John Chilembwe: a new statue celebrates Malawi Pan-Africanist the world forgot

Samson Kambalu is a Malawian conceptual artist, writer and academic, whose sculpture Antelope was installed on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square in London in September 2022. The Fourth Plinth was originally designed for a large scale equestrian statue of a British monarch but is now reserved for a contemporary sculpture, chosen every two years. This is is the most significant public sculpture award in the UK. Antelope is a bronze sculpture depicting two figures: John Chilembwe, a Baptist preacher and Pan-Africanist who in 1915 led the first uprising against the British occupation and colonial rule of Malawi (then Nyasaland), and his friend, a British missionary named John Chorley. Its sheer scale and subject matter provide a powerful counterpoint to the imperial iconography of Trafalgar Square. Historian Susan Williams discusses the work with Kambalu.

How did you arrive at the choice of Chilembwe?

Chilembwe’s photograph from 1914 chose me. When I moved to Oxford to pick up a professorship at Ruskin School of Art, the first thing I did was to visit Weston Library, where British colonial bureaucrats deposited documentation of their lives in the colonies. The Malawi-related archives produced the mysterious photograph of Reverend John Chilembwe, of Providence Industrial Mission, wearing a white hat, standing next to a white man, John Chorley, of Zambezi Industrial Mission.

I had wondered why Reverend Chilembwe drew attention to his hat. He is wearing it sideways for effect. It turns out that Africans were forbidden to wear hats in the presence of white people during colonial times, and Chilembwe had created this photograph at the opening of his church as an act of defiance, with support from his friend. Africans were also forbidden to run a mission. Chilembwe would be killed months later, in an uprising against colonial injustices.

When the London Mayor’s office got in touch asking me to propose for the Fourth Plinth, I had the photograph as wallpaper on my phone. I immediately decided that I would propose a work based on the photograph. For me, it is his killing by colonial police months later that dictated the final look of the sculpture. Chilembwe looms over his white friend like a ghost.

Why is it called Antelope?

Chilembwe’s name means “antelope”. It alludes not only to the animal, but also to the Chewa principal mask, Kasiya Maliro, a womb disguised as an antelope. For the Chewa people of Malawi, it’s a symbol of radical generosity. Chilembwe’s photograph very much recalls aspects of Nyau masking, a Chewa secret society marked by prodigious gift giving through play, the Gule Wamkulu. Often transgressive, their purpose is to speak truth to power. Chilembwe hangs on to his African heritage even as he steps forward as a modern Malawian.

Malawi society, where I’m from, is heavily inspired by masking, and Nyau masking is all about critical thinking. When the masks come out from their secretive workshops (or dambwes) in the ancestral graveyards, received knowledge is questioned in unorthodox performances and prodigious gifts, opening up new ways of looking at the world.

Antelope shares Trafalgar Square with other statues which celebrate Britain’s imperial and military conquests, such as Nelson’s Column. The iconography of Antelope might be anti-imperialist, but it is also very much a piece of British history.

What remains of Chilembwe’s memory?

Chilembwe features on Malawi’s banknotes and he is remembered in a public holiday every year on 15 January – Chilembwe Day. But as I grew up in Malawi, the then President for Life, Hastings Kamuzu Banda, rendered Chilembwe as a peripheral figure in the fight for Malawi’s independence.

A revisiting of Chilembwe during the research for this sculpture revealed to me a man who was much more critical to the birth of Malawi as a nation. He was the first Malawian to resist colonial rule beyond tribal lines.

Why does this work of art matter today?

The statue will remain on the Fourth Plinth for two years. After that I think it would look good at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC. Chilembwe was sponsored by many black churches in America, and taking this sculpture to America after its stay on Trafalgar Square would be Chilembwe returning the gift of liberty, freedom, to the American people. I’d like a copy too in Malawi, and another copy in Britain, and in Europe.

Chilembwe, who trained as a Baptist minister in the US before returning to Nyasaland in 1901, is believed to have influenced Pan-Africanists such as Marcus Garvey. But whereas they are widely known, Chilembwe has remained an obscure figure outside Malawi. I think Antelope will change this.

