Music was a tool in the Grand Rapids Central America Solidarity Movement

Last week we posted a piece about how political cartoons were used as a means to raise Amandlaawareness about the struggle for justice in Central America in the 1980s & 90s. 

This week we draw attention to how music played a role in the same struggle.

Music has always been part of freedom movements, whether it was the spirituals that slaves sang to give them hope, the folk music of Joe Hill that mobilized workers or the role that music played in the anti-Apartheid struggle in South Africa that is so vividly depicted in the documentary film, Amandla: A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony.

The Central American Solidarity Movement was no different, with music that emanated from Central America that inspired the solidarity movement in the US or the music of local artists that wanted to contribute to movement in every community.

In Grand Rapids, there were numerous occasions where music was a major mechanism for creating solidarity with the struggles for justice in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala. Often music was woven into an educational event or religious ceremony honoring the people of Central America.

However, music was also used as a fundraising tool, to financially support various organizations and political movements in Central America.

In 1991, just months before the January 1992 ceasefire that ended a decade-long counterinsurgency war in Central America, people involved in the Central America Solidarity movement organized a concert at Fountain Street Church in order to raise money for the insurgent movement in El Salvador known as the FMLN.

FMLN Concert

The FMLN (Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front) was the political and military framework for the democratic resistance movement in El Salvador, since the late 1970s. The FMLN had developed a sophisticated insurgency strategy that allowed the to control many parts of the country by the late 1980s. The FMLN was such a formidable movement that the US-financed Salvadoran Army could not defeat them.

The fundraising concert you can see in the pictures in this posting featured a Grand Rapids band called Friends of Durruti. (Durruti was a Spanish Anarchist) The concert not only provided a forum for people to donate to the cause, it provided a great opportunity to educate people about the freedom struggle in El Salvador.

Some of the people involved in organizing the concert went to El Salvador and just happened to be there during the cease-fire agreement. Within days, hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans poured into the streets for a day-long celebration, which featured musicians from all over Latin America. People danced and wept together until the sun came up and the people from Grand Rapids who were in attendance saw just how powerful music and solidarity can be in the struggle for justice.

FMLN Concert 1

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1 Response to Music was a tool in the Grand Rapids Central America Solidarity Movement

  1. Guillermo Jokisch says:

    If You lived there those years You will understand many things as I did
    It was both sides fault. The ones that owed banks and big
    industries, the US companies based in El Salvador and the
    FMLN that wanted to rule thru force
    It is not easy just to write something if You were not there
    You had to have live those days. It will be not enough place here to make more
    comments about it. We will have to sit and talk. Both sides were
    Terrible and the population was in between.


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