From 2001 – 2003 I lived in Santa Marta, a rural community in northern El Salvador that was both highly politicized and particularly hard-hit by the civil war of the 1980s. I had the privilege of coordinating a team of local students and teachers to recover, document and analyze the community’s experiences of Paulo Freire-inspired popular education before, during, and after the war.
Together, we recorded over 50 oral history interviews, facilitated collective analysis workshops and story circles/focus groups, recovered and consulted nearly impossible-to-find archival sources, and ultimately co-authored a book that shares this community’s history. The book is used as a text in Santa Marta’s high school to share the community’s history with its younger generations and as a way of orienting international solidarity workers to Santa Marta’s story and political ideals.
As important as the product was the process (sistematización), which emphasized engaging the community’s popular educators in a critical analysis of their collective history , with an explicit aim of improving their pedagogical practice in the future.