I hope we can now begin to detail the African colonial experience beyond generalisations of African or black.


Taking Humanitarianism Hostage – the Case of Afghanistan & Multilateral Organisations

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Women receive food rations at a food distribution site in Herat, Afghanistan. Credit: UNICEF/Sayed Bidel

NEW YORK, Jan 12 2023 (IPS) – Can you imagine what it would be like if women were simply not allowed to step outside of their homes, let alone to work for a living? When women choose to do so, and they can afford it, then it is a matter of choice. When women mostly cannot, as is the case in Afghanistan now, not only is half the population imprisoned, but children go hungry, and communities sink deeper into poverty.

World Bank data (as incomplete as it is), indicates that the average number of female-headed households (i.e. households where women are the primary – if not the only – breadwinners), is around 25%.

What that means is, that on average, a quarter of all households around the world depend on women earning an income. Children, families, communities, and nations –depend on women’s work, to the tune of a quarter of their labour force.

Economists are still pointing to the obvious challenges of counting female labour, which often lies disproportionately on the frontiers of the formal economy, such that women continue to serve as reserve armies of labour and frontline workers during industrialization.

Economists who work to document these specificities, also point out that as soon as these frontiers expand or change, women are expelled or relegated to the shadows of the informal economy and piece-rate labour, identifying this as an all too frequent failure to recognize the importance of the kind of work many women engage in, which both keeps an economy running, and enables its expansion and growth.

The Covid-19 Pandemic should have resulted in a clear realisation that all hands are necessary on deck, with so many women actually needed as first responders–the backbone of the public health crisis – everywhere in the world.

As economies take a nosedive and the realities of recession hit many of us, all economies need to be kept running, if not to expand and grow.

And beyond these very real challenges to counting women’s work – and making that work count – there is another very critical reality: culture. Lest we think only of the vagaries of women who take over “men’s jobs” (whatever that means in today’s world), we need to stop being blind to the fact that women are needed to serve other women.

In fact, in many parts of the world, including the supposedly liberal and ‘egalitarian’ Western world, many women still prefer to receive life-saving direct services from other women – in public health, in sanitation, in all levels of education, in nutritional spaces, and many, many others.

Now let us pause a moment and consider humanitarian disaster zones, where women and girls often need to be cared for – and this can only be done by and through other women.

Then let us envision a reality one step further – let’s call it a socially conservative country, which is facing humanitarian disaster, and is heavily dependent on international organisations (governmental and non- governmental) for the necessary humanitarian support.

How is it conceivable that in such a context, women can be excluded from serving? And yet this is precisely what the Taliban have decreed on December 24, when it barred women from working in national and international NGOs. And this is after they banned women from higher education.

Many international NGOs halted their work in Afghanistan, explaining that they cannot work without their women staff – as a matter of principle, but also as a question of practical necessity. Yet, the United Nations – the premier multilateral entity – continues to see how they could compromise with the Taliban rule, for the sake of ‘the greater good – real humanitarian needs’.

Thank goodness they are letting the UN continue to work with their women employees, runs one way of thinking. We will not fail to deliver humanitarian needs, runs another UN way of thinking.

Of course, humanitarian needs are essential to human survival – and thus, should never be held hostage. But why is the United Nations being accountable for humanitarian needs only?

Meanwhile, the Taliban claim that these edicts about womens’ work and education are a matter of religious propriety, a claim which, as of this moment, is not strongly challenged by another multilateral entity – the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), encompassing 56 governments and members of the United Nations.

While individual governments have spoken out, this multilateral entity has remained relatively silent on the Islamic justice of such a decree. Is it because this multilateral religious entity sees no need to speak to humanitarian needs?

Or is it because it sees no value to hard economic realities where women’s agency plays a central role? Or perhaps it is because there is no unanimity on the Islamic justification behind such decrees?

In light of this hostage-taking of humanitarian relief efforts, a group of women of faith leaders, have come together to ask some simple questions of the two multilateral entities involved. They have sent a letter with over 150 international NGO sign ons.

