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Romero Community Development, Land & Dignified Housing Project


group with land titles

    Monseñor Oscar Arnulfo Romero

Communal Development Association

      Tonacatepeque, El Salvador


Centro de Intercambio y Solidaridad – CIS,

       Los Olivos CIS (U.S. 501c3)


El Salvador shares the social and political experiences of most countries of Central America: a small ruling elite, abject poverty, foreign interference and domination, and civil war.  Compounding and exacerbating the situation, El Salvador is prone to volcanoes, earthquakes and floods.  The people that came together to form the Romero Community suffered through these adversities, displaced by the war, Hurricane Mitch and the 2001 earthquakes.  They asked the Centro de Intercambio y Solidaridad, CIS, to accompany them on their quest for land, permanent homes and dignity and a future for their children.  The combined effort is The Romero Community Development, Land & Dignified Housing Project.

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The   Romero Community Land & Housing     Project -- Timeline

7.9 Earthquake - Saturday, 1/13/01

  •  1,000 dead- 6,000 injured- 250,000 homes destroyed or damaged- thousands of landslides
  • Families that make up the Romero Community come together in Arenales Village where there is a housing project for the homeless victims of the earthquake.  They do not meet the requirement of possessing title to the land.
  • Quest for permanent home begins
  • 2001 – 2005: 185 families become informally associated as the Romero Community in their quest for permanent homes.
  • February 2005:  The Romero Community, like UN-estimated 1 billion people world-wide, begins squatting, on government land – evictions & arrests ensue; In March of 2005, they make another attempt to squat on the land and this time it holds.two cute girls
  • July 2005 - Legislative Assembly votes to permit the community to occupy the space while permanent title is pursued
  • 2006: the Romero Community petition for legal status which is granted by the Mayor – but remains landless.
  • 2007 – Community accesses grant for $56,000 for the land, but the Social Fund for Housing (FSV) will no longer sell it, stating they are selling it to the Salvadoran Institute for Agrarian Reform (ISTA) to pay off debts.
  • The Romero Community perseveres, never losing faith, accompanied by the CIS (Centro de Intercambio y Solidaridad) with hopes land title transfer will be imminent
  • Local farmers, politicians and businessmen covet the land for their own purposes
  • Violence is often an instrument of negotiation
  • Masked military detained and tortured community leader, Raul Acevedo in December 2010
  • Hostilities and threats as well as extremely difficult living conditions over time caused some families to emigrate.  Some of the elderly fall ill under harsh conditions and pass away. – 75 families remain
  • Change of 3 presidents of ISTA during the Funes Administration and intermediate managers prevent a resolution from going forward.
  • 2008 – Romero Community appeals to Legislative Commission of Justice and Human Rights
  • 2008: ISTA (Salvadoran Institute of Agrarian Reform) agrees to transfer land to the Romero Community when it has controlsanchez ceren giving land titles
  • 2008 – 2014 - four successive ISTA directors promise a solution with no results.
  • 2008 – 2010 Romero Community petitions numerous commissions, bureaus, ministries and the legislature to appeal to the Central Reserve Bank to facilitate the land purchase by ISTA.
  • June 2009:  The Romero Community forms part of the Permanent Roundtable to Prevent Violence and Promote Peaceful Co-existence, to counteract violence and threats.
  • April 2010 ISTA finally receives title to the land after the treasury department makes funds available to purchase it from the Social Housing Fund (FSV).
  • March 2015, the Administration of President Salvador Sanchez Cerén promises to transfer title to the Romero Community in May of 2015, in the framework of the beatification of Monseñor Romero.

“Not having land, they cannot build a life and decent housing, potable water, energy,

education, security, physical integrity and other rights guaranteed in the

Constitution of the Republic and International Treaties on Human Rights.”

El Salvador Legislative Committee on Justice and Human Rights, 2008

  Final Agreement 

  • Romero Community awarded ~15 acres in Tonacatepeque, San Salvador, El Salvador, which is about forty miles north of San Salvador Municipality.  The land will be divided into 75 lots for homes, a communal area for gardening, a library and a community center.
  • Community design complete and includes green spaces, gardens and communal spaces
  • Technical and physical plans complete
  • Project includes water, sewer & electricity
  • The CIS through Los Olivos CIS, a U.S. non-profit corporation, has secured approximately $140,000 toward the total $773,875 project cost.

Project Plan

Celebrating 10 years of accompaniment with The Romero Community, The CIS and Los Olivos CIS (U.S. based 501c3) are pleased to serve as a fiscal sponsor to ensure a permanent home for the Romero Community.  All funds secured on behalf of The Romero Community Development, Land and Dignified Housing Project will go directly to the Romero Community.  


Budget to develop 75 homes in The Romero Community*



Labor & Materials

Sworn estimate                                            $585,000


Sworn estimate                                              $19,625

Water & Sewer

Sworn estimate                                              $49,250

                                                       Cost per House



Community Center & Storage Facility

Order-of-Magnitude Estimate                      $70,000

Site Work & Street Paving

Order-of-Magnitude Estimate                      $50,000

Total Project Cost


  • Professional fees & Contingency fund will be additional as they are determined

Impacts of the Project – Community and District Effects

                                                     What does the Project mean to you?

IMG 7495

 This is a blessing. We have lived for 10 years with many difficulties. A dignified home will mean better life ..... My notebooks and important materials and books have been ruined and gotten wet in our shacks. We have ruined our eyes, having to read and do homework by candlelight. We get sick from the humidity...... The whole community has to share one water faucet ....... We sleep in fear because of the insecure nature of our shelter. We are marginalized by outsiders, who say only delinquents and thieves live in shanty towns. This project will improve our lives at all levels. Without CIS we would never had been listened to. We did our part, but we were invisible. CIS gave us a voice and made us visible." – Miriam Merino, 23 years old.





IMG 7490


The community has improved since we began to work together with the CIS – we have activities, creativity, studies.  We will feel more secure – we will feel we have a home”.  Emerson Gabriel, 8th grade, 14 years old.








 Contact Information:

As a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit Organization, gifts to Los Olivos CIS are tax deductible


Click here to donate online with paypal and our website

LOS OLIVOS CIS / PO Box 76, Westmont, IL 60559

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Please include a note with your donation - designated for Romero Housing Project