Dean's News and Thoughts


Thursday, October 19th, 2017 2:42 PM EDT

Visiting an ICE Detainee

How to Visit an ICE Detainee
Dean Stevens August and September, 2017
I am in the middle of the Kafka-esque Draconian process of trying to set up a visit with an ICE detainee at South Bay. This is the saga of my attempt. I am hoping to adapt this into a letter to Sheriff Tomkins, cc’d to several people in the State House involved in prison and immigration issues. This is unconscionable, that it is virtually impossible to get a visit in a timely way, even when you are working hard on it, documenting every step, and live 15 minutes from the jail. Any thoughts, or ideas about how to expedite the process? 
A guy I’ve known since he was a kid in El Salvador is in ICE detention, was nabbed on July 31. In a series of unfortunate State Police, seemingly Trump empowered nabbings, he was arrested, and soon after, the same thing happened to his brother and his brother-in-law. These are guys who have lived in Manchester, NH for over a decade, have worked restaurant and construction jobs over all those years, have never had any trouble with the law, have no path to becoming more documented. One of them , who was employee of the year at his restaurant for three years in a row, has been for six years married to a US citizen. The other one has a child born here, to his childhood sweetheart, who followed him to the US, and who also works full time. I happened to be in El Salvador in early August, soon after their detention, and their mother, whom I have known since 1991, pleaded with me to help them. So I went on this journey, to try and first visit them, then coordinate with their immigration lawyers on a strategy to find the best outcome for them, given this horrific political climate for immigrants.
One of them is being held at South Bay House of Corrections. I called about visiting. They told me that before being allowed to visit, you had to be on the detainees visitor list. The only way to do that, since you can’t talk to the inmate, or leave him a message, is to write him a letter, asking him to put you on his list of approved visitors. A detainee can only have three approved visitors on that list. 
So I wrote him the postcard. Before it arrived, he was able to talk to his wife on the phone, and she told him I wanted to visit, and he said he would add me as one of the three he is allowed on the list. His wife lives in Manchester, NH, and has not been able to arrange to visit. 
Knowing I was on the list, I called the jail. They said first you must come in, bearing a copy of your driver’s license and a stamped self addressed envelope. I came in. They had me fill out a form, submit the documents, and said to wait ten days. Today, 12 days after I applied, the sheaf of papers arrived. I was approved (phew!). But now, I am informed I have to call to make an appointment. You have to call on Tuesdays only, between 8 AM and 2:30 PM. I called his wife: she lives in New Hampshire, and has gone through the same rigamarole, and has called on the Tuesdays, and there is no answer. Her husband has now been detained for over two months, and she has not been able to visit him. 
So…tomorrow is Tuesday, and I will call for the appointment. Most jails at least have visiting hours, where you show up, they summon the prisoner to the visiting room, you get frisked up and down and ushered into the visiting room. But with ICE it’s by appointment, with a few obstacles in the way to get the approval and make the appointment. I’ll next report on the results of my phone call tomorrow. By the way, among the sheaf of papers they sent: rules and regulations about visiting, proper attire, behavior, is a schedule of the visiting times for ICE detainees: Friday: 8:15 PM to 10:15 PM, and Sunday evening 5:15 PM to 6:15 PM or 6:30 PM to 7:45 PM. There is also another sheet informing me that there will be four weeks out of the year when there are no visits, once week every “quarter”…and it so happens that this next week, Sept. 10-17, is one of those “no-visit” weeks. 
Tuesday, 9/12 8:03AM: called the”Appointments Desk: "your call will be answered in the order in which it was received”….the phone rang for 10 minutes…and someone answered saying that the appoinments person hadn’t come in yet, and that she had come in from another office, because they weren’t logges in yet, and asked me to call back in 15 minutes. So I called at 8:45 AM. This time there was amusic loop with a voice once every 30 seconds saying "thank you for your patience, please continue to hold”. I held for exactly one hour, until 9:45, when my case in South Boston District Court (I am a Spanish Court Interpreter) was being called, and I had to hang up. I called again at 10:03 AM, during a break, got the same hold tape loop….and waited on hold until 10:25AM. 
Called again at 12:30…..waited 10 minutes, and finally got the appointments person. “Sorry”, she said, "you can’t see him this week: his two other visitors (wife and father-in law) have called and made appointments, and he is limited to 2 per week”. Call next Tuesday, she says. 
I ask her how many ICE detainees there are at South Bay. She says about 60. Do they have visitors? Most of them don’t she says, lots of them she says don’t want visitors. I find that hard to believe. It makes me want to find some clergy who are working with ICE detainees. 
Any immigration lawyers out there can help me with this? Why is it so hard? A visit seems simple enough. Why the obstacles?
To be continued!!!! Dean
On Sept. 14 I wrote the first part of a story about trying to visit an ICE Detainee at South Bay House of Corrections (see post on my FB page). Here is the final part of the saga: 
On Tues. Sept. 19, I called again during the hours that the visitor appointment desk is open (8 AM-2:30 PM). Amazingly, I got right through, and was given an appointment for the following Friday, at 8:15PM, and told to show up at 7:30 PM. Bring the paperwork we sent you, along with the envelope it came in (that would be the SASE they asked me to bring when I applied for the visit, in which they had sent me the paperwork. I had recycled it the day the envelope arrived, but certainly did have the sheaf of paperwork). 
I arrived on Friday evening, 7:30 PM. There were several visitors, all arriving at 7:30. It took the desk about 5 minutes to process us, take our ID and be given a key to the locker where you would store everything in your pockets. They did ask me if I had the envelope that the paperwork had come in...and I said no, luckily they still let me proceed with the visit!). They were a little suspicious of my footwear, Crocs, but upon seeing that they had a back strap, they were OK'd for the visit (I had another pair in the car, just in case).
Then we waited for 40 minutes, nothing but locker keys in hand, until 8:15 rolled around. We had to line up, turn our pockets inside out, and go in front of an officer who made us open our mouths and move our tongues around. Then it was through the metal detector, and to the visiting room. There were seven visitors placed at tables. While waiting for the visitors to arrive, we were told the rules: no kissing, a brief hug only. keep your hands on the table, feet on the floor. There were seven visitors and five prison guards supervising the visit. 
The guy I was visiting was really happy to see me, calm, and really at peace with himself and his situation. I told him I had promised his Mom that I would visit him. I told him about his brother and brother-in-law, also arrested in similar circumstances by State Police in New Hampshire, and how we had attended their bail hearing. Ten of us, El Salvador Sister City activists, plus some friends and family, had been present at the hearing, and the judge commented on the strength of the support these two men had in the community. I told him that when there was a hearing for him, (still not sure when), we would be there for him as well. We talked a lot about Teosinte, where his parents came from, the village I have visited regularly since 1991 when it was a refugee repopulation. This young man had been born in the Honduras refugee camp, before the 1988 return. I had not seen him since he came to the US in 2005, but I see his parents every six months, and had just been with them last month, in August.
The visit ended, and I said goodbye, went out to the lobby, took my belongings out of the locker, and headed out the door. It was pushing 10 PM, and I went to a store. Upon paying for my purchases, I realized I had left my drivers' license at South Bay. You see, lots of prisons have lockers where you pay a quarter for the right to have a key to take with you in the jail visit. When you return, you just open the locker, and leave the key in the slot. This was not that system. At South Bay, you leave your drivers’ license as collateral that you will return the key to the desk. ....So I got tripped up. I called South Bay immediately, and the desk officer said "Yes we've got it, we're here, come on by and pick it up". So I drove all the way back to South Bay, about 20 minutes. When I got there the desk was all locked up, and they said I had to come back the next day. My boo boo, still, I'm sure there was someone there who could have opened the office to get my license for me. This place is such a mean, nasty vibe, and you don't want to push any buttons. Finally, on Sunday morning, on the way to church, I got my license back! 
So what do I come away with from this experience? It is the era of Trump. Immigrants are vilified, and mistreated , especially by law enforcement. They grow your food, mow your lawn, fix your roof, clean Donald  tRump's hotel rooms, clean your grandma's bedpans: Still they have no rights. Even the most basic thing, the right to be visited in detention by family and friends, is really impossibly difficult. My friend's US citizen wife and father-in-law had to wait six weeks before finally getting to visit him. My friend's siblings in Manchester cannot visit him, they are all in undocumented or semi-documented status, and live over an hour away: to go through the hoops I went through is very difficult , no, impossible for them, and they worry about being nabbed upon showing up for a visit. It took me more than a month to make this visit happen.
I am trying to formulate what effective activism to do in light of this experience. I am open to suggestions. Join MIRA, write letters that say that the solution to 15,000,000 undocumented immigrants in this country, (doing every kind of job that capitalism's race to the bottom allows them to do, and there are lots of jobs that fit that description), is not to go on a drunken, hate filled, politically motivated deportation binge. These folks need to be brought out of the shadows and documented in an orderly way. My undocumented Salvadoran friends don't have a path to anywhere except the next day of work to support their kids and their families. They are so hidden in the shadows, afraid to show their faces. I heard on the radio about random ICE check points in NH, along the interstate, randomly checking IDs, nabbing undocumented folks, also nabbing other random lawbreakers. Could this pass constitutional muster? A lawyer in a district court told me about a notice to public defenders from CPCS, the MA public defenders entity, warning lawyers that ICE is on the front steps of some courthouses at 9 AM weekdays, looking for people to nab when they come in to clear up a charge or a ticket, to file for a restraining order, anything that might bring them to a public building. Are the hospitals and public schools next? 
I just come away with a great sadness for our country. Emma Lazarus, where are you when we need you?
Monday, February 20th, 2017 4:59 PM EST

An Open Letter to MA AG Maura Healey 2/20/2107

Dean Stevens
Attorney General Maura Healey
One Ashburton Place
Boston, MA  02108
A question for you, AG Healey:  (that I wanted to ask you on the Jim and Marjorie WGBH radio show, but could not get through)
I voted for you, and support your clear and eloquent voice in my state government.
Did you recently travel to Israel? 
Was it an all-expense-paid junket paid for by JCRC, a registered Israel Lobby group? 
There will soon be “Anti-BDS” legislation filed in Massachusetts, barring the Commonwealth from doing business with entities that advocate BDS, a call to boycott companies that profit from the West Bank Occupation. 
I am a vendor for the Commonwealth. I am a strong advocate of BDS…Israel was founded on the displacement of 750,000 Palestinians, and continues to steal land and resources in the West Bank from Palestinians to build Apartheid settlements, and hold 2 million Palestinians in an open-air prison known as Gaza. Israel is a rogue nation, has an unspecified number of nuclear weapons, will not join the International nuclear entities, or allow inspections of its facilities. Israel routinely runs bombings of Gaza, killing thousands of civilians.
When this anti BDS legislation passes,  (as it certainly will, being so well financed by well-heeled lobby groups) will you be legally bound to advocating for my losing my work as a vendor (court interpreter) for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts?
Is it your opinion that Anti-BDS Legislation is a travesty, a clear violation of our right to free speech under the First Amendment? Or did your junket to Israel dissuade you of that opinion?
Dean Stevens
Musician, Spanish Interpreter
Central America Traveler
"If I can’t do great things, I can still do small things in a great way."  MLK
From the Globe…..7/21/2016:
By Frank Phillips GLOBE STAFF  JULY 21, 2016
Those free trips that lawmakers have been taking to Israel — paid for by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, a pro-Israeli lobbying group - are still haunting Beacon Hill.
In both the state House and the Senate, two lawmaker offered — then quietly withdrew — amendments to the nearly $1 billion economic development bill last week that would crack down on companies which participate in boycotts of Israel for its treatment of Palestinians.
The amendments — by state Senator Cynthia Creem, a Newton Democrat, and state Representative Paul McMurtry, a Dedham Democrat — would have prohibited the state from contracting with any company that boycotted Israel.
JCRC, a registered lobbying group which has pushed the anti-boycott issue on Beacon Hill, has over the years squired state lawmakers for 10-day trips to Israel, paying any where between $4,000 to $6,000 for each member. Last December, 10 state senators participated in the tour, and the year before, a House contingent was treated to a similar junket.
Monday, February 20th, 2017 4:57 PM EST

Welcome (and dreading) 2017, and you know why!

My Dear Friends, 
         It has been an intense year. I feel the need to get something out to y’all, as the momentous events of 2016 prompt me to try to crystalize a few  thoughts about what has just happened, and what is to come. 

         El Salvador trips: I am just back from my 46th (approximately, I lost count) trip to villages in Northern El Salvador. I keep saying that the trip I was just on was the best one ever, and they just keep getting better. The Jan. 2017 trip featured lots of women, a plentitudinous plethora of pulchritude, if you will, even if you won’t. We had two mother-daughter pairs, and an awesome sister pair. We had newcomers and repeat offenders (Carol Allen, some 15 trips or more, Dan Myers, almost as many). We had a dental hygienist and her student, as well as an RN. We saw lots of patients, and cleaned lots of teeth, including mine! We did coffee business in Izotalio, and craft business in Teosinte. We brought two more computers to the computer school we are setting in motion in El Higueral. We met Erik Rivas, our computer teacher, who comes up once a week to spend all day giving lessons to 16 young folks. We made lasagna for 150 in the oven bought 2 years ago by an Indiegogo campaign. These trips, despite all the trouble you hear about in El Salvador,  really satisfy the soul, and I love getting to know the new people on every trip we take. The next trip is late June, 2017. 

          Tremedal Concerts: We have, for 27 years, hosted concerts in Watertown, to benefit our scholarship programs. We are a group of ten volunteers, who have been together since the inception, organizing and staffing these great events.…next show is March 25, our favorite Trio: Kallet, Epstein and Cicone ( And on May 13, I am celebrating 25 years of these trips to El Salvador, with a concert featuring yours truly and a gaggle of musicians who have gone on trips with me over the years. I am excited about this show! 

Oceana Gold/Pacific Rim:  A huge victory for a tiny country: In 2016 El Salvador celebrated an enormous environmental triumph. Some ten years ago, Canadian mining companies, invoking the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA)  asserted their right plunder the northern mountains for gold, even though all of El Salvador had said no to metal mining. The companies sued El Salvador for the hundreds of millions they might have made had they been allowed to plunder those hills and pollute the rivers and drain the water supply. Finally, in 2016 the court that arbitrates disputes between companies and governments, ruled that El Salvador did not have to pay, and the mining company was required to pay El Salvador’s legal fees! Love when that happens!

         Trump: I still believe I’ll wake up from this nightmare. But the more I see, the more I think this guy is a gift from above for galvanizing the opposition to him. Still, when he falls, will be just as awful, because of his replacement, scarier than him, and sane, unlike him.  I think my life (and hopefully, yours too!) will be a dizzying flurry of activism around this historically tragic American event. Still, I am so enjoying the comedy around the coronation of this buffoon. Have you seen Colbert, Samantha Bee, SNL (Alec Baldwin!!), and so forth? My best one, Colbert’s motto for Trump University: Carpe Crotchum! I want the college sweater that says that!

          I belong to a church that used to be the biggest church in Boston, hosting services in Boston’s biggest auditoriums, where the likes of MLK, Thurgood Marshall, Krishnamurti, and Henry Wallace, the greatest orators of the day, strutted their stuff. We are now a group of about 40 committed activists that run a Sunday morning speaker series on politics, religion, diplomacy, science, spirituality and whatever else comes across as interesting on our radar screen. Our topics have included: Israel/Palestine, socialism,   LGBTQ concerns, privacy and the intrusive Big Brother state, Ghandi, Syria, anti-racism work, and of course, climate change…. I have transitioned from being mostly the music leader to now, being an interim administrator/keep-the-ball-rolling guy while we ponder our next leadership move. We own a very valuable piece of real estate in Copley Square, and are in the process of negotiating a new retail lease for our downstairs storefront space. It’s been a tedious process, to put it mildly. We have an old building in need of lots of care and feeding. We have some awesome tenant non-profit organizations who do difficult and admirable work with Boston young people, especially LGBTQ kids. Best of all, I get to program a host of awesome musicians to play at our services. We also host a world music and folk concert series in our auditorium called “Playing for the Planet; Musicians Against Climate Change” to benefit, the foremost clarion call organization heeding us to answer the call to phase out fossil fuels and end the plundering of our sacred air, water and land.                        Tomorrow: (on 1/22 an antidote to inauguration blues) we have a concert instead of a service, baritone Robert Honeysucker sings a program of negro spirituals inspired by our long time contralto soloist, the late Ruth Hamilton!

          Coffee: I have a new church. It is called the Roslindale Farmers’ Market. I hold forth there on lots of Saturdays when I am in town, sell coffee, crafts and concerts, watch the parade of people, their kids and their dogs, and get out the door to strut my stuff to the world. The coffee comes from Izotalio, a tiny village in the northernmost reaches of El Salvador on the Honduras border. We walk three hours to get there, and do an ever increasing amount of business at a fair fair price, full payment in advance, and all our proceeds go to enhancing the productive capacity of that village. These sales also pay for a large part of Guadalupe Recinos’ university expenses. She is the first person in Izotalio to graduate from high school, is determined to finish university, and has excellent grades to prove it. Seeing where she lives with her family, and the challenges she has faced, gives new meaning to the phrase “triumph over adversity”. I am now arranging for Izotalio's biggest shipment to date: 2 tons, to arrive here in Brookline in late February/ early March. 

          Dan (our son) graduated from Brookline High School and is deep into mixing beats and syncing music beds for hip-hop and rap artists. It consumes a lot of his time and energy, and we enjoy his company and humor when he emerges from his intense sessions. 

        Jennifer @ 60, had a bit of a scare about her thyroid, that turned into a scary surgery, a complete removal of the gland. It turns out the lump was a benign growth, and her recovery has been full and complete. We have since enjoyed our summer repast on Swans Island at the Sweet Chariot Festival, as well as her 60th birthday trip, first in California with her high school buddies, followed by the Northwest, where she joined me for some shows, and some visits to friends and family in WA and OR. I LOVED being back in that geography, and hope to return soon!    

Israel/Palestine: In recent years I have become increasingly upset with the actions of Israel in the West Bank and Gaza. We have hosted numerous speakers on Is/Pal and other Middle East issues, and we have joined in with an activist group in our denomination, called UUs for Justice in the Middle East. Given the makeup of the Trump cabinet, and the appointment of a radical Zionist and settlement supporter as US Ambassador, it looks like more than ever, we’ve got our work cut out for us. I’d love to travel to Palestine/Israel, as have many of the phenomenal activists I’ve met in this struggle. 

