Iglesias Participates in Immersion Trip to El Salvador

USF faculty and staff visit a hospital in El Salvador during an immersion trip to raise awareness about the university's social justice mission.

Led by Mike Duffy, director of the Joan and Ralph Lane Center for Catholic Studies and Social Thought, 10 faculty and staff from university departments as varied as residence life, politics, and law met with Salvadoran elected officials, clergy, and leaders of the University of Central America.

The trip to the city of San Salvador and surrounding suburbs, where USF has organized study and immersion trips with various social justice programs supporting the poorest of the poor since 1998, was intended to highlight the role that foreign trips play in expanding USF students' worldview and cultural appreciation.

One of the group's first stops was at Hospitalito La Divina Providencia, where Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador was assassinated in March 1980. Archbishop Romero, after whom a USF student leadership award is named, was well known for speaking out against economic injustice and military repression in El Salvador leading up to the country's civil war.

The itinerary for the weeklong trip included meeting with El Salvador Minister of Labor Victoria de Aviles, El Salvador Minister of Finance Hector Dada, and sweatshop workers, as well as touring a hospital, Catholic school, women's support group, and a squatter community on the outskirts of San Salvador. Iglesias also presented on the selection process of supreme court justices in the United States and El Salvador to the Fundacion Salvadorena para el Desarrollo Economico y Social (Salvadoran Foundation for Economic and Social Development).

The visit was similar in purpose to previous immersions organized by USF President Stephen A. Privett, S.J. in 2007 and 2008 for USF trustees, vice presidents, and deans. The intent is to concentrate USF's administrators, faculty, and staff on the university's mission of educating students to create a more humane and just world by introducing them to those who live vastly different lives than most Americans.

"The stories of the El Salvadoran people put my own privileged life in sharp and sometimes painful relief," Iglesias said. "I found myself surprised at their capacity for hope. Getting to know these people so intimately inspired in me a desire to use my own privilege in solidarity with them."