Sister Cities began working with CRIPDES (then the Christian Committee for the Displaced) in 1986, as CRIPDES assisted Salvadoran refugees in their efforts to repopulate and rebuild their communities and fight to defend their human rights.
The Salvadoran civil war, funded by the United States, left more than 70,000 dead. The members of the Sister Cities network were aware of this and, because of that, they joined the repopulation work of CRIPDES, morally and physically accompanying communities as they returned home from refugee camps in Honduras and other regions of El Salvador to communities still threatened and persecuted by the Salvadoran military.
With the signing of the Peace Accords in 1992, Sister Cities accompanied the Salvadoran organized communities of CRIPDES in the process of democratization and reconstruction of their country for a peaceful future, implementing and protecting the political gains granted by the Peace Accord agreements.
In more recent years, Sister Cities has responded to natural disasters that have devastated El Salvador, such as Hurricane Mitch in 1998 and the devastating earthquakes of 2001.
In 2003-2004, Sister Cities brought people concerned about Free Trade policy together with Salvadoran communities in denouncing exclusive Free Trade Agreements such as CAFTA and played an active role in the Stop-CAFTA Coalition, which continues to monitor and report on the effects of CAFTA in Central America and the United States (www.stopcafta.org).
In 2005, communities in the northern province of Chalatenango began organizing against the threat to community lands, resources, and health posed by newly arrived Canadian, US, and Australian gold mining companies. Sister Cities began advocating for and working in solidarity to support the communities in their right to self-determination in the face of international gold mining interests, joining forces with the National Roundrable Against Mining in El Salvador and the International Allies Against Mining in El Salvador. This campaign lasted for over 10 years, culminating in the 2017 legal victory when the Salvadoran Legislative Assembly declared a national ban on mining throughout the country.
In 2007, Sister Cities effectively advocated for the human rights of social movement leaders accused of terrorism by the Salvadoran Government for peaceful protest, working in solidarity with CRIPDES and the broader Salvadoran social movement to reverse the serious human rights violations committed in the case of the “Suchitoto 14”.
Since the signing of the Peace Accords, Sister Cities has accompanied elections in El Salvador as International Election Observers, participating in national and local elections to bear witness to the transparency and fairness of the democratic process. Elections became especially heated in El Salvador after 2009 when for the first time ever, a member of the guerilla group-turned political party FMLN won the Presidential elections.
In recent years Sister Cities has accompanied CRIPDES and MOPAO (People’s Organic Agriculture Movement) in their response to the major health threats of almost unregulated sugar cane production throughout the country. We have accompanied and helped facilitate further research into the impact, local organizing, awareness raising campaigns, and media coverage of the impacts.
Today, Sister Cities is made up of 16 Sister City projects and many individuals across the country who carry out our ongoing work for justice, dignity and self-determination through physical, moral, and political accompaniment.
To read more about our history, order a copy of Aqui Estamos, a collection of reflections from our 25th anniversary: