By Daniela Ojeda
You’re probably wondering…who is this girl writing an article about this school, and why? My name is Daniela Ojeda and I am one of those few eighteen years old who wants to see earth become a better place and who demands change for the good of all people. I found out a little more about myself by joining The Youth Leadership Program with Homies Unidos during the summer. This program changed my life in so little time. I got to learn about myself, my rights, my weaknesses, my strengths, but most importantly, issues that are happening in the United States, in Latin America and across the globe.
It got my attention when Alex Sanchez, the Executive Director of Homies Unidos, brought up the School of the Americas. The first thing I did was google it as an image. When I scrolled down, I thought to myself that this school was any typical school that offers English, Math, Science and History. Little did I know that this school was a military training school for Latin American soldiers. My mind exploded and immediately these questions popped out, “WHY IN THE WORLD DOES THIS SCHOOL EXIST?” “WHY ISN’T IT CLOSED DOWN ALREADY?” I was, and still am upset that something like this exists! This all adds up to why Latin Americans migrate here to the United States. They run away from torture, rape, and abduction. For example, Maria Guardado is a Salvadoran female activist who was tortured and left for dead by trained soldiers from the School of the Americas. I have met Maria, and she doesn’t want to talk about this school because it brings pictures she doesn’t want to remember. She is a victim of torture who keeps on fighting and will not give up.
This year was the 25th Anniversary of the SOA Watch and I had the privilege to attend the Vigil in front of the fences of this school. My overall reaction remained the same. I was and still am upset that this school remains open. Even though I didn’t know much about it, it affected me greatly, because I couldn’t believe that my brothers and sisters are being tortured.
The Vigil/Protest to Close the SOA included many workshops, a Vigil at the Stewart Immigrant Detention Center & speakers and musicians from here and Latin America. I was able to attend the WHINSEC Board of Visitors meeting at the School of the Americas/WHINSEC.Throughout the entire meeting all I heard were positive facts about the school and how it benefits the people, but the public had the opportunity to share their point of view of this school and share some negative facts, and how it affects people, now and in the past. It left the board officers thinking. Once the meeting was over we walked out the front entrance and I couldn’t believe that I had entered such a cruel place that violates human rights. One of my comrades that was there with us, stood up and used his first amendment right. He said to the soldiers standing there, “Why can’t you be a firefighter or something else?” One of the soldiers responded and said, “I’d rather learn how to shoot people in the face.” This shattered my heart and I couldn’t believe that my ears heard such a thing. This I will never forget. My overall experience motivated me to keep going back to Fort Benning, Georgia, and to inform people about this school that is hurting our brothers and sisters in Latin America. Close down the SOA/WHINSEC! Just the fact that the name of the school has the word “America” in it makes me think…is this what America looks like? LET’S CLOSE DOWN THE SCHOOL OF THE ASSASSINS/ WHINSEC!!
For more information on the SOA/WHINSEC: soaw.org
Close The “School Of The Assassins”/WHINSEC
By Daniela Ojeda