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Celebrating Solidarity with Latin America

In 1981 a small group of concerned Western New York people strongly felt that a local organization could in some way financially support the people of El Salvador during their tragic civil war. An organization called “El Salvador Medical Aid” was organized and money was sent to help alleviate the suffering during this time.

These Western New Yorkers also decided to creatively find other ways to assist the people of El Salvador. Throughout the US, a network of faith-based and humanitarian organizations began to work together closely with El Salvadorans who desired to escape their ravaged country. Over the years the organization grew to include other Latin American countries who were experiencing the same sufferings. In the mid 1980s there was a Western New Yorkchapter of the “Pledge of Resistance.” The main objective of this organization was to oppose any intervention into Nicaragua by US forces. This nationwide organization drew approximately 800 people in the Western New York region.

America Solidarity Committee/Fr. A. Joseph Bissonette Foundation will conduct their 31st annual Latin America Event on April 26, 2012 at Daemen College, Wick Center at 6pm. The Event will feature a documentary, After I Pick the Fruit, created by Nancy Ghertner, on the lives of five immigrant farmworker women over a period of 10 years. Following the documentary there will be a panel response featuring UB professor Joanne Macri; Dr. William Jungels of LASC; and Dr. John Ghertner, founder of Justice for Farm Workers Movement. The panel will discuss and answer questions regarding the pressing local issue of Immigration as it relates to the New York State Dream Act.

Admission is $15 regular and $30 patron, which includes membership in LASC. Reservations can be secured by calling the WNY Peace Center at 332-3904.

During the late 1980s the Pledge of Resistance organization merged into the Latin American Solidarity Committee, or LASC. In 1991 this renamed organization became a task force of the Western New York Peace Center. One of the original founders of the LASC’s medical aid group was Fr. A. Joseph Bissonette, who deeply believed in assisting Latin American refugees as they ventured north to the US and Canada.

At this same time a Buffalo refugee house called VIVE was formed, and now is one of the largest refugee centers in the country. Presently hundreds and hundreds of organizations (faith-based, peace, and economic justice advocates) from the US and throughout the world travel to Latin America to support solidarity work in many communities. Over the past few years, wonderful transitions have taken place in those countries resulting in less suffering and improved economic conditions for these people. Over the years the LASC task force has worked on many issues such as trade policies, mining exploration, US cooperate intervention, representative elections, the School of the Americas, confiscation of indigenous and fertile lands, and numerous other issues. The LASC task force has affliliated with many national solidarity organizations, such as Witness for Peace, Latin American Working Group, US Labor Education Project, SHARE, NISGUA, Colombia Support Network, and Pastors for Peace. Locally LASC conducts monthly coffeehouses (on the third Monday of every month) at the Network of Religious Communities (1272 Delaware Avenue), giving opportunity for individual or groups to share their experiences after recently returning from Latin America.

For over 20 years LASC has financially supported two dental clinics operated by local dentist Tom Potts. LASC also has annually organized the delivery of humanitarian aid to Cuba, Haiti, and several Latin American countries. LASC also sustains the work of Dr. William Jungels, documentarian and human rights activist, as he travels to Chiapas, Mexico to meet and film Mexicans as they contemplate US emigration. LASC also actively participates in Latin America/Caribbean legislation.

> Wayne Alt, Buffalo

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