           I am recently interested in a quandary I might be in. I actively support BDS: the widespread movement to Boycott, Divest and Sanction firms that profit from Israel's West Bank Occupation (Caterpillar, HP, AirBnB, etc.). There is also Massachusetts legislation, advanced by AIPAC and its local affiliates, mandating that the state will not do business with entities that advocate for BDS. I am such an entity. I contract privately with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Will I be deprived of my work as a court interpreter, because of my political beliefs? Or will all of this legislation be deemed unconstitutional before it passes? I am pushing our attorney general, an otherwise progressive and effective law-enforcer, to render an opinion on this. If this scenario unfolds as the Israel Lobby wants it to, it would be tantamount to another McCarthyite/HUAC exercize in blacklisting of individuals for their political beliefs. I don’t expect it would happen, but want to make a big deal of it, to shine a light on the hypocrisy of the anti-BDS legislation that is on the floors of many state houses nationwide.

          Holiday Songs: For the last five years, I’ve been recording live, every holiday season, my favorite songs of the season, in English and Spanish. Afterwards, I have gone into studio and tried to record some of them a little more professionally. You can find them all on soundcloud: type in “Holiday Songs You Won’t Hear at The Mall”, and listen away. This will someday be an actual CD Project. 

          And finally, a postscript about today. I am just back from the Boston Women’s March.  There were so many really inspiring speakers, and a myriad of great and creative signs people had made. My favorite one: “ELECTILE DYSFUNCTION”. What a beautiful display of solidarity, women’s righteous roaring anger, and hope for the future, led by a 120,000 sized army of women and their allies, joined by 600,000 more in DC and countless more in cities all over the planet!!! 

With Great Love and Solidarity Always!!     Dean


            Upcoming Gigs and ready to Record a new CD: 

Wow, I just put all of these upcoming gigs in a row, and yikes!!, I am going to be busy: 

Sun Jan. 29: Brockton UU Church; AM Service

Sat. Feb. 11: Park Coffeehouse, Holland Patent, NY; FB: Park Coffeehouse

Sat. Feb. 18: Benefit for Arlington Center for the Arts, Arlington, MA;

Sat. Mar.18: Newton. MA; House Concert;

Fri. Mar. 24: Jamaica Plain, MA: Eliot Street Soiree (w Jay Mankita!!); Brown Paper Tickets

Sat. May 6: Bristol, NH; House Concert; Jim Felch;

Sat. May13: Watertown, MA: Dean Stevens and a Gaggle of Fellow Travelers, Celebrating 25 Years of El Salvador Village Friendships!! (Ed White, Linda Sharar, Sue Kranz, Suzy Giroux, Meg Rayne)

Dean Stevens

Musician, Spanish Interpreter
Central America Traveler

"If I can’t do great things, I can still do small things in a great way.”  MLK
“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”   MLK

Friday, January 29th, 2016 8:00 PM EST

An Open Letter to Senate President Stan Rosenberg

Dean Stevens
Brookline, MA
Sen. Stan Rosenberg
State House
Boston, MA 10233
Cc: State Senators Ben Downing, Anne Gobi, John Keenan, Barbara L'Italien, Karen Spilka, Michael Barrett, Eileen Donoghue, Richard Ross, and Dan Wolf.
Dear Sen. Stan Rosenberg, (President of the Massachusetts Senate)
         I read your op-ed piece in the Jewish Advocate ( about the trip you and your State House colleagues took to Israel/Palestine. It saddened me that your only way of dealing with the Palestinian issue in Israel is by describing the “complexity” of the situation. 
         You describe Israel as a “start up” nation, comparing it to some promising young industry on the verge of exploding into success. You forget to mention that Israel’s “start-up" was at the expense of 750, 000 Palestinians pushed into exile in 1948, or the ongoing misery that continues to accompany their exiled lives because of continued colonization of their homes, farmlands, olive groves. You fail to mention the growing movement throughout the whole world to boycott products and services originating in the illegally occupied territories. In fact you don’t even make mention of the elephant in the Israeli room, that much of their economic success is predicated on continued illegal taking by force of lands and resources from their neighbors/enemies, or that a major element of their position in the world economy is about the export of weapons, surveillance, and security. 
         You didn’t mention that in Bethlehem, while you were there, just days before the celebration of Jesus’ birth, the IDF’s skunk trucks were roaming around, indiscriminately spraying putrid stench liquid at demonstrators, and IDF soldiers, protecting the actions of illegal settlers, fired tear gas canisters and rubber bullets at young men. It’s the every day reality of Palestinians living in occupied territories, a reality that certainly was not part of your sponsored business junket.
I urge you, and all of the others from our State House who visited Israel on this private tour, to wake up to the reality of what Israel is, and to what it is the US is supporting there to the tune of several billion per year in military aid. And it’s not pretty. It is racism pure and simple. It is colonialism of the Manifest Destiny sort that one wishes might have disappeared by the time this millennium rolled around. It is a disgrace to Massachusetts and to this country that you and other legislators agreed to go on this trip.
         Finally, you were challenged by your hosts to come away from this trip with more questions than answers. Here are some for you to ponder: why is the US still coddling a clearly racist regime? How can we rationalize support for a country that has a large segment of its population confined to open-air prison camps? How can some IDF general come and claim to your delegation that they did so much to avoid “collateral damage” in Gaza, when the overwhelming testimony of dozens of witnesses to the Russell Tribunal was that in the Summer of 2014 the IDF committed numerous point-blank massacres with brazen impunity, that bombs fell on neighborhoods and killed thousands, including hundreds of children?  How can we in Massachusetts be wanting to do more business with a country that is increasingly encroaching onto the West Bank’s land and resources, building settlement after illegal settlement, with Jewish-only roads to connect it with mainland Israel, and walls to divide them from the native Palestinian population? 
         Yes, Sen, Rosenberg. Many more questions than answers. Many, many more.  
Dean Stevens
Friday, December 5th, 2014 8:33 AM EST

indiegogo and a bunch of music: 12/4/2014

World Music for the Planet: Boston (Copley Square); Fri. Dec.

