Solidarity from the North: A Ground-breaking Human Rights Report and a Pro-Bono LGBT Legal Clinic in El SalvadorPart III of a series profiling historical moments for the sexual diversity community in El Salvador, from 2009-present. See Part I, and Part II.
In February of 2011, the University of California-Berkeley Law School sent a fact-finding mission to El Salvador to examine the reality for Salvadoran LGBT individuals and people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA.) What they uncovered was so powerful that the Berkeley representatives returned home knowing that they had to do something. They had spent many hours interviewing people whose dignity had been violated time and time again; this dearth of justice ached to be righted, and the victims shouldn't have to do it alone.
One year earlier, the lead professor from the Berkeley group, Allison Davenport, had met a Salvadoran-American lawyer who lives in San Francisco, Ana Montano. The two discussed Montano’s dream of starting a pro-bono legal clinic in El Salvador to support the LGBT community and PLWHA, which Montano had been slowly making a reality alongside the Salvadoran organization Entre Amigos since the early 2000’s. Montano accompanied the fact-finding mission to provide logistical support. Upon returning, her drive to support the community was ever-stronger; and the pro-bono legal clinic began to take concrete shape. It took the name ALDES (Oficina de Asistencia Legal para la Diversidad Sexual de El Salvador, or the Anti-Homophobia Legal Clinic, in English,) established an office in San Salvador and began to receive young volunteer lawyers from the US. Shortly thereafter, Davenport’s Berkeley team released the report they’d been painstakingly assembling for a year.