Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Techantit: Letter to Special Rapporteur Anaya

Centro Cultural Techantit
1930 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite # 305
Los Angeles, California 90057
Tel.: (213) 413-4988; Fax: (213) 413-5004

September 17, 2012

To:  United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Professor James Anaya

Re:  Thanks for Visit and Talks with Indigenous Peoples in El Salvador
Dear Special Rapporteur Anaya:
I wish to take this opportunity on behalf of the indigenous nations of El Salvador, to express our gratitude for the show of support you rendered in your recent visit to El Salvador.  We especially want to thank you for visiting the Nahuat Pipil, Lenca, and Kakawiras Nations and taking time to listen to the concerns of our indigenous people.
Your visit has filled us with hope.  Regardless of the fact that nothing concrete has been done as yet, we now have great expectation of a change based on the fact that someone in your position has listened to our needs and concerns.
I have received communications from various individual members of the Nahuat Pipil communities you visited.  One person told me that he had to give thanks to God because finally someone has listened to us and given us a chance to explain the plight of our people.  Another said that he had prayed that he would not leave this life until something had been done to recognize the sacrifice of all those who gave their lives in the struggle for the rights of our indigenous peoples.  He now sees that those peoples’ lives will be memorialized and their sacrifice recognized.  One indigenous woman contacted me and said that she is gratified to learn that now there will be movement in recognizing the rights of women and that steps will be taken to accord them their due status in society. 
As a follow-up to your visit to El Salvador, I wish to make the following requests:
First, as you are aware, the Consejo Municipal of Izalco and of Nahuizalco have been successful in passing ordinances designating these two towns as indigenous townships.  These ordinances are included in the T├ítul Tecpan Itzalco that was delivered to your hands by the Alcalde del Comun Nahuat Pipil of Izalco, Tata Tito Reyes Pasin upon your visit to Izalco on August 15, 2012.
The designation as an Indigenous Township accords these communities various human rights and serves to promote the free exercise of traditional cultural customs and practices, including those of a spiritual nature.  In the context of the systematic exclusion of Indigenous Peoples within the national constitutional framework of El Salvador, these ordinances are singular examples of a process that has given juridical recognition and personality to the communities of Izalco and Nahuizalco for the first time ever.  As an example of the best practices that should serve as standard for the relationship between Indigenous Peoples and the states, these two ordinances provide an example which we hope you may highlight in your report on El Salvador.
The ordinances were passed as a direct result of the intervention of Centro Cultural Techantit as an organizing and educating resource for all parties involved.  Other indigenous communities of El Salvador desperately need to acquire the same designation.  However, there is a great lack of awareness and comprehension on the possibilities and potential for the recognition of our Indigenous Rights which such ordinances can bring to effect.
I would therefore like to request that you exercise your influence and in furtherance of your mandate as special rapporteur consider encouraging the government of El Salvador to sponsor a national program under which all indigenous communities across the entire country are made aware of their right to Indigenous Township, as recognized under the ordinances that have been already passed in Nahuizalco and Izalco.  Such a policy and program would be of tremendous benefit in establishing norms and processes for the recognition, respect, and protection of Indigenous Rights in El Salvador.  As a gesture of goodwill, such a program would also lend to the healing process so much needed by to the indigenous peoples of El Salvador who are still suffering the collective social trauma which was inflicted by the massacre of 1932.
Secondly, as matters presently stand, the secretariat in El Salvador responsible for indigenous peoples’ affairs consists of three individuals, nothing else. Those three individuals have been afforded no resources.  With no resources provided to this office, it can do nothing.  The government needs to have an office with the staff and necessary support to deal diligently and meaningfully with the affairs of the indigenous peoples.
Third, it is important that the government educate its officials with regard to indigenous peoples and their rights.  Government employees, in their representation of the Salvadoran government need to be informed and sensitized to the existence of indigenous peoples and the special rights to which they are entitled.
A fourth and final matter of concern that needs to be addressed has to do with the lack of representation of indigenous women in the legislative process.  The exclusion of women from law making is a long-standing historical reality in El Salvador.  It will not change on its own.  A government program is required for this process.  The government needs to take action to assure that a place is made for women in the legislature at all levels, and especially for indigenous women.  As part and parcel of conducting such a program, the government needs to take steps to protect women from the violence to which they are too often subject.
Thank you very much for your assistance and support to the Indigenous Peoples in El Salvador.

Haydee Sanchez
President, Centro Cultural Techantit