El Salvador: María Esperanza Ortega

My dream is that one day, in spite of the tiredness, we shall be able to achieve much more than what was achieved through armed conflict.

— María Esperanza Ortega

María Esperanza Ortega has been working half her life for human rights. For 12 of those years, she fought against death during the armed conflict that devastated her country, El Salvador. Her task was to organize groups of civilians trapped in the war zones. An untiring leader, her work continues today, in other directions.

María Esperanza's day begins when the last stars are still in the sky, just before dawn. She gets up and makes breakfast for her husband. He has to go to the fields to work, cultivating the land. When he leaves, she takes care of the children and does the housework. “We had eight children, but three of them died in the war. Two died as combatants and one girl died of hunger.” The war she speaks about is the one that devastated her country, El Salvador, for more than a decade. But her daily work has hardly begun. Soon, she leaves her housework and begins her other work, the work she does in the community. María Esperanza Ortega has been working for more than 25 years in the Coordination for Communities and Repopulation. She also gives her support to the apostolic team of the Catholic Church and she is a promoter of physiotherapy in the Association of the War Victims of El Salvador (Alges). “The struggle is one of the most important weapons in reaching equality; and solidarity and equality are peace.” With her dark hair tied up in a plait, her dark eyes and her skin tanned by the implacable sun of her country, María Esperanza (51) is an exact reflection of her people. She was born in the El Sitio canton, in the Arcatao municipality, in the administrative district of Chalatenango, in the Northern zone of El Salvador. She has always lived in the countryside and has no intention of leaving it: “I like to see the farmers on their horses, with their sandals and their earthenware jugs filled with water.” She is a simple, humble woman with an amazing strength of purpose: “I may not be so strong, but I am full of such a big faith that it makes me keep going.” And she moves forward, always forward.

Coordination for Communities and Repopulation Association of the War Victims of El Salvador