Interviewee: Jesús López, Administrator of CESTA (Salvadoran Centre for Appropriate Technology)
Interviewer: Martin Mowforth
Location: San Marcos, El Salvador
Date: 7th February 2014
Theme: An informal interview about drugs, gangs and crime in Central America
Notes: Interview conducted as part of a tour of CESTA’s Eco-Bici Centre. Also present were Eric, one of CESTA’s mechanics and Fátima Haugstveit, a Salvadoran/Norwegian international observer at Salvadoran elections.
Jesús López (JL): We are working with young people here in San Marcos. Here in San Marcos we have a project – we are working with all the science networks.
Fátima Haugstveit (FH): aha.
JL: This means the science networks each have a teaching centre with a science teacher and this science teacher comes here to CESTA. In the last year they came, we had twelve sessions and we gave them support in all areas of the environment. Really like a course in reinforcement for them. The idea is that they transfer their knowledge to their students. But also we work with seventh, eighth and ninth grade students. And, in the formation of groups we form ecological groups and they develop many activities with the young people from awareness raising to parades, marches, demonstrations etc.
JL: So this is what we are doing in the communities. We have different types of projects: health, nutrition, eh.. solid waste, water …. and organisation. Because the idea is that the different communities, eh.. they might take them on. Now, apart from all this, we have what we call political communication and publicity, where the communities who have conflicts or various situations in their locality come and they are supported, firstly in the process of knowing what the problem is, secondly in making a complaint. They provide practices for them that they can use in different instances, eh ..eh … and to make any complaint or a request for support either to the mayor, the legislative assembly. So they use many means of communication.
JL: Almost every, every one or two weeks at the press conference presenting an issue.
Martin Mowforth (MM): mmm.
JL: Some, depending on the occasion, have more, as it were, more importance. For example, mining is one thing that took the focus like … (XXXXX). idea. And since June last year, it focussed on toxicity. The poisons here in San Listal (?), right? While others are still driving the other issues. So they use them in the teaching workshop. Shall we go?
JL: The teaching workshop is a component within the whole project of CESTA here, in the area of promoting the bicycle as an alternative. As an alternative means of transport.
JL: So here we enable young people.
JL: Young poor people. We have been doing this for five years, with young people from poor backgrounds.
JL: For the past five years, because of the violent situation in which young people live, we started to accept young students who study in the morning and come to the school in the afternoon, or vice versa, they study, they come, come to CESTA in the afternoon because they study in the morning.
JL: Currently we have just finished school in December, that is (why) we don’t have any young people (at the moment).
JL: There aren’t any young people.
FH: Yes, they haven’t started classes.
JL: We start from February and yes, until March.
[A lot of traffic noise and machines]
JL: Here we start to repair bicycles, new bicycles.
JL: We received support for a project to be able to bring new bicycles, but in doing this we realised, eh …, we had this … offer from some partners from the United States and Canada to send us used bicycles.
JL: And it’s that which, eh … and it’s that which we are ….basically we pay the freight. (very windy)
MM: Ah? Yes.
FH: And are you interested in this?
JL: Yes, this is what we do.
FH: No, but are they interested in receiving used bicycles?
JL: Of course, of course. (The projects) receive …. Because in Norway there are many.
FH: Yes, yes. Do they receive containers? Yes? How many each month?
JL: A very curious thing happened to us, since 2008, 9, 10, we had a problem not receiving any, we were not receiving (them) because in the United States something happened, something happened in the United States, you see. The crisis was coming to the United States and they could not send bicycles, only one container per year.
JL: And we had been receiving seven, eight containers per year. So then we didn’t receive any. So from then, really, we were looking for other options, because the partner who we had was very, was very sensitive, was asking for exclusivity, that is to say, “I’ll send them but you won’t receive any more”. We talked to him and we said, look, if you cannot send us more bicycles, eh.., eh.., we’re going to look for other options and we will find other options. And last year we received nine containers.
JL: Nine containers, yes.
FH: But were they interested in receiving more? Or was that sufficient?
JL: Yes, yes, yes. No. We are interested because eh.., precisely for this reason that folks are running around Canada right now, you see. A good one [a cockerel crowing about in the background] is a Canadian and a French woman, who lives in Canada. They have come to make a documentary about how to use the bicycle which has been discarded in the North, as it were.
