Teosinte Today

Click the following links for a four-part series of profiles of villagers published in the Arlington Advocate in August, 2008.

Democracy – Dramatic and Humble (8.7.08)

A Spiritual Relationship (8.14.08)

Working Toward a Different Life (8.21.08)

‘They Must Carry On’ (8.28.08)


On February 14, 1992, the Salvadoran Peace Accords were signed in Chapultepec, Mexico. However, true peace and security have not come to El Salvador. Salvadorans continue to struggle with a poverty rate of over 50%, political corruption, urban violence, an exodus of youth to the United States for employment, and the legacy of wartime violence that has profoundly touched every family.El Salvador remains a divided country with half of the population living below the poverty line, and an extreme concentration of wealth, media ownership and political power in a small percentage of the population. Due to the lack of job opportunities, more than a quarter of the Salvadoran population has emigrated to the United States, many without documentation. Money sent back to El Salvador by Salvadoran workers in the United States, called “remesas,” constitutes 17% of El Salvador’s gross net product – the single largest source of revenue. This is why it is said that El Salvador’s chief export is people.From the civil war until 2009, the center-right, conservative ARENA party ruled El Salvador.  On March 15, 2009, Mauricio Funes, a television figure, became the first president from the left-of-centerFMLN party elected in the history of El Salvador.   The  Funes government’s focus has been on decreasing drug and gang related violence and enacting social reforms to benefit poor Salvadorans.  Equally important is an effort to begin to heal the country from its divided past by investigating the previous governments alleged corruption and formally apologizing for the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero and other state sponsored human rights abuses during the war.

El Salvador is currently involved in a dispute with Pacific Rim, a Canadian silver and gold mining company.  Salvadoran villagers and environmentalists are opposed to the mining as they fear contamination of their drinking water supplies, the air quality and resulting health issues.  Local activists have been murdered and threatened as a result off their actions.  The legal issues are currently in arbitration with the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes.  Please link to http://www.stopesmining.org/j25/index.php to learn more about this important humanitarian and ecological battle.

Salvadoran youth who were imprisoned in Los Angeles for working illegally in the U.S. or petty crimes became involved in international gangs funneling drugs from Colombia. Upon deportation, these young people brought the gangs back to their country, where they found ready access to weapons and relentless unemployment and poverty. El Salvador’s capital city, San Salvador now has one of the highest homicide rates in the hemisphere, due to gang warfare and other street violence.

The Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA)
The Central America Free Trade Agreement, renamed DR-CAFTA after the Dominican Republic joined it, was approved by the U.S. government in August, 2005. El Salvador was the first Central American country to ratify it. Because it was strongly opposed by poor Salvadorans, it was passed via what Salvadorans call a “middle-of-the-night decision,” at 3:00 AM on the last day of the legislative session. The president of the Salvadoran congress stated to reporters that neither he nor any other member of congress had actually read the legislation.
According to Dr. Raul Moreno, Professor of Economics at the University of El Salvador, DR-CAFTA has negatively affected most of the Salvadoran population. For example, DR-CAFTA obligates El Salvador to give U.S. agricultural producers the same treatment as its domestic producers. However, the U.S. government subsidizes its producers. Thus, in its first year of implementation, U.S. rice imports (heavily subsidized by the U.S.) bankrupted Salvadoran rice production.

Teosinte Today

Today Teosinte is a village of approximately 340 people located in the mountainous region of northern El Salvador, in the province of Chalatenango.
Like those who live in other villages resettled by refugees of the Salvadoran War, the people of Teosinte are mostly subsistence farmers.  The villagers are united by their experience during the Civil War and their incredible history of loss, tragedy, survival and hope for the future.  Teosinte is remote, with little infrastructure and few employment opportunities. However, its remoteness also protects it from the urban violence found in the capital San Salvador.
The village is run by democratically-elected town council, the Directiva. There is a health clinic, which was donated by a visiting Belgian physician  with a nurse available during the week and a doctor who visits 2x per month.  Available medicines are limited. Until recently the lay midwife assisted with the birth of all the babies in the village and surrounding area since the repopulation, achieving zero infant and maternal mortality. With assistance from San Sebastian Parish in Wauwatosa, WI, the village is rebuilding its church which was destroyed during the war.
The beautiful Teosinte river runs through the center of town and is a popular place to play, bathe and do laundry.  In the rainy season the water runs deep and fast and in the dry season it is reduced to a stream or dries up completely.  As the town gets its water from the river, water is scarce during the dry season.  Teosinte has had a plan in place to fix this water problem but has run into years of resistance from the local authorities.

Teosinte has a water purification system to provide clean water to all families.  The town has electricity, phone service and a few cars.  It does not have internet service.
Homes are simple and made of cinderblocks or corrugated tin with  a large covered patio where most daily activities take place.  Food is cooked on outdoor wood fires and over gas stoves.  The majority of families have out houses.  Laundry is done in large communal cement basins or the river and hung to dry on tree branches, rope or the edges of the roofs.  Most families have televisions and radios, many have cell phones.


Surrounding the town are the milpas, or crop fields, that each family tends.  As villagers are primarily subsistence farmers,  they eat what they grow.  Primary crops are corn, rice, beans, melon,  sugar cane, vegetables and maicillo (a grain used to feed chickens).

Tortillas, made by hand and cooked over a wood fire on a metal pan called a comal, are eaten with every meal.  Women and children gather at 5:30 every morning to grind the day’s corn for tortillas.  A typical meal consists of red beans and rice, homemade cheese, and of course, a tortilla.  Pupusas, a thicker tortilla stuffed with cheese and beans, are also served as are eggs and occasional meat.

The three room town school has three dedicated teachers, all of whom became self-taught teachers during the war, but now have completed teaching degrees. Like many of their peers in other repopulated villages, they were schoolchildren of 14, 15, or 16 years old when they began teaching, and attended classes themselves in the morning and teaching younger children in the afternoon.
Children go to school for half of the day and two grades are combined into one classroom.  The rest of the day is spent playing, doing homework, working in the fields and helping out at home.

Teosinte’s 3 room school nestled in the mountains

As Teosinte does not have a high school, students who wish to graduate high school must continue their studies in one of the neighbor communities of Tejutla or San Francisco Morazán.  These students must find the means to pay for tuition, uniforms, school supplies, and transportation.
The Arlington-Teosinte Sister City Project is currently raising funds to provide Teosinte students with scholarships so that they can attend high school and university. Teosinte is very proud that several of its young people are recent college graduates and pursuing careers in fields such as nursing, computer sciences, physical education, psychology and business.

 High school and college scholarship students










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