Multilateralism is supposed to be the guarantor of all human rights and dignity, for all people, at all times. But as governmental regimes weaken, so do traditional multilateral entities heavily reliant on those governments. Time for community based transnational networks based on intergenerational, multicultural, gender sensitive leaders.

Rev Dr Chloe Bryer is Executive Director, Interfaith Center of New York; Prof Azza Karam is Secretary General, Religions for Peace; Ruth Messinger is Social Justice Consultant, Jewish Theological Seminary; and Negina Yari is Country Director, Afghans4Tomorrow

IPS UN Bureau


African-American Diaspora Engagement at the Core of U.S.-African Relations in Multipolar World

The U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit held in Washington has placed African-American diaspora at the core for strengthening multifaceted  relations with Africa. The White House and African leaders have also stressed the importance of Africa’s voices, advocated for incorporating professional Africans distinctively within the institutional structures to deal with various bilateral issues and for making further inroads into Africa.

Over the years, African leaders have been engaging with their diaspora, especially those excelling in sports, academia, business, science, technology, engineering and other significant fields that the continent needs to optimize its diverse potentials and to meet development priorities. These professionals primarily leverage into various sectors, act as bridges between the United States and Africa.

As explicitly reiterated at the mid-December African leaders’ gathering, the overarching message was to focus on “deepening and expanding the long-term U.S.-Africa partnership and advancing shared priorities, amplifying African voices to collaboratively meet this era’s defining challenges.”

Corporate Council on Africa is the leading U.S. business association focused on connecting business interests between the United States and Africa. The United States has helped close more than 800 two-way trade and investment deals across 47 African countries for a total estimated value of over $18 billion, and the American private sector has closed investment deals in the continent valued at $8.6 billion since 2021, the White House said.

The United States is not only the undisputed leader of the free world, but also home to the most dynamic African diaspora. The African diaspora ranks amongst the most educated immigrant group and is found excelling and making invaluable contributions in all sectors of life-business, medicine, healthcare, engineering, transportation and more. The contribution of the African diaspora is not negligible, we see more of them appointed to senior government positions by President Biden like Wally Adeyemo, US Deputy Treasury Secretary, and Dr John Nkengasong Global AIDS Coordinator and Special Representative for Health Diplomacy.

Beyond engagement with Biden administration, African leaders express the vision, dynamism and humility to engage with their diaspora. They are excelling in sports, academia, business, science, technology, engineering and all those other sectors that the continent needs to beef up to optimize its potential and meet development priorities. In addition, it is in Africa’s high interest to embrace them.

Since its inception more than two decades ago, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) has offered Africans the opportunity to engage and establish business networks from Africa to the United States and vice versa. It has been one surest way working towards an integrated relations, and in uplifting relations unto a higher appreciable stage.

Speaking at a U.S. Export-Import Bank conference, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai told the gathering there that they needed more investment in addition to market access. The duty-free access for nearly 40 African countries has boosted development, fostered more equitable and sustainable growth in Africa.

The AGOA offered promise as a “stepping stone to address regional and global challenges,” especially with Africa’s young and entrepreneurial population. The future is Africa, and engaging with this continent is the key to prosperity for all of us,” Tai said.

According to World Bank Statistics, remittance inflows to sub-Saharan Africa soared 14.1 percent to $49 billion in 2021 following an 8.1 percent decline in the previous year due coronavirus pandemic. Beyond remittances, Africa stands to benefit largely from the input of its diaspora considered as progressive in the United States.

Welcoming African entrepreneurs, Africa-American and African leaders for a reception, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States was guided by the principle of close overwhelming partnership with Africa.

“We can’t solve any of the really big challenges we face if we don’t work together. So it’s about what we can do with African nations and its people,” Blinken said. “We welcome all other members of the international community, including the United States, to join us in the global efforts to help Africa.”

In featuring prominently integrative aspects and cultural familiarity within the African diaspora, New York Mayor Eric Adams said that the success of African Americans showed the need for Africans to “walk differently.”