Dean and the Hammonds: Sat. Dec. 6: Watertown, MA;

Unaccompanied Minors at our Borders: Alexandra Early at Community Church of Boston; Sun. Dec. 7;  11 AM;

Hi Folks,

       Mostly I wanted to tell you about our indiegogo campaign, produced by one of our most hard working, repeat offending El Salvador travelers, Jerry Daugherty. We are almost near the goal of funding a community bakery project for El Higueral, and with whatever excess we raise we can supply it with acoutrements. Give generously, especially the 150 or so of you people out there who have visited El Higueral on these trips we embark upon every six months. (The next one leaves on Dec. 31, 2014!! Too late for that one, it's full, but sign up for a summer or 2016 trip, if you
       Here is the link:
       And while I have your eyes, I want to invite you once more, to three great events this weekend, that I am very proud to host. The first, Improvisers Against Climate Change, is my new collaboration with New England Conservatory professor, and Indian Classical Music master Warren Senders. He has produced many of these world music events, bringing together a host of area international players from a variety of traditions, all to shed light on the burning issue of climate change, to benefit This is the first time we have the pleasure of hosting the event at our church, Community Church of Boston. For information, go to
       Then on Saturday, Dec. 6, join me and Bennett and Lorraine Hammond, in a coffee-themed event, seeing as they are my most loyally addicted customers for coffee from Izotalillo. (See the flyer above). It's a sort of product roll out of the new passion that is taking up a lot of my waking hours, importing, roasting and distributing coffee from a tiny, remote village three hours up a mountain trail. You can get some from me, dark or medium roast, on the bean or ground, at any of these events, or at the Roslindale Winter Farmers' Market, or by mail order (
       Finally, on Sunday, Dec.7, at 11 AM, our speaker at Community Church will be Alexandra Early, who for the past two years has been our Sister City Representative in San Salvador. She will be speaking about the flood of unaccompanied minors coming to the US border from Central America. Afterwards there will be a tamaleada and pupuseada (you have to just come to find out what that is!), and  we have invited about ten young Salvadorans from the villages we visit, who now live here in Boston. They all work very hard, I hope some of them can make it. And I am hoping also that they now have a new opportunity to normalize their status in this country, with the recently announced immigration guidelines.
        I wish you all a very blessed holiday season.
                                         Love Always,  Dean

Friday, November 7th, 2014 7:19 PM EST

Fiends for the Bean 11/7/2014

My Dear Friends, 

         I am so proud to be sharing a stage with Bennett and Lorraine Hammond!! They are the perfect showcase for what I am spending a lot of time on these days: selling coffee. 
          In 1994, we started hiking to Izotalillo, a tiny remote place in El Salvador. It is a three hour walk straight up a steep hill from El Higueral, another enchanting village where for all these 23 years I've been taking people from around here to spend a little time. I've been bringing green beans from Izotalillo to here for about 15 years. And just last year I decided to take up importing bigger quantities of coffee from Izotalillo. Last year it was a ton. This year it is 1 1/2 tons. It's in our basement. I roast a 150 pound sack of it about every two weeks, to sell at the Roslindale Farmers' Market (only 2 weeks left, I'll be there tomorrow morning). I'm a little bit biased, but it happens to be the best coffee on the planet. 
           Would you like some pounds of coffee for gifts this Holiday Season? I can send you 5 pounds anywhere in the US for $72.35. That is $12/pound, plus $12.35 for the flat rate USPS box. It can be medium or dark roast. I can also grind coffee for you. I can't put it in a Keurig for you. Sorry. I have to draw the line somewhere. Be in touch about mail order
          Come and hear a spectacular holiday show with Bennett and Lorraine Hammond ( These are my wonderful friends, and my most loyally addicted coffee customers. Get your holiday gifts: crafts and coffee from villages in El Salvador.  The concert is in Watertown, MA, on Sat. Dec. 6. Proceeds will benefit our scholarship kids in these villages in Chalatenango. 
           Finally, here's a last minute pitch: we are looking for one or two more travelers for our El Salvador trip which leaves on Dec. 31 (New Years on the beach!!), and returns on January 7. Interested? Be in touch:
          The Republicans are back in the saddle. Climate change no longer exists. Oh good, phew, I was worried there for a little awhile..... now go to:
Love Always, 
Tuesday, September 30th, 2014 5:55 PM EDT

2014 Fall Mischief

 Dear Friends:

      I mostly write to you these days about other performers I'm hosting. Here is one about some of my activities this fall and winter.

     My own music has been mostly on the back burner. I've been of late deeply involved in being president of the board of my church (; come hear wonderful speakers and music on any Sunday morning!). I have also been devoting a lot of time to roasting selling coffee from Izotalillo, one of the towns we visit in El Salvador (next trip 12/31/14...see below). I have loved the routine of setting up a Farmers' Market stand every Saturday morning in Roslindale, and will continue doing this during the winter as well. Stop by for a pound, fresh roasted. For those of you far away, I'm not quite set up to do mail orders, but if you really really want a holiday shipment, talk to me by email: dean@deanstevens, and we can make it happen!

  And there is this mess of fall activities: benefit concerts, shows I am hosting or performing, and the big demo down in Fort Benning, Georgia (, where my buddy Jack Bopp and I will play).


 I hope to see you soon. Be in touch....Love Always,  Dean

Dean Stevens: Fall/Winter 2014-15

 Wed. Oct. 1: Harvest Cafe; Hudson, MA;
 Sat. Oct. 4; Concord, NH; Concord UU Church; Nicaragua Trip Benefit Event;
 Fri. Oct. 17; Boston, MA (Copley Square); Hosting DAVID ROVICS at Community Church of  Boston: Info:
 Sat. Oct. 25: Rockport, ME; Benefit for We the people Maine; Featuring Gordon Bok, David Dodson, Gawler Sisters ...and more.
 Sat. Nov. 1; Watertown, MA; Hosting ROBBIE O'CONNELL at Tremedal Concerts;

Sat. Nov. 8; Blue Hill, ME; Blue Hill Congregational Church; Benefit Concert; 

Sun. Nov. 9: Camden, ME; David Dodson's Fall Show;

Sat. Nov. 15: Fort Benning, GA; Close the School of the Americas Rally;

Sat. Dec. 6; Watertown, MA; "Fiends for the Bean o' Caffeine": Lorraine and Bennett Hammond and Dean Stevens Holiday Show; Info:

 Wed. Dec. 31 to Wed. Jan. 7: Biannual Trip to El Salvador: travelers welcome;

