Community Voices: Oscar Ernesto Vasquez Alas

The view from Panchimalco, El Salvador

by Lucas Wolf, Assistant International Director

Armando Hernandez, Program Director of our local counterpart Árboles y Agua para el Pueblo (AAP), and I visited Panchimalco on my last day of a productive and informative first visit (with TWP) to our El Salvador projects. The first thing that stands out about Panchimalco is how close it is to San Salvador. Armando picked me up in the early morning and we were out of the truck and walking the streets on the hunt for coffee within 30 minutes.

By comparison, the drive out to Árboles y Agua para el Pueblo´s main base of operations, El Porvenir, takes upwards of 75 minutes depending on the traffic. The shorter journey was a nice change of pace and it´s worth mentioning that Panchimalco is literally a breath of fresh air. It sits on the side of a lush mountainside and maintains a colonial air about it, mixed with significant indigenous influences.

Oscar (left) and Armando are working to improve the environment and livelihoods in Panchimalco.
Oscar (left) and Armando are working to improve the environment and livelihoods in Panchimalco.

On a brief walk to the park we took in a newly constructed sculpture garden and Oscar Ernesto Vasquez Alas, an official with the Environmental Office of the Municipality of Panchimalco, informed us that one of the colonial buildings had been turned into a language center where Nahuatl classes are provided for about 50 community members. The quest to keep indigenous languages alive and well is always impressive and speaks highly to Panchimalco´s strong emphasis on arts and culture.

“We have invested in the polideportivo (a youth sports complex), a vegetable garden and greenhouse, a water park with three pools, and we have also increased our commitment to the arts and culture. Additionally, we continue to raise awareness of the importance of our forests and watershed. This reforestation campaign day helps further that movement. These types of investments have actually helped to increase security in the main urban area of our town and the youth are now more optimistic about possibilities here.”  – Oscar Ernesto Vasquez Alas

AAP and TWP provided 100 of the cacao trees for the reforestation campaign and several dozen cashew trees for shade around the fields and peripheral areas of the water park that was recently constructed. Through these types of events, Armando hopes to cultivate a stronger working relationship with Panchimalco, as he looks to expand the AAP presence into other areas of El Salvador.

community tree planting day El Salvador
Community tree planting days bring local people together to care for the environment.

Partnerships between TWP, AAP, and local governments are important to our conservation work in Central America, providing a model for collaboration and innovation. Stay tuned for updates from El Salvador as we expand to other regions of the country!

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Trees, Water & People is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to developing sustainable community-based conservation solutions.

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