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Accompaniment IM4HI Vision

Accompaniment and Solidarity in Honduras

by Professor Amy Argenal

Seven years ago, I attended my first pilgrimage to Honduras as part of a group of faith leaders to explore the root causes of migration. I wanted to explore the root causes of migration so I could understand them and become a better advocate and solidarity partner.  Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, along with Share El Salvador, organized the pilgrimage to help us learn and understand more profoundly why so many families and children from Honduras were showing up at the U.S./Mexico border.  Many of us had our own assumptions, especially as the narrative of gang violence was running rampant in our media. But what we heard in Honduras was completely different and it changed me.  

During our first visit in 2015, we spent time with communities who were being pushed off their land for large scale development projects It was tourism causing displacement in the territory of the Garifuna peoples.  We later came to hear about Berta Caceres and the struggle of the Lencan people, who faced attacks by Honduran security forces for protecting their sacred river fromhydro-electric projects. We accompanied them on marches against the corruption of US-backed former President Juan Orlando Hernandez, commonly known as JOH, who had facilitated the theft of the public health system and privatization of the roads.  We returned to the US with their requests to withdraw support for former President JOH and to stop US military and security aid to Honduras that was being used to intimidate and criminalize communities who resisted.

Juana Zúñiga (L), community leader in Guapinol, with Professor Amy Argenal (R)

In 2018, we visited the community of Guapinol.  This community was resisting a large-scale mining project taking place in the Carlos Escalaras national park mountains that was the source of several rivers bringing water to communities in the Bajo Aguan region of the country.  When the mining company, Inversiones Pinares, began constructing the road to get to the mountain, it polluted the Guapinol River. In response,  the community engaged in nonviolent direct action to block the road.  The Guapinol encampment ended in violence between security forces and the community, and eight of the leaders were imprisoned without trial for nearly three years.  

We returned back home to the U.S. and Canada with a commitment to uphold international solidarity by freeing the Guapinol 8 and accompanying  Honduran communities seeking to defend their land and water. 

Reverend Deborah Lee shared with my students that Critical Migration Studies must  interrogate power. It must ask “who makes our immigration laws and policies and for whose benefit?” and “who decides what aid and development projects go where, and for whose benefit?”  Here in the United States, we are often the ones to benefit from large scale development projects that take place in locations far and unknown where we don’t have to see the cost and consequences of our consumption.  

Seven years later, I have continously returned  to Honduras. Sometimes I have gone twice in the same year  to accompany and walk in solidarity with communities struggling for the right to land, water, and the right to remain in their home, the right to not have to migrate. 

Interfaith Movement has deeply instilled in me the question of what does it mean to accompany.   Accompaniment with those suffering injustice takes many forms at Interfaith Movement for Human IntegrityWe accompany newly arrived families, those seeking freedom from immigration detention, and those fighting for the right to remain, who are dismantling oppression and tackling the roots of injustice.  

Accompaniment means to walk alongside, to hold up, to support, and also to follow with open hearts. To accompany must include understanding deeply and showing up when called for. This work is long term, and can take many forms. Relationships are important. The accompaniment of Guapinol over the years meant continual messages of solidarity, checking in, calling members of Congress, posting on social media, and organizing events.  For me it meant to be presente! To show up in court in Honduras as an international observer when the trial started, to carry a banner of the Guapinol 8 at the inauguration  of President Xiomara Castro, and to learn the Environmentalist Cumbia from amazing women leaders like Juana and Juana, like Esly, and Adelia! It meant to pray with Juan sitting outside the court house where the whole community gathered,slept, and strategized with our dear friend Reynaldo.

This Spring 2022, there is much to celebrate on the accompaniment journey with communities in Honduras.  In January, the regime of President Juan Orlando Hernandez came to an end. He is facing extradition to the US on charges for narcotrafficking.  Honduras’ first woman President, Xiomara Castro, was elected and inaugurated.  In the early part of February, local organizing and international pressure freed the Gupainol 8 and charges were dropped.  To see the videos of the leaders arriving back home to their community’s gathering place, the soccer field,  after three years, brought tears of joy to my eyes.   I know that, for the Guapinol community, this is just the start. They still have to fight to close down the mining company, and protect their water, livelihoods, and right to remain.  There is still continued work to pressure the US government to end military and security aid through the Berta Caceres Act and the Honduras Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Act.  Even though there is a new administration, the corrupt and problematic military apparatus that have criminalized and assassinated land and water defenders still remain.  

