by Alana Hackman and Carlos Pedraza
Cal Poly Humboldt students and Arcata residents gathered around the plaza Thursday, April 7 in solidarity with El Salvador. The event was led by Klara Hernandez, a senior environmental studies student at Cal Poly Humboldt. Hernandez organized the event through her senior project and organization Eko Social Justice. Hernandez was also joined by Centro de Pueblo, an immigrant rights organization for Southern Indigenous communities also joined the event.
The protest began at 4 p.m. and carried on into the evening around 6 p.m. Hernandez walked to the center of the plaza megaphone in hand and began her speech with a land acknowledgment and thoughtful address to her family who fled to the U.S. from El Salvador. Hernandez called for solidarity with the people of El Salvador and pointed out problems of racial discrimination against Indigenous and Afro-Salvadorian citizens as they are forced to adopt Spanish culture.
Hernandez also addressed abortion laws in El Salvador and the rising violence and femicide rates in the country.
“They imprison [women] even if it’s not your fault the baby didn’t make it,” Hernandez said.
She continued to speak against many problems, including corporations privatizing and contaminating water, Bitcoin being adopted as their main currency is hurting those who don’t have access to it, and the LGBTQ+ community facing discrimination and violence in the country.
An attendee of the protest was Alice Turk who heard of the protest from social media. The women’s rights issues spoke to her most and she feels people need to stand in solidarity with women everywhere.
“I think the fact it’s a crime to have [an] abortion is something that needs to change, it’s a problem that is happening all over the place,” Turk said.
Cal Poly Humboldt students Ben Cross and Evina Romero came out to the event also after being sent the social media post by friend and Cal Poly Humboldt psychology major Cheyanne Elam. Elam found out about the event through a class and was attending to learn more about what she can do for the people of El Salvador. All agreed it was important to use their privilege to be at this event and show their support for the citizens of El Salvador.
“Immigrants from El Salvador and all over South America are being turned away at our borders, and the U.S. really has the ability to rectify these things,” said Cross.
Hernandez ended her initial speech with a call to action toward environmental justice and immigration rights for all. The crowd wavered cheers and screams from around the plaza flashing cardboard signs reading, “U.S. out of El Salvador,” “Women’s rights in El Salvador,” and “Indigenous sovereignty in El Salvador.” The signs were written in both English and Spanish. Hernandez mentioned her organization, Eko Social Justice, and that this event is an effort to use her voice for good and represent her home country of El Salvador in Humboldt County before her graduation and departure to Los Angeles this May.
“The [Salvadorian] community is so tiny here that these things don’t get addressed. It’s like we’re invisible in this area so I wanna speak it out,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez will be holding an art show at Brainwash Thrift Thursday, April 21 in solidarity with El Salvador. The event will be held from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. and will include Hernandez’s own photography and art.
In the early 1980’s there was a group at HSU – the Committee for Solidarity in El Salvador. After graduation I went to Central America, albeit as a Marine . I sent a post card to Ben Sasway- a classmate who failed to register for the draft and was convicted and incarcerated. Showed him a photograph of me in Honduras-“ Ben, wish you were here.” I learned a great deal about Latin America from Professor John Travis . Good man.