Info:; or at Facebook page: El Higueral

Thursday, May 30th, 2013 1:03 PM EDT

Dean, The Fiend for the Bean of Caffeine

Hi Folks,

Many of you know that I've been roasting and selling coffee for years. Beans from a village called Izotalillo. It's a tiny remote place with a rich and difficult history. I walk straight uphill to Izo every six months, on our trips to El Salvador. It's my biannual measure of how my creaky old bones are doing. 
I've been using the travelers as mules for all these years. Then this year, after talking about it for a decade, I decided it was finally time to bite the bullet. As if I didn't have enough of a full plate, I arranged to have one ton (2000 pounds) shipped to our house by container, across land and sea. 
The experience was both really instructive and nightmarish. Cost me twice what I expected, and took twice as long as anticipated. But it finally arrived, and now, that's all that matters. I HAVE COFFEE TO SELL!! LOTS OF COFFEE!
You can find it at the following locations: 
Roslindale Farmers' Market: Every Saturday Morning, 9 AM to 1 PM. If I am absent, another vendor will have the coffee.
Direct from me personally:
Just once, this time, by mail, during the month of June,  (unless someone else takes it up, I'm not set up to start a mail order thing, but this once) just for one month before our busy summer sets in: send $15 postpaid, per pound, (specify medium or dark roast) Dean Stevens 22 Clearwater Rd., Brookline, MA 02467. 
Fair Trade doesn't really adequately describe this venture, but yes...very fair trade. I'd be glad to go into the economics of it with you one on one. 
My friendship with Izotalillo and its coffee is a rich rich thing, that I hope to blog about if I ever get time. Lord, please give me just a little bit of time!!
We go to bed every night just waiting anxiously for morning for that first cup. I am not a connossieur, in fact I don't even know how to spell the word, conosieur, conno....better go look it up. But I know what I like. My only reward for this, besides the chance to frequent those mountains in Chalatenango, is a free lifetime supply of Rozzy Buzz. That's what it's called, because of the Roslindale Farmers' Market connection. I have so come to love my time at the FM, spring summer and fall. The opening day is Sat. June 1, 2013. Come on by....if you are nearby. Otherwise go to your own Farmers' market, and buy from your local folks. 
There will also be coffee available at the TENTH ANNUAL SWEET CHARIOT MUSIC FESTIVAL, this Saturday, June 1, in West Roxbury, MA. It's my own birthday party for myself. An embarrassment of Folk/Jazz/Blues riches. Here are the details: 
Don’t Miss Our Tenth Annual Sweet Chariot Music Festival
West Roxbury, MA; Sat. June 1st. 7:30 PM
Thursday, May 30th, 2013 6:53 AM EDT

I Can't Believe We've Done Ten of These Shows!! (Sweet Chariot Boston)

Don’t Miss Our Tenth Annual Sweet Chariot Music Festival
West Roxbury, MA; Sat. June 1st. 8 PM
Wednesday, February 13th, 2013 3:28 PM EST

Quick Little Interview for our show in Somerville, MA



Anyone who visits your website can see that you’re involved in a lot of social/community issues. How do you feel that your music intersects with those issues?

I wear my social action proudly and publically. Most of the performing I do is about social action: benefits for various Central America and Envirnmental groups, and singing at my church, a community that is deeply committed to cutting edge activism.
You grew up in Costa Rica.  How has that culture influenced you as an artist? Have you ever toured in Costa Rica?

My early influences were while I was in college: US folk/rock: James Taylor, Paul Simon, PP & M, Eagles, Jackson Browne. My interest in Latin America started in college with my study of Latin American history, then exploded in the 80s, when Central America burst into war, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala,  and I got up to my neck in opposing US’ military involvement in those places.

I’ve done shows in Costa Rica. I go there frequently, will be there in a couple of weeks. My Mom lives there.
You recently traveled to El Salvador. What drew you to these villages?  Are these trips related to your music, directly or indirectly?  How do they inform your music?

I just got back. I travel every six months to El Salvador, right on its border with Honduras, and take travelers to visit four villages. I am active with US El Salvador Sister City Committees, that date back to the war years, began as an attempt to accompany people in their efforts to return to their villages and rebuild their lives. After the Peace Accords (1992), our efforts evolved into rural development and friendship projects, and continue strong to this day. My present effort is to figure out how to import a large quantity of coffee from one of the villages. (It’ll be for sale at the show) Charity transformed into commerce. I sing a bilingual program of songs from all over the Americas. Some of them are songs I wrote, others are by friends of mine in this country and in Central America.
I always like to ask, what do you as an artist hope audiences will walk away from your show with?

A smile and a warm heart. A CD and a pound of fresh roasted coffee.
**See Dean perform on Saturday, February 2, 8pm at the Armory Cafe.

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013 3:27 PM EST

Quick Little Interview for our show in Somerville, MA



Anyone who visits your website can see that you’re involved in a lot of social/community issues. How do you feel that your music intersects with those issues?

I wear my social action proudly and publically. Most of the performing I do is about social action: benefits for various Central America and Envirnmental groups, and singing at my church, a community that is deeply committed to cutting edge activism.
You grew up in Costa Rica.  How has that culture influenced you as an artist? Have you ever toured in Costa Rica?

My early influences were while I was in college: US folk/rock: James Taylor, Paul Simon, PP & M, Eagles, Jackson Browne. My interest in Latin America started in college with my study of Latin American history, then exploded in the 80s, when Central America burst into war, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala,  and I got up to my neck in opposing US’ military involvement in those places.

I’ve done shows in Costa Rica. I go there frequently, will be there in a couple of weeks. My Mom lives there.
You recently traveled to El Salvador. What drew you to these villages?  Are these trips related to your music, directly or indirectly?  How do they inform your music?

I just got back. I travel every six months to El Salvador, right on its border with Honduras, and take travelers to visit four villages. I am active with US El Salvador Sister City Committees, that date back to the war years, began as an attempt to accompany people in their efforts to return to their villages and rebuild their lives. After the Peace Accords (1992), our efforts evolved into rural development and friendship projects, and continue strong to this day. My present effort is to figure out how to import a large quantity of coffee from one of the villages. (It’ll be for sale at the show) Charity transformed into commerce. I sing a bilingual program of songs from all over the Americas. Some of them are songs I wrote, others are by friends of mine in this country and in Central America.
I always like to ask, what do you as an artist hope audiences will walk away from your show with?

A smile and a warm heart. A CD and a pound of fresh roasted coffee.
**See Dean perform on Saturday, February 2, 8pm at the Armory Cafe.

Friday, December 7th, 2012 1:12 PM EST

El Salvador: Dec. 30, 2012!!

