The Heart and Soul of Social Activism: Fredy Granillo and Rosemary “Rosey” Ramsey

Alex Aponte

Whether it was a women’s studies class or other students’ curiosity, Room 212 of the Student Services Center (SSC) was packed last Monday and Tuesday with eager students waiting to learn about the oppression in El Salvador from two social activists themselves, Rosemary Ramsey (an American) and artist/musician Fredy Granillo (El Salvadorian).

The coordinator of this “Social Activism and the Arts in El Salvador” event, Dr. Margot Lovett introduced Salvadorians Granillo and Ramsey to Saddleback college.  Having all met in El Salvador years back, Granillo and Ramsey offered to share some inspirational and educational excerpts from real Salvadoran women and real atrocities that these people suffer through everyday.

The event started at 9 a.m. both Monday and Tuesday, and consisted of three or four workshops on different aspects of Salvadorans’ lives.  Some included slides and readings of testimonies from the people themselves, and/or include Granillo playing a few songs with his guitar and using his lyrics to create a picture of how life was for him in El Salvador.

As a native of El Salvador, Granillo knew little English, so Ramsey was able to translate to the audience his message.  At Granillo performance on the first day, they conveniently provided a program of his music and lyrics in both English and Spanish so the whole audience could follow along.  In the title of Granillo’s CD and also one of his songs, “Todos esta normal”, he tries to portray the message of, what exactly is normal in life and for whom is it normal from a political and economic standpoint.  His lyrics speak for the people of El Salvador who want to get a message out of their struggles.

An excerpt from Granillo’s song “Land”:  “[translated] This land keeps me awake with all its wailing, I carry her wounds upon my back…This land that carries us of it’s own accord, I get caught in its traps and am left with nothing.”

Some rebellious songs he plays were not welcomed everywhere in El Salvador.

“The problem was is that you can’t play this music anywhere…They don’t want you to play your original music or they don’t want you to play any revolutionary music, they want you to play the normal commercial music that any drunk wants to listen to.” Fredy said.

Because of Granillo’s efforts to spread his story through music, he moved listeners in the audience of room 212 as well, “I got another view of the world, from coming here and listening to the music of someone who has grown up in a war torn, in an incredibly war torn part of the world.” Thorin Murphy-Fahlgren, 18, undeclared said.

In addition to getting his message out through music, Granillo also partakes in painting and has so for many years.

“So nine or ten years ago I did a painting contest and it was at a national level and it was something that sort of clicked with me at that time because I had entered three different paintings and I was able to win at that level as well.  It’s a dynamic of trying to find ways to survive in everything you can do.”

Aside from the arts of El Salvador, although Ramsey did paint her own murals too, she informed the students with her words, pictures, and testimonies of people of El Salvador.  She spoke of El Salvador’s relationship with women citizens to be horrifying.  Ramsey shared a story that had been sticking to her the most, that included, Patricia Garcia, of one of the “Comadres”, the committee of mothers who disappeared.

“It’s a story of a lot of suffering and a lot of violence and torture, that– and it’s also incredibly inspirational like how the mothers got together and they became this like, maternal presence for the entire country.  And like all the different social movements where they would protest in the streets, they would call the mothers to go with them and they would serve kind of as a human shield for a lot of different activities.” Ramsey said.

This shield, the comadres, helped more and more Salvadorans to be vocal because they knew they had support from “the mothers”.  The madres had been through a lot, Ramsey adds, “Every single one of the madres in the committee, if they’ve already passed away, they passed away because of cervical cancer…because they were all raped during the war-every single one of them.”

Because the Salvadorian country was very “macho”, they treated women like dirt, never second-guessing them as an equivalent human being, which very much brought the madres committee together.

A big question throughout the event was how to help this country or make a difference by joining a cause how Ramsey did, and she shares, “I mean, everyone has their own path so, and it really depends on what moves you.  Like, who are you going to connect your vocation to, like how or who are you going to stand beside and fight with? That is a question you have to ask yourself.”  She explains that the power and ideas are in yourself and there are plenty of organizations to join, but the big question is deciding what is your passion and worth fighting for?

In Ramsey case, she belongs to a few different movements and causes like the Anti-Mining Movement in El Salvador, Victims of Climate Change, the communities in the Lower Lempa, and Voices on the Border.  Voices on the Border (started in 1987) is a solidarity organization, meaning it is a group that had been involved in a certain cause or belonged to a particular community from the beginning and stuck with it instead of jumping from problem to problem and not actually making a difference.  Ramsey explains the importance of actually being in the communities shoes, and that would be the only way to truly understand what they were actually going through.

Dr. Lovett agrees with Ramsey, “The question is, what can I learn from the people I want to work with?  What can they teach me?   Find a local organization that is controlled by the people in that area and connect with them and they can tell you how you could help.”

Any question for Fredy Granillo or Rosey Ramsey:

For more on the Anti-Mining Movement:

For more on Voices on the Border:


Fredy Granillo playing out his message. (Shannelle Sanchez)

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