NEW ORLEANS – Ercilia Sahores, Director of ACORN Latin America, said low-income people in Latin America face similar challenges as those in the United States.
Sahores, who gave a presentation at ACORN’s national headquarters in New Orleans on June 6, said ACORN began organizing internationally because ACORN members in the United States had family members in Latin American countries who were interested in organizing there as well. When ACORN began to organize in the Dominican Republic, people joined in record numbers. Many of the doors organizers knocked on were opened by people who
had heard of ACORN from their family members in New York City and who invited the organizers inside with a warm welcome.
ACORN began its Latin American organizing in Lima, Peru, where low-income people were forced to pay 25 percent of their income in taxes on their homes, plus back taxes. ACORN Peru also organized for potable water, which was made more difficult by the dictatorship ruling the country and the lack of infrastructure.
Peru has produced compelling ACORN leaders, such as Ricardo, who was born blind, and Violeta, whom Ercilia described as one of the 10 reasons she works for ACORN. Violeta started out afraid to speak publicly or with politicians – she spoke Quechua, not Spanish. But through ACORN, she learned that she is just as important as anyone else, and now she can be seen at every protest as the one holding the bullhorn.
As in the U.S., ACORN chooses where to organize based on income and all the problems that go along with having little of it, such as lack of education and poor healthcare. ACORN Latin America is currently organized in Peru, Argentina, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic.
Core issues for ACORN Argentina, Ercilia’s home country, include improving infrastructure, housing and security. They are also working to implement comunas, which would allow low-income people to have a say in their local government. Children are active members of ACORN Argentina as well – they make the signs that people carry during protests.
ACORN Dominican Republic got off to a great start in October of 2007, where just two staff and one head organizer signed up 600 members in their first month. Unfortunately, the Dominican Republic was devastated by Hurricane Noel at the end of that month. ACORN responded to the disaster, shifting the organization’s focus to storm recovery and disaster preparedness.