JL: Here in the South, regarding the bicycle, they travel around making a documentary about the bicycle project. Just now. for example, they are working in El Puerto, known as El Triunfo.
JL: They are operating in El Puerto, El Triunfo, making a documentary because they want to see the area where the bicycle is used a lot, the principal means of transport. (noise of animals in the background)
FH: Yes, yes.
MM: But also, you know, we know their uses. I remember on my last visit the eco-bike taxi, the eco-bike, the eco-bike …recycler.
JL: Yes, we have them.
FH: Can I take a photo?
JL: Yes, yes, of course, of course. So, here, eh ..we were surprised last year. We were not expecting a big quantity of bicycles. So, suddenly, they offered us two containers and we thought: do we say yes or do we say no? Because that would overload us with bicycles. Because we had our options: to say no, with a risk that we would not be given future possibilities, as one doesn’t know how things are going to be the following year. So we decided to say yes, even though we were already overloaded with bikes.
FH: Yes, yes.
JL: Yes, really.
FH: But are there many bicycles for children?
JL: Yes. What happened is that, in the case of children, we provided bicycles from a recreational standpoint, really. And as you will learn, for example, the night cyclists were working with a group who were making night runs, three hundred going out every Thursday, three hundred people including men, women and children, every Thursday to cycle. So we are moving many of these bicycles into rural areas.
JL: In the rural areas, we have, for example, different options. There are people who come to buy bicycles here (XXXX) and bicycle parts, so it pays, (XXXX) the bicycle project pays well. But there are communities who don’t have the means to pay and we give them the chance to, it means some subsidise the cost of the others, so to speak. He who pays more subsidizes he who cannot pay much, you see.
FH: Yes, yes, certainly.
JL: So the bicycles which came to us in November and December overloaded us a little, right.
MM: Yes, and is the disabled caretaker still here?
JL: Carlos Montes. You haven’t seen him? You haven’t seen Carlos Montes?
JL: Carlos Montes is a disabled person. He’s specifically working for the promotion of rights of disabled people.
MM: Ah. Aha.
JL: We had a project where we wanted to make wheel chairs.
JL: We were supported well, supported by ‘Motivation of England’
MM: Ah, yes, yes.
JL: ‘Motivation of England’, helped us with a project to make and distribute about three hundred wheel chairs. And, through them, we saw for ourselves that it was important not only to give the wheel chairs but to change the way people thought about disabled people. And also that people with disability should reclaim their rights. So today we are at the position of being supported by SCIAF of Scotland.
MM: SCIAF, yes.
JL: They help us, they help us in this, in this project where we enable people with disabilities to ask and, and, and … achieve their rights. We are at this stage, for example, there are some laws which have been approved in El Salvador but don’t work for disabled people. That is to say, for every 25 people there are one or two disabled people that the law doesn’t work for. So, this is a part of the work that we do. We have a workshop here, which just now, as I want to explain, isn’t functioning because the school stops in December until the end of February. In March we start with a new group, right.
JL: So, that’s that. Let’s go. Here we have, good, well all the bicycles that have come to us, and the oldest and rarest bicycles, that we are collecting and we have called the bicycle museum.
MM: Yes, yes.
JL: This we have called the bicycle museum, the oldest bicycle we have is this one. Some Canadian friends came and helped us to go through all the bicycles. And this one was found to be from 1940.
MM: Ah, yes. Cousand Flyer. He, he. Tremendous!
JL: And this tricycle is from 1950, this one.
MM: This one?
JL: Yes. This one. Yes, no this tricycle.
MM: Yes, yes, but I am reading.
FH: And what is it?
JL: Ah, it’s a bicycle which has just arrived, which is, which has a motor.
MM: Ah, yes.
JL: With a motor incorporated.
MM: I have seen one of those in San Salvador.
JL: Oh yes?
MM: Yes, but with a very small motor.
JL: If you would like to come here to the (XXXX). Some guys are still staying here, after the school has finished, they have stayed preparing some bikes.
[Music and sound of motors]
MM: Good. I’d love to.
JL: This is the school that we have. [Louder music and noise of motors]
FH: And are these for sale?
JL: Yes, yes. Are you coming? Some bicycles are supplied like this, without repair. Others come into the production process (XXXX) [a lot of noise from motors] Some projects, because we have the idea that we subsidize some of CESTA projects which do not have resources.