On disapora came Greg Meeks, the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The main strategy was rooted in one key word – partnership – and in recognition of shared priorities and working together. There were also many African and American youth leaders, students in the United States and Africa who are tuning in virtually – most spoke vividly on strengthening the bonds between African countries and the United States.

The strategy recognizes the immense role that the African diaspora members and young people will play in shaping and strengthening that partnership. One young leader, who has mobilized climate finance to make the water sector more resilient in South Africa, is now sharing the lessons that she learned at a U.S. government agency. Another, fresh off her experience fighting infectious disease in Malawi, was sharing her insights with nonprofits and businesses in the United States. 

Others were expanding educational opportunities for children, conducting environmental research, creating job opportunities for youth in both African countries and the United States, and demonstrating exactly why the diaspora is such an unparalleled asset for people on both continents.  It’s these interconnections, the back and forth, and the benefits that flow to Africa and the United States alike that is so incredibly powerful.

The United States practically is committed to ensuring that young people continue to bring their talents and hard work to the tremendous benefit of people across the continent and to the benefit of people in the United States. The Times Higher Education index indicated that approximately 43,000 Africans have currently enrolled into and are studying in American universities.

In addition, Barack Obama started the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) which brings every year a group of young Africans to the White House. Until today, YALI continues to run various educational and training programs including short professional courses, conferences and seminars for Africans. It has a number of other economic development programs, like the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs program. Now, since its inception in 2019, this program has provided more than 5,400 women throughout Africa with the training and networks that they need to start and to scale small businesses.

Late December, additional investments were announced to make it easier for students to participate in exchange programs from African countries, to increase trade opportunities for members of the African diaspora, and to support African entrepreneurs and small businesses. Each of these investments is guided by one overarching goal: to continue building partnership in order to better address the shared challenges facing Africa.

The adopted strategy reflects diversity, its influence, and the ingenuity of its young people. There are also training programs to attract young African talents to research, tech-innovation and development in the United States. Those youth are a growing part of the continent’s population – and also the world’s. Today, more than 60 percent of Africa’s population is under the age of 25. 

By 2030, two in every five people on this planet will be African.  These rising generations are powering dynamic economic growth in their countries and far beyond.  2016 – just a few years ago – African startups raised $350 million dollars in investment; last year, they raised $5 billion in investment – and that’s a curve that’s going to keep going up and up and up.

An African-American Yvonne Orji once wrote that, “Nigeria made me.  America raised me.”  It is often said that one of America’s greatest strengths is cultural diversity – there are few greater testaments to that than the immense contributions of the African diaspora community.

The United States is investing in the infrastructure that provides the foundation for African entrepreneurship. That means creating more pathways for the free flow of ideas, of information, of investment, which in the 21st century requires one thing: digital connectivity.

Interesting to note that Africa has around twice as many internet users as the United States, yet the continent has only a fraction of our data center space.  What does that mean?  Slower, less reliable connectivity.  That’s why U.S. Development Finance Corporation is investing $300 million in building data centers across the continent – because there is the need for networks that can keep up with the lightening pace of new ideas.

Second, investing in rising enthusiastic leaders. Since President Barack Obama created the Young African Leaders Initiative, nearly 5,800 trailblazers from every country in sub-Saharan Africa have come to the United States for academic and leadership training – developing skills, career guidance, and education relationships that are going to last for a lifetime and to the benefit of their communities.

Many of the Mandela Washington Fellows are entrepreneurs, and has until today thousands of graduates. For example, Abel Hailegiorgis from Ethiopia has a company building bicycles and wheelchairs from bamboo, which is stronger than steel – sustaining the planet, supporting local farmers and local manufacturers. The forthcoming years will involve frequent exchanges directed at contributing substantially to the network of professionals from African countries.

After the U.S.-Africa leaders summit, the National Basketball Association (NBA) has signed agreements to open branches and further expand American sports across Africa. With its African headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2010, additional offices are planned in Dakar, Lagos, Accra, Nairobi and Cairo in 2023. The league is committed to expanding efforts to make the game of basketball and the NBA more accessible across the continent.

