One Word at a Time: Peace Literacy in El Salvador

Jan 16th, 2018 | By | Category: BLTN Global, BLTN International, Winter 2018
The Andover Bread Loaf Peace Literacy Network’s tradition of going global with writing workshops landed with full creative force in El Salvador this summer. The Peace Literacy Network is inspired by the Andover Bread Loaf model of democratic, participatory expression as personal and professional development. Here are excerpts, taken from the project blog at, from three participants: Jennifer Correas, Amaryllis Lopez, and Rex Lee Jim. For a collection of Bread Loaf Teacher Network global endeavors over the years, follow this link.

 One Word at a Time

Jennifer Correas, a Bread Loaf student, an Andover Bread Loaf alumna, and the director of Soy Autor, part of the international advocacy group, ConTextos, shares her reflections on the August workshop. Jennifer was featured in the October episode of BreadCast.

Good Afternoon,

I arrived in El Salvador on a Saturday three weeks ago after a summer of reading, writing, and living in Oxford. My summer was life changing . . . The experience of independent work allowed me to find myself learning things I thought I knew, and, more importantly, feeling the awe of discovering completely new paths of literature entangled with human life.
Two days after I arrived, the Bread Loaf conference started. Rich (Gorham) and I dearly kept remembering how we created the first draft of the conference in the Barn in Vermont. We sat on those colorful chairs and thought, talked and talked, and imagined how it would be. During the week, we glanced at each other in conspiracy and in gratitude.
For a week, we wrote, read, and became a community of writers. We took writing to Morazán where the wounds of the civil war are still so fresh that they bleed very often. It was not just a day of workshops; it was a day to speak our truth and inspire teachers to believe in the power of love and community, which, in the end, will be the few things that remain.
There are next steps. The Bread Loaf Conference is now part of ConTextos’s DNA. There are more workshops to come for our teachers, more days at the school to work with students. There are more opportunities to be writers and poets. There will be more opportunities for us to witness them. Many more will happen in the intimacy of the classroom and homes. There will be another conference next year. And the next. And the next.
Thank you to all of you, who are supporters, mentors, ears, eyes, colleagues, teachers, and most of all friends, who believe we can create a better world to live in now, one word at a time.
With deep gratitude,
Jennifer Correas

Amaryllis’ Story

The following excerpt is from Amaryllis Lopez’s blog post, the full text of which may be found on the ABL/ConTextos 2017 blog.

Amaryllis Lopez, Assistant Director of Andover Bread Loaf and Steering Committee leader for the BLTN NextGen Leadership Network, is a sophomore at Bridgewater State College in Massachusetts.

Monday, August 7

Today we spent the day at Ingeniero Guillermo Borja Nathan in Apopa. I learned that schools in El Salvador usually work in two shifts, one in the morning from about 7-12 a.m. and the other from 1-5 p.m. Since they had last week off for vacation, they began school today and opened with a civic act. This act included their national anthem, pledge, a mini talent show, and awards for poetry, vocals, and art. We spent the day observing classrooms. I had an 8th grade class for the whole day. The kids in the first session were very shy. But during lunch, a group of 9th grade kids invited me to their table. Dennis (pictured on the right) was my first friend on campus. He won first place in the school’s poetry contest! We communicated through broken English and Spanish, and the glue that held these stories together was our love for poetry and music. Did I mention that he raps, too? He even got me to sing with him during lunch. They asked me about where I’m from, how old I am, etc.; they got to know me, and I got to know them. I showed them pictures of my boyfriend, family, and friends . . . I felt as if I was catching up with old friends. I asked them about their feelings towards school and what their plans were after graduation. Before I knew it, time was up, the first shift of school was over, and I had to say goodbye to my friends. The second shift brought on a new vibe. The students seemed to be more outgoing. A group of girls came up to me before school had even started and asked me who I was and where I came from. Their friendly smiles made me feel more at ease. They all wanted a picture and so came one of my favorite pictures of the whole trip. Five minutes after meeting we all had a recuerdo we could hold onto forever. After their civic act, where Daniela and her friends performed a funny parody of a typical class, they came up to me and showered me with so much love. They wanted me to follow them the whole day; sadly, I couldn’t but did meet up with
them whenever we had breaks. They asked lots of similar questions like the first group did. They were really fascinated by my hair and asked lots of questions about it. I told them about my curly hair journey and routine. We talked a lot about societal pressures that we feel and ways that we’ve grown to love ourselves, including the good and the bad days. They were really curious about the kinds of music I listen to and dance moves as well. We got a cup, put my Spanish playlist on shuffle, and went straight to dancing. The whole classroom was filled with smiles, dancing, and the voice of Romeo Santos in the background. I didn’t realize it, but, at the time, I actually had to be in a meeting in the next room to talk about how to day went with ABL and ConTextos. At this point, the whole class was teaching me how to dance cumbia . . . the steps were pretty confusing . . . but I promised them that I’d go back home and practice, and when I return in the future, I’d be a pro. I didn’t want to leave; the party was just getting started.

An article in the Andover Bread Loaf Fall Newsletter highlights the role of Amaryllis Lopez, ABL Co-Director and BLTN NextGen Youth Leader in the Summer 2017 Peace Literacy Network gathering in El Salvador and Guatemala. Click on the image to access the full ABL Newsletter.

Rex Lee Jim (BLSE 2001) with Ceci Lewis (BLSE 1996) during the 2016 “Stories Walking” indigenous writers’ workshop in Costa Rica. An accomplished poet, former Vice President of the Navajo Nation, and mentor for La Casa Roja, BLTN NextGen Leadership Network Navajo social action team, Rex shares the Andover Bread Loaf El Salvador and ConTextos team’s participatory workshop leadership style with pieces developed in these workshops.

Writing Out of Silence

Rex Lee Jim’s complete set of writings created during the El Salvador conference is on the ABL/Contextos El Salvador blog.
A.  Writing Out of Silence Writings (Sit in silence with eyes closed for seven minutes.  Then write a poem, a paragraph, etc. out of what you hear and feel.)

1.  The Question of a Fifth Grade Girl in Borja

I celebrate the question of
a fifth grade girl, in Borja
So what happens to the other 60?
upon learning that only 20/80=10/40=5/20=1/4, one of 4 graduating students
go on to college, and dare we even ask of
the 20 how many actually graduate?
fraction learning is no longer memorizing
it becomes
exploring minds, discovering minds, challenging minds
childlike thinking that
delight in simple answers yet
like still water, it begins to carve deeply
the destiny of a nation,
fraction means nation building
I feel questions
lying dormant in
the satisfaction of my guts
begin to surge through me,
wanting to explode
as I’m sure is the sleeping volcano across
the road, and
with such danger lying in such beauty
I challenge myself with ?s that could
transform seething lava
into heated water;
create black lava into hearths, homes;
transmute my dangling arms
into embracing arms,
embracing smiling children
I learn that when you dive into the depth of the earth
and swim in lava,
you can surface anywhere on earth
and be at home,
that when you live at the core of humanity
you are at home with any heart, anywhere
in the world

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