[Voices, people talking and motors working, a constant background noise]
MM: Impressive. Greetings
MM: A smile please. Ha, ha. Perfect! Thank you.
FH: (XXXX) I didn’t think much, but …. (XXXX) (unintelligible)
JL: Yes, no, no, alright, when the people come and see all this, all the groups who come from wherever.
FH: Can I take a photo?
JL: Come, and, and, and … yes (noise of motors) places and see, so.. see the work being done. For example, if you had more time, we could have gone to the different communities where other work is being done, natural resources, eh, of every type that is done. In some conservation things, for example in Batinana (?) we help the conservation of Manlio. We help with community organisation. In other places, in other places with erosion, in other places with toxicity, in other places with mining. Here, for example is the bicycle focus.
MM: Yes, yes. And I remember a visit a long time ago, probably ten years ago, to your Eco-Cojute.
MM: With different young people and technical production, cultivation, yes.
JL: We have Cojute, there it is working well. Today it has been used a little more, because we visited there, last year, not in 2012, we had a bi-annual conference here of the ‘Friends of the Earth International’.
MM: Ah, yes, yes.
JL: We had about 150 people from different places, from 72 different countries beyond Cogutepe, you see. Where the bi-annual assembly was celebrated. And so, the centre remodelled itself a little to have capacity for 110 people, to sleep 110 people in this place.
MM: Eh, a year ago, more or less, I heard of a state of emergency in Pajilla de Iquilisto (?) of the Pecicillos eh.
JL: That was last year.
JL: That was all in the Bajo Lempa sector (?) including San Luis del Talgo, San Luis Talgo, all this was in a state of emergency because of the toxicity situation – poisons.
MM: Yes, and what is happening now?
JL: Eh, different organizations, including CESTA, addressed the government and some parliamentary groups, GANA, well all the groups except ARENA, approved a reform to ban 53 or 55 poisons, right.
JL: They approved it but President Fumes stopped it.
JL: And until it happens, we are still, waiting. We believe, the FMLN was pushing and then stopped a bit, we are hoping that after the elections start again, it will continue again in a better manner.
MM: So, after the elections.
JL: Yes, and we hope that it will be about prohibiting those toxins which are the most damaging. But some states, well the Mayor of Iquilico (?) I have been talking a lot about, about that, this is causing a lot of damage.
MM: Yes, yes.
JL: And much is attributed to kidney disease in the area.
MM: Right, yes.
JL: We, the associates are working very hard on this front.
MM: Um, yes, good, good. Good work. They have the same problem around Chichigalpa in Nicaragua. Because of the sugar cane plantations.
MM: And also. kidneys, cancer of the kidneys.
JL: We have, there is a problem there, there is a boy in Iquilico (?) who has this problem right now. Eh, we help and
MM: And the majority are young men, yes.
JL: So this is how it is, the young guys who have stayed here are those who have come to stay from the different schools, you see, yes.
JL: For example, the newest is him, is him and him, the newest, they have already spent a little time here, and they are doing well.
JL: Eric, he has been here about three years with us but he is the one who does the quality control.
MM: Aha, three years or thirteen?
JL: Three, three years here with us. How many years have you been here, Eric? Three years?
Eric (E): Three or four.
JL: Three, three years. So, eh, if you have the chance come back to see how the operation of the school and everything is going. Or another year, or if you can send us bikes, as I was talking to you before about wanting to send us bikes.
FH: We could, we could, hopefully it would be possible.
JL: Yes, I went to a German co-operative who told me the same, gave me dates and told me that they were sending bicycles to Africa. But they said they had a problem, that sometimes Africa could not pay the freight at any time and we have a container here and we have to do something, send it to another place. This happened to us last year that some counterparts wanted to send to Africa and I don’t know which part of America and I cannot remember at the moment. So they asked us Can you do this? Can you do this? And we … we’ve worked out it, so that we won’t be left without bikes. without bikes.
FH: Can I take a photo of them?
FH: Can I take a photo of them?
JL: Eric, can they take photos? Yes,…. yes, he,he.
FH: Look. And, didn’t they make you a prosthesis?
JL: He doesn’t like prostheses.
Another man: I had a wooden one which snapped and a metal one which they made for me, it fitted me well but I haven’t used it ever.
JL: And the other one which you didn’t like, you said.
E: No, I used it.
FH: But, notice that it stays beneficial, then. If I, yes, ok, it is a good exercise but it’s necessary to have a good leg as well.
E: No, not if it’s catching on my waist.
FH: It’s very …. Yes, of course. [Noise of motors]
FH: But, doesn’t it help you? Eric, the prosthesis?
E: Eh, it was smaller and the socket was too big, so it didn’t fit me well and I left the stump. So now I’ve thrown it away [motor noise] and the (XXXX) [A lot of motor noise and voices]
MM: Perfect, thank you.
JL: I, I know about some things, sometimes not much, because it is on the administrative side but all other CESTA projects I read about in the reports that we prepare for everything. But this, eh if sometimes you have the chance to come for longer and could visit the communities where we are working, agricultural, farm workers (XXXX).
MM: Yes, the next time I come, I, I would like to arrange an appointment.
JL: An appointment? Certainly, certainly. in advance.
MM: And a visit sometime to the Cojute Centre, but the next time. I represent ENCA, E.N.C.A.. In English it is the Environmental Network for Central America, an environmental network for Central America, which sends our bulletin to CESTA every four months, it’s a network of organisations, relatively small, and a base which is not only environmental but socio-environmental therefore. And, in the past, in 2001 we sent a group to study environmental problems in El Salvador and we visited here and talked to Ricardo Navarro. He gave us a workshop (XXXX), a workshop, a seminar. Ah, so, yes, but because, it was many years ago, so the next time, yes, the next time. We are simply only here this time.
MM: No, for the elections as observers, us two, so, at the end of the process, we have only, in my case, only two days before we have to go to Managua, tomorrow. And I didn’t realise, ah, I didn’t realise that I had, I would have time to visit, therefore, that explains my slowness and delay.
JL: That’s fine, that’s fine. It doesn’t matter.
MM: And, look, what is your name?
JL: Jesús, Jesús López.
MM: Jesús. And your position here?
JL: I am the administrator of CESTA.
MM: Administrator. OK, perfect. Thank you, Jesús, perfect.
JL: Ah, there are 7 sets so that they can share between two, two young men at the same time. But most of them, then, are already quite obsolete. We have some Canadian compatriots who are going to buy some more for us for the disabled men, a set for in, either the ruined arm or the one they grab (with). So we are going to buy one set for each, one for each one, one for each one.. And some tools, all the tools they are wearing (using), so they are going to be renewed, but it’s either too … (noise of motors). And so we have 15 young men, to each one we give transport and groceries. When they live far away we give transport and groceries, when they live nearby just groceries.
FH & MM: (Nodding along with the conversation) Yes, yes, aha.
JL: Here we have a place, for example, for some time we have had people from various communities who come to stay here. We have here a space where they can sleep as well. Or when some cooperative comes, they can also sleep here. So we give this to each young man.
MM: Bigger. (more)
JL: And to others we give, we give, for example, those who have already finished school and have stayed, we pay them for, for, for repairing the bicycles, you see. So, that’s it, eh.
FH: And those who are going, who are leaving (the school), are going to do the repairing, do they have another place?
JL: Ah, Yes, we have the sales room, what happens is ..
FH: Do they sell them?
JL: Yes, of course. The compatriot who is (normally) here in the sales room is right now with the Canadian compatriots, who are going to make the documentary, it’s, making it for El Puesto el Triunfo. That’s why he isn’t here.
JL: But here we have the sales room. That’s to say, we, for example we each have, eh, for each bicycle that comes here we have a, we have an inventory process. We make an inventory and we have this shop… for spare parts.
JL: This shop for spare parts (run by) one of the young men who is here, and here is the sales room.
JL: This is the sales room.
JL: But look, because, here we have bought tools which can be used for all sorts of things, and used for keys and these things. You can buy these here but tools like chain extractors, rod pullers which are specifically for the bicycle, it is difficult to find these here. Or buy them but it’s not happening.
JL: Well, it’s happens but it takes three months, two months.
JL: Really. (loud music) So the the specific tools to repair bicycles is what costs us money because we sent off to buy some pieces for extractors three years ago.
FH: Umm, aha.
JL: Which is what we have been using but they are already worn.