With the dynamic team headed by Amadou Gallo Fall, sports diplomacy and the Basketball Africa League will become a strong contender as a success story for its bridge-building role between the United States and Africa.

The biggest takeaway is to stage a world-class events in Africa, have the talents and certainly the fan interest especially now that the NBA and FIBA coming together to launch the Basketball Africa League. Amadou Gallo Fall, from a business standpoint, noted to continue drawing world-class partners who are interested in supporting the league because what they would be doing is bigger than basketball. The feedback is very tremendous, an indication that the future is extremely bright.

“The African Diaspora continues expressing high interest in engaging with the league. We want to be drivers of this positive social change. For us, basketball has been the catalyst and our work on the continent has been focused on building the capacity and empowering youth. We think by engaging with young people and inspiring young people, we are going to elevate their communities. We have already seen the increasing interest among the youth across Africa,” he underlined.

Sports and brands promotion are indivisible part of the game. The National Basketball Association (NBA) Africa and the Basketball Africa League (BAL) continue to attract world class marketing partners, including the BAL Foundational Partners Rwanda Development Board (RDB), NIKE, Jordan Brand, and Wilson, alongside NBA Africa’s recent collaborations with ESPN Africa, Afrosport, KFC Africa (Pan-Africa), Africell (Angola), Stanbic Bank (South Sudan), and Maven Developments (Egypt).

Perhaps that’s not all.  In September, the U.S. African Development Foundation teamed up with the Tony Elumelu Foundation to create a new program to provide financing, technical assistance, and mentorship to emerging young innovators in Africa. He recently launched another initiative to connect up-and-coming climate entrepreneurs with American companies.

Third, there is a program for fostering greater engagement by American companies. The U.S. private sector already invests more than $4 in Africa for every dollar that the government allocates to the region in foreign assistance – and it wants to do more. That’s the objective of the Office of Global Partnerships, which will take a U.S. private sector delegation to Ghana in February. It’s the goal of the Prosper Africa initiative – which is marshalling agencies from across the government to help more U.S. companies and inventors – investors to do business in Africa, and do it in a way that promotes inclusive growth – growth that’s sustainable for the planet.

Prosper Africa’s institutional investor delegation invests more than $85 million in an African fund that will provide financing to small businesses and entrepreneurs.

Through a partnership with Prosper Africa, Pierre’s company – Yolélé – is distributing fonio and other products made by small farmers in the region to markets in the United States. In a region where it’s getting harder to grow crops due to a warming climate, fonio’s deep roots make it virtually drought-resistant.  Now, in West Africa, it’s said that “Fonio never embarrasses the cook” which is good news.

Despite some negative criticisms, African leaders continue sourcing different kinds of economic assistance and support provided by the United States. It explicitly shows the United States remains an indispensable power and will, by and large, play its appreciable role in the emerging the new world order. It has the structures, mechanism, experience and confidence to influence the future.

The African diapora leaders are mostly western-oriented, support the global status quo, admire the incomparable never-failing practical soft-power of the United States and in turn, maintain long-term geopolitical interest with the West. Within the context of the geopolitical realities, the United States and its leadership still have strong sustainable political, economic and cultural ties with African countries.

President Joe Biden has signed an executive order for the creation of African Diaspora Advisory Council as part of the presidency. According reports, the post-summit large-scale projects and programs will be coordinated, monitored and implemented jointly by the president administration, the White House, State Dept of African Affairs and the African Diaspora Advisory Council. It will also engage non-government corporate business organizations such Africa House and the Corporate Council on Africa.

With emerging challenges and geopolitical changes in the multipolar world, it is certainly true that U.S.-Africa inter-connectivity has become more important as it opens new opportunities for building relationships, and this requires working closely together to deepen and fortify America’s strategic partnerships with African diaspora – partnership that has shaped the past, is shaping present, and will shape future multi-dimensional relations, in the interests of sustaining a meaningful stability between Africa and the United States.


Deportees Start Businesses to Overcome Unemployment in El Salvador

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Migration & Refugees

Oscar Sosa cooks roast chicken and pork on an artisanal grill set up outside his small restaurant, Comedor Espresso, in the eastern Salvadoran city of San Francisco Gotera. Like many of the returnees, especially from the United States, he set up his own business, given the unemployment he found on his return to El Salvador. More than 10,000 people were deported to this Central American country between January and August 2022. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Oscar Sosa cooks roast chicken and pork on an artisanal grill set up outside his small restaurant, Comedor Espresso, in the eastern Salvadoran city of San Francisco Gotera. Like many of the returnees, especially from the United States, he set up his own business, given the unemployment he found on his return to El Salvador. More than 10,000 people were deported to this Central American country between January and August 2022. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

SAN FRANCISCO GOTERA, El Salvador, Jan 10 2023 (IPS) – While grilling several portions of chicken and pork, Salvadoran cook Oscar Sosa said he was proud that through his own efforts he had managed to set up a small food business after he was deported back to El Salvador from the United States.

This has allowed him to generate an income in a country where unemployment affects 6.3 percent of the economically active population.

“Little by little we grew and now we also have catering services for events,” Sosa told IPS, as he turned the chicken and pork over with tongs on a small circular grill.

The grill is located outside the premises, so that the smoke won’t bother the customers eating inside.

It’s not easy, he said, to return home and to not be able to find a job. That is why he decided to start his own business, Comedor Espresso, in the center of San Francisco Gotera, a city in the department of Morazán in eastern El Salvador.

“You come back wanting to work and there aren’t any opportunities. The first thing they see in you is your age; when you’re over 35, they don’t hire you.” — Patricia López

In this Central American country of 6.7 million people, “comedores” are small, generally precarious, neighborhood restaurants where inexpensive, homemade meals are prepared.

Sosa’s, although very small, was clean and tidy, and even had air conditioning, when IPS visited it on Dec. 19.

Skills and capacity abound, but opportunities are scarce

Sosa, 35, is one of thousands of people deported from the United States every year.

He left in 2005 and was sent back in 2014. He worked for eight years as a cook at a Mexican restaurant in the city of Pensacola, in the southeastern state of Florida.

A total of 10,399 people were deported to this country between January and August 2022, which represents an increase of 221 percent compared to the same period in 2021, according to figures from the International Organization for Migration.

The flow of undocumented Salvadoran migrants, especially to the United States, intensified in the 1980s, due to the 1980-1992 civil war in El Salvador that left some 75,000 dead and around 8,000 forcibly disappeared.

At the end of the war, people continued to leave, for economic reasons and also because of the high levels of violent crime in the country.

An estimated 3.1 million Salvadorans live outside the country, 88 percent of them in the United States. And 50 percent of the Salvadorans in the U.S. are undocumented.

Despite the problem of unemployment, Sosa was not discouraged when he returned to his country.

“I feel that we are already growing, we have five employees, the business is registered in the Ministry of Finance, in the Ministry of Health, and I’m paying taxes,” he said.

Obviously, not all deportees have the support, especially financial, needed to set up their own business.

The stigma of deportation weighs heavily on them: there is a widespread perception that if they were deported it is because they were involved in some type of crime in the United States.

A government survey, conducted between November 2020 and June 2021, found that 50 percent of the deportees manage to open a business, 18 percent live off their savings, their partner’s income or support from their family, and 16 percent have part-time or full-time jobs.

In addition, seven percent live on remittances sent home to them, two percent receive income from property rentals, dividends or bank interests, and seven percent checked “other” or did not answer.

Apart from some government initiatives and non-governmental organizations that provide training and funds for start-ups, returnees have faced the specter of unemployment for decades.

Many return empty-handed and owe debts to the people smugglers who they hired to get into the United States as undocumented migrants.

In the case of Sosa, his brothers supported him to set up Comedor Espresso.

He also received a small grant of 700 dollars to purchase kitchen equipment.

The money came from a program financed with 87,000 dollars by the Salvadoran community abroad, through the Salvadoran Foreign Ministry.

The initiative, launched in 2019, aims to generate opportunities for returnees in four municipalities in eastern El Salvador, including San Francisco Gotera.