Hi Folks, I just want to post this informational about our upcoming trip to El Salvador. Lots of people ask about what the trips are like. Here is an itinerary. I don't try hard to get travelers to come, but anyone is welcome, we go every six months: winter and summer. 

Our itinerary: 

Day 1: Arrive in San Salvador. Boston travelers arrive at 12:30. Go to the Beach House. Kansas City travelers arrive at 9 PM, and will be picked up by our driver, probably Alfredo, and brought to the Beach House, where beds will be awaiting your tired bodies. 

Day 2: Breakfast at beach....leave for Chalatenango at 9 AM. Stop on the way at a home center and a supermarket for shopping, and for bottled water. Buy groceries for the one meal that WE will be preparing, for all of the women who cook for us during our visits. We can have a discussion via email, about the menu we will present. 

Lunch in Nueva Esperanza, where we will drop off some things from Watertown their Sister Community here in Boston. We will also pick up Toño, one of our scholarship students, who will spend a couple of days with us as a translator (Toño is studying English at the National University of San Salvador). Proceed to Teosinte, where we drop off some mail and fabric, etc., will switch over to a four-wheel drive truck for the rest of the journey. Some might walk: it's about an hour and a half, quite uphill, but beautiful. 

Arrive in El Higueral in mid-afternoon. Dinner and settling in on the church floor, where new mattresses await us. 

Days 3-7: we will be in El Higueral, carrying out several projects, but not working too hard, mostly enjoying the place. Lots of naps, whenever necessary. We have showers, clothes washing washbasin and latrine, behind the church.

Possible projects: 1) Medical consults with Dr. Andrew and Dr. Donelly (or at least both are soon to proudly wear that prefix). 

     2) Dental consults with Rhonda (dental hygienist) and Beto (for years, El Higueral's dental consultant. We will be working to equip Beto with tools and skills to be a complete dental hygienist)

     3)Some touchup painting tasks in the church.

     4) A metalworking/wire bending workshop with master jewelry-maker Nancy Linkin and her son Caleb (age 14). We are bringing tools and supplies to make this happen, and announcing ahead of time, this workshop to the village, to find folks interested in participating.

     5)Some special project for Tristan and Byron: This mentor-student pair of lobster fishermen/cool dudes from Vinalhaven, Maine are on their second trip to El Higueral, and being very resourceful, will figure out some cool way to be really helpful, while also having an awesome time down at the swimming holes/soccer field. 

      On one of those days we will, as usual, be hiking up to Izotalillo, the town where I buy the coffee. This is quite a strenuous hike, all uphill, three hours, and is completely optional. But it's a beautiful place to visit, if you can make it, and they always prepare us a great lunch. This year I am stepping up my relationship with Izotalillo: I have pre-ordered one ton (2000 pounds) of coffee, four times more than I've ever ordered before. This is my way of biting the bullet to do what I've been talking about for ten years: figure out how to ship beans in bulk to the US. I'll be staying three extra days in El Salvador after you all leave, to try and figure this out. I am pursuing several different angles to achieve this, and am confident that one of them will get me the beans from Izotalillo to my garage in Brookline. 

Day 7: Leave early (truck comes at 7 AM) down the mountain, pick up crafts, embroidery and mail in Teosinte, visit the sewing shop. Load onto the bus, and head to San Salvador. Crafts shopping, sight-seeing. In the evening, meet with friends, either at awesome friend Chris Damon's home, or at our guest house. 

Day 8: Airport/ fly home. Two trips to the airport: some leave early, others leave at midday. 

So this is the first email. I will send another one with all of the contact information for us in El Salvador.  We will be accessible by phone at every moment of this trip. In fact, ironically, the most inaccessible place we go: Izotalillo, no roads or electricity, has the best cell reception....Go figure...

Then I'll write a "what to bring" email. I will also send you some other info about our budget and planning process for this trip, about the scholarship students we are sponsoring in El Higueral.

Please be in touch with all your questions, concerns, phobias, dietary restrictions, special ways you need to be coddled by Dean, your master den-mom and pot washer. Phone: 617-327-7701 (home) or 617-869-3014 (cell).

With Great Love and Anticipation, 


PS: Here is my holiday gift to you: I recorded it live, last season, and will add some more selections this year:

Thursday, May 26th, 2011 7:00 PM EDT

From Clayton Kennedy, our awesome Peace Corps Dude in El Higueral

Comes this amazing story, that hit me like a ton of bricks, because it's about our dear friends. Martir lived with us in Boston in 1994, when he came for a month so his daughter Elba could have heart surgery. Now Elba lives in Boston, and Martir and his wife Rosa, well, read on....
The Latino Bonus
At 4pm yesterday Rosa’s cow swallowed an unripe mango and choked. 
Black and docile, as much pet as beast, the cow stretched her jaws wide and began to hack, eyes clouding with fear, head jerking forward with each attempt.  A sudden shudder slid through her and she reeled from the ground, snorting.  The fruit had shot up her nasal airway.
By the time Rosa’s husband and son arrived the cow was splayed across the mountainside wheezing, foam splattering from her mouth, eyes rolling and crazy, her whole face beginning to swell.  The men stretched her tongue to pour in oil, groped down her throat to their elbows, and then, as the first stars shown through, folded to the dirt and exhaled: the cow was dead.  She was weeks from giving birth. 
Swiftly, sadly, Rosa’s son scampered down the mountain for a knife, light, and their horse.  When he returned the husband stared at their cow for a moment — Hija, they called her, meaning Daughter — and then began to carve.  The innards stank, the fetus was wet and unwieldy.  They loaded the best meat and pelt onto the horse and at 9:30 began to lead him down the path. 
Minutes later, as they rounded a dark switchback, the horse’s hoof slid out and he buckled, coming down hard on his side and then tipping forward, the weight of the meat seizing him into a slide and then an all-out roll down the ravine.  The husband — rope wrapped around his hand — went with him, skidding in an attempt to slow the fall and then wrenched arm-first into the tumble.  Twenty meters down they slammed into a gully.  The husband’s shoulder was dislocated, his face bashed in.  The horse’s spine — shattered.
Cow, calf, horse: gone in three hours.  Dairy, income, transportation, pride.  Gone.
Rosa’s eyes glistened with emotion and fatigue as she stepped onto my porch in the morning, a plate in her hand heavy with thinly-sliced, uncooked cuts of steak.  They’d lost a cow last night, she explained, but at least they hadn’t lost the meat.  Her hand stretched toward me: “For you,” she said in Spanish, her face lifting into a smile.  “I imagine that you know how to cook it nice and tasty in your American style, with tomatos and spices and everything.”  Then she glanced down and added, “I don’t know if you’d be willing to teach me.”
“Wait,” I began, stuck on her first point.  “Your cow died?  La Hija?!” 
“Yes,” Rosa repeated, “but here are some pieces of the meat.  For you.  To cook.”  I took the plate absently, eyes widen by the news.  “I don’t know,” she started again, “if you’d want to teach me how to cook it with veggies and all.” 
“La Hija died…” I murmured once more, not ready to move on from the sadness.  But Rosa was persistent: she wanted to learn, in the kitchen, in the midst of all her pain.
We set the meat marinating and left for her two-room adobe, Rosa sharing details as we walked.  It was devastating, the loss.  No more milk for the kids.  No more cash from loaning the horse.  No more help with heavy loads during the rainy season, when for months no vehicle can make it up the final five kilometers to our community. 
Neither Rosa nor her husband had slept.  Her middle son — 14 years old — would refuse food all day.  Her eldest had gone in with them on the horse, helping pull together $250 for the purchase a year ago.  Rosa wept over the phone with him as she revealed what had happened. 
“But the daily chores of life don’t stop,” she explained, looking straight at me, softly.  “You’ve got to keep going.”  She shrugged, then turned to serve me lunch. 
As I ate, Rosa told me how Hija used to munch straight from her hand, the cow’s big nostrils blowing warm huffs that would tickle the thin skin on her wrists.  “It’s true, isn’t it?” she asked her husband as he stepped in slowly from stretching the hide with their son-in-law out back.  He began a deep, slow laugh and nodded, lowering himself into a chair.  His face was battered, his left hand gashed, his right shoulder immobile. 
Rosa sat down next to him and — as he watched her — the heavy lines across his face loosened.  After a moment he said, “I feel for those who lose family instead of animals,” his eyes trailing away, his tone revealing how close his own family had been to losing him last night.  “I feel for them.”  He repeated the line three times over the next several minutes, tears nearly reaching his mustache before he smeared them away.  Every single member of the community lost family during the war.
Rosa pulled out a cream and began to massage it into his open wounds.  Over twenty people hiked up the mountain at 10pm last night, she told me, bringing their mules and horses with them.  They came as soon as they heard what was happening, rushing to help the injured, haul the meat, hug the child.  Rosa paused to pick a tick from her husband’s bicep, another from below his lip.  Though her family had just lost an unbearable amount of money, she went on, they were giving away the meat, making sure that most of the thirty households in the community received some.  “It’s the custom here in this community – it’s always done when somebody loses a cow.”  I asked her to repeat that: giving away all the meat of a pregnant cow, for free? 
Rosa nodded: “That’s called unity.” 
El Salvador, it’s worth noting, has ranked as high as #4 in recent global studies of happiness and life satisfaction.  Despite the gangs, overpopulation, and natural disasters, despite the poverty, emigration, and ceaseless homicides, the people of this little war-pocked strip of land have smiled into the top third of every nation-by-nation survey done on the subject.  Researchers dubbed it the Latino Bonus: for all the indigence and violence that lace through Latin America, its citizens are generally more satisfied and happy than others.
But — at least in this community — that’s not because people pass the days lazing under cacti in the shade of their sombreros.  Nor is it because they stretch out each afternoon with piñatas and cases of cold longnecks, pushing back work ’til “mañana, mañana….” 
No, I have found most villagers here gently fulfilled without ever seeming hedonistic or simple.  These families know hardship.  They know suffering.  They know what it is to stride the mountains shielding their babies from shrapnel, digging up roots to feed their loved ones, watching the Jute River surge red.  They’ve learned the sound of their children waking in the night because the tin roof is dripping on them again.  They have felt fear clench through their chest as they run from stalk to stalk, the morning’s storm having ruined their entire crop.  They’ve seen the impoverished monotony of the campo turn the young people’s vision north.  They know that agro-chemical companies prey on them, and that junk food companies prey on them, and that rich economies prey on them.
……….but they don’t seem to let that get in the way of their love for what is here.  Their love for who is here.  Positivity, hard work, human connection: they are choices people can make, priorities people can define and stick to.  Doing so is — undoubtedly — a form of courage, a brave, willful focus on that which is important. 
What we are, they tell me here, is imperfect, poor, and beautiful, and we want to share in this with others. 
Imperfect, poor, and beautiful. 
As I stood to leave, Rosa’s youngest daughter brought out a box with baby parakeets.  They hand-feed the little birds several times each day, spooning a watered-down corn dough into their frantic beaks.  When the food comes near, the birds clamp onto the spoon and begin to shake spastically, spraying the dough all over.
“They’re really fun, aren’t they?” Rosa asked, eyes still glistening with fatigue and emotion but now bouncing with the rest of her head in imitation of the nestlings.  “They always make me laugh.”
Clayton Kennedy
(our next trip to El Higueral is on June 29th, 2011)
Friday, April 29th, 2011 12:51 PM EDT

Trip to El Salvador: June 29 to July 6

As usual, I invite anyone who wants to come with me, for a window into village life in remote El Salvador. I'm in my twentieth year of leading these trips, and somehow, they just keep on getting better. More info is on the "Friends of El Higueral" facebook page, or, or write me at The trip costs about $1000 (the plane ticket plus about $250 for ground expenses. We meet with scholarship students and community leaders and health workers, talk about education, politics, agriculture, development, play music, do coffee and crafts commerce. Join us. The trip last a week, from Wed, Jun. 29 to Wed. July 6. This trip's highlight: Buck Arnhold, a wonderful painter, will be along to lead a mural painting project. If this sounds like it would float your boat. be in touch......Love Always, Dean
Tuesday, December 28th, 2010 8:35 AM EST

Happy New Year: Some Great Upcoming Events for you!

Hi Folks,
My true hope for 2011 is that I get to see you! I am playing a few gigs here and there, and as always, my slogan is, "wherever they'll have me, I'll be had". I am also very enthusiastically hosting various other performers during the upcoming months: moira smiley and VOCO, Ann Randolph (just one night in Boston, do not miss her show!), Kallet Epstein and Cicone,  David Massengil, