of deportees back to their homeland, and they brought US gang cultures with them. A cycle of deadly gang violence and police violence, including extrajudicial killings, escalated with US military and police support. Communities caught in the crossfire lead increasingly sedentary lifestyles in response to well-grounded fear or they face a decision to flee to the United States. Meanwhile, the underlying structures of inequality and poverty perpetuate insecurity and constrain healthy lifestyle choices. The Salvadoran diet and the American diet have long integrated with US products, such as Coca-Cola, and Salvadoran sugar production. While gang and police violence receive the main share of attention in the media, more Salvadoran women die annually from diabetes than bullets. These are transnational public health challenges that our societies confront together.
After so many years of political, economic and social integration, Salvadoran and US society have become inseparably joined, but they also remain unequal. Salvadorans born in El Salvador continue to find themselves at a disadvantage, excluded by the US immigration regime and socio-economic inequity. In both countries, men and women face a variety of gendered forms of violence, both direct and structural. At Pesas y Poder, we believe that the historical relationship between El Salvador and the United States demands special responsibilities from those of us with the freedom to cross borders without penalty. Our shared history, as well as our passion for strength sports, brings us together.
Our projects target communities on the outskirts of the capital city of San Salvador. In Comunidad Romero, Distrito Italia, Tonacatepeque, we established a small co-ed public gym in partnership with community leadership, initiated a scholarship program for fitness trainers who volunteer in the gym, and continue to develop a more comprehensive powerlifting for empowerment program. In past efforts in San Ramon, Mejicanos, under the auspices of a partner NGO, we offered fitness opportunities and encouragement, including sponsoring our first powerlifting team to a competition, to women enrolled in their empowerment program. We hope to deepen these relationships and expand these opportunities in both communities, building on our infrastructure of partner organizations and responding to local demand.