This region was chosen because most of the deportees reside here, according to Carlos Díaz, coordinator of the program on behalf of the San Francisco Gotera mayor’s office.

But the demand for support and resources exceeds supply.

“There was a database of approximately 350 returnees in Gotera, but there was only money for 55,” Díaz told IPS.

More than 200 people benefited in the four municipalities.

David Aguilar and Patricia López (right) set up their own business, El Tuco King Carwash, after they decided to return to El Salvador. Their business is located in the eastern part of the country, a region where more than 50 percent of returnees live. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

David Aguilar and Patricia López (right) set up their own business, El Tuco King Carwash, after they decided to return to El Salvador. Their business is located in the eastern part of the country, a region where more than 50 percent of returnees live. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Hope despite a tough situation

Out of necessity, David Aguilar and Patricia López, 52 and 42, respectively, also set up their own business, in their case a car wash, after deciding to return to El Salvador. It’s called Tuco King Carwash.

Like Sosa, they are from San Francisco Gotera. Aguilar left the country in November 2005 and López three months later, in February 2006.

They made the risky journey to try to give their young daughter – six months old at the time, and today 17 years old – a better future.

One leg of the trip was by sea, on the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Mexico.

“I spent 12 hours at sea, in a boat carrying about 20 people, who were all undocumented like me,” Aguilar said.

He added: “The only thing they gave us as lifesavers were a few plastic containers, in case the boat capsized.”

It was in Houston, in the state of Texas, that Aguilar found work in a car paint shop. The experience has been useful to him back in El Salvador, because in addition to washing cars, he offers paint jobs and other related services.

Aguilar and López were not deported; they decided to return because her father died in 2011. They came back in 2012, without having seen many of their dreams come true.

“You come back wanting to work and there aren’t any opportunities. The first thing they see in you is your age; when you’re over 35, they don’t hire you,” López said.

Before embarking on the trip to the United States, she had finished her degree as a primary school teacher, in 2005. But she never worked as a teacher because she left the following year.

“When I returned I applied to various teaching positions, but no one ever hired me,” she said.

Today, their carwash business, set up in 2014, is doing well, albeit with difficulties, because the couple have found that there is too much competition.

But they do not lose hope that they will succeed.

Former Salvadoran guerrilla David Henríquez, deported from the United States in 2019, shows the quality of the disinfectant he has just produced in his small artisanal workshop in San Salvador. With no chance of finding formal employment after deportation, he worked hard to set up his disinfectant business to generate an income. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Former Salvadoran guerrilla David Henríquez, deported from the United States in 2019, shows the quality of the disinfectant he has just produced in his small artisanal workshop in San Salvador. With no chance of finding formal employment after deportation, he worked hard to set up his disinfectant business to generate an income. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

An ex-guerrilla chemist

David Henríquez, a 62-year-old former guerrilla fighter, was deported in 2019.

During the civil war, Henríquez was a combatant of the then insurgent Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), but when peace came he decided to emigrate to the United States in 2003 as an undocumented immigrant.

With no hope of finding a formal sector job here, he began to make cleaning products, a skill he learned in the United States.

In the 12 years that he lived there, he worked for two years at the Sherwin Williams plant, a global manufacturer of paints and other chemicals.

“It was there that I began to discover the world of chemical compositions and aromas,” Henríquez told IPS during a visit to his small workshop in the Belén neighborhood of San Salvador, the capital.

Henríquez was producing a 14-gallon (53-liter) batch of blue disinfectant with the scent of baby powder. He also makes disinfectant smelling like cinnamon and lavender, among others. His business is called El Dave de los aromas.

His production process is still artisanal, although he would know how to produce disinfectant with high-tech machinery, if he had it, he said, “as I did at Sherwin Williams.”

He used a baby bottle to measure out the 3.5 ounces (104 milliliters) of nonylphenol, the main chemical component, used to produce 14 gallons.

Henríquez dissolved other chemicals in powder, to get the color and the aroma, and the product was ready.

He produces about 400 gallons a month, 1,514 liters, at a price of 3.50 dollars each.

“The important thing is to have discipline, work hard, to shine with your own effort,” he said.