This is why I continue to walk, to accompany, to be in solidarity with, and to strive for a better world where borders do not exist to separate our families, and detain our peoples. Instead, I strive for a world where communities can make a choice about whether they migrate or remain, and where all communities can thrive.  

Professor Amy Argenal is a human rights educator at the University of San Francisco and a life-long learner with Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity.

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Accompaniment

Project Thrive: Floreciendo tus Sueños

Since June 2021, IM4HI has been piloting a project, Project Thrive: Floreciendo tus Sueños,  to support immigrants, asylum seekers, and those formerly detained who often face barriers to employment. IM4HI was one of eight organizations to be awarded a grant through the California Department of Labor’s SEED Initiative to promote the entrepreneurship of immigrants, English language learners, and those who face employment barriers, often due to their immigration status.  The entrepreneurial training development program is designed to help people we are accompanying to start or grow their small businesses as pathways for income for their families and communities.  Seventy-seven people attended a six-week course on small business entrepreneurship learning the major components to successfully launching and running a business.  In February 2022, twenty individuals were selected to receive microgrants to support their businesses.  Some of the awardee businesses include photography, kitchen and house repair, a taco truck, paleta (ice cream) vending, house cleaning,, cosmetic sales, care for mentally disabled adults, automobile servicing and sales, custom jewelry manufacturing, pool servicing and auto transport.  We will be sharing a list soon of these small businesses which you can support with your patronage!

Project Thrive is a program that paves the way for immigrant communities and others who face barriers to flourish and thrive!

Meet the Trainers

Silvia Guardado

Silvia Guardado | Business Development Consultant

An immigrant of El Salvador, Silvia owns an accounting firm. She has more than twenty years of experience helping small business entrepreneurs with financial and compliance needs. She has worked as an instructor with SCORE, helping beginning business owners use QuickBooks, manage cash flow, and thrive. She currently works with the National Latina Business Women Association of the Inland Empire (where she was a founding board member, treasurer, and instructor) to help small business owners obtain loans through the PPP federal loan program.

Delila Vasquez, M.A.

Delila Vasquez, M.A. | Business Development Consultant

An immigrant business woman, Delila has more than thirty years’ experience working with homeless families, immigrants, and incarcerated people in the Inland Empire. She is the founder of Demi Cocina, a small business promoting healthy food choices for Latinx families. She and Silvia co-designed this course curriculum during a Business Academy at the Camara de Comercio Hispana de Pomona and have delivered it seven business courses through SMG Business Services. Delila has served on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Business Women in the Inland Empire, and was Vice President in 2017.

Registration Information

For more information contact Hilda Cruz:
909.736.0892 | hcruz@im4humanintegrity.org

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NEAT Stories

Local Leadership during COVID: Gregorio’s Story

Like so many immigrants in the community, Gregorio found himself without work when COVID-19 hit. His NEAT team from Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto (UUCPA) asked their congregation to offer him work opportunities until his regular work resumed. They also recorded Gregorio telling his story and shared parts of the video to introduce him to the congregation during the minister’s sermon on the root causes of climate change on immigration. He shared the effect on his family of drought and severe storms in Central America caused by climate disruption, and the forced need to migrate to survive.

Since Gregorio and his daughter live in an RV, the team also supported Gregorio by joining with community groups to pressure the City to open a designated Safe Parking area. The City finally opened such a place, and Gregorio was among the first to be able to move there. This way, he no longer has to move his vehicle every 72-hours to avoid $100 fines. He also acquired solar panels, so they now have electricity to operate the microwave and the refrigerator in the RV.

Gregorio has taken on a leadership role with the Reach Potential Movement, distributing food donations to fellow RV residents in the Safe Parking area. He was even featured in a San Jose Mercury News article.

This is what accompaniment is all about: working with recently arrived immigrants to lift up their stories and connect them to resources, so that they, in turn, can accompany those around them.

Gregorio distributing donations during COVID to his community living in R.V.’s
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