Hola! My name is Marianella Aguirre and I am excited to start working as EcoViva’s new International Fellow!
I arrived in the Bajo Lempa April 1st, just in time to overlap with Tricia Johnson’s last two weeks as EcoViva’s Amigos Fellow. I was fortunate to see her in action, editing grant proposals for the youth program and giving photography lessons, all while passing down her acquired wisdom to me, from where to catch the mototaxi to important organizational skills she picked up over the last 10 months.
I am a Salvadoran-American from San Francisco, California. My dad is originally from Santa Tecla, La Libertad, El Salvador and my mom’s family is from Arcatao, Chalatenango, El Salvador, a rural town in El Salvador’s northwest, that borders Honduras, where I lived and attended school for a year, when my mom decided to return to El Salvador after spending many years outside of the country as a political refugee.
Although I had visited El Salvador before, it was during this stay that I fell in love with the countryside and its people. In San Francisco, my parents always worried about teaching me the importance of going to parks and taking advantage of our city’s natural environment, but in witnessing the connection my mom had with the land when I saw her working in my abuelita’s small organic farm, I understood the importance of conserving our natural resources and not abusing our agricultural systems.
In 2010, I graduated from the University of California, Riverside in southern California, where I majored in Political Science and International Affairs, with a concentration in Latin America. My interest for environmental issues in the region grew through the experience of living in a country that prides itself on the use of alternative fuel, during a semester in which I had the opportunity to study abroad for a semester in Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brasil.
Last summer, I worked as a long-term volunteer for Project Homecoming, a non-profit organization in New Orleans, Louisiana that focuses on the reconstruction of eco-efficient and hurricane resistant houses for families that were devastated by Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.
This experience of living and working in New Orleans for two months allowed me to learn about the power of human resistance against natural disasters and the lack of economic resources. I learned that although Hurricane Katrina was destructive, the most catastrophic thing was the lack of administrative leadership on a local and national level. To this day, what’s missing isn’t engineers or environmental conservationists, what’s missing is a lack of governmental leadership.
Most recently I worked as a Spanish/English Interpreter for a school site council in San Francisco as well as volunteered as a writer and translator for the political section of Day Labor News, a bilingual newspaper of the San Francisco Day Laborer’s Program, a non-profit organization that helps its membership—many of whom are Central American immigrants—obtain just-paying work and social services.
I am very grateful for this opportunity to return to El Salvador, where I plan to enjoy plenty of hiking and swimming, dancing cumbias and chomping on lots of mangos. I am excited to be supporting EcoViva on the ground, working with the Mangrove Association and community organizations, in a region that is not only a leader in promoting environmental justice, but also a leader in identifying social issues that I have witnessed throughout my entire life- such as rural youth emigration- and confronting these issues through leadership training and sustainable economic initiatives. I look forward to sharing with you my pictures and stories of life hear in the Bajo Lempa and Bahía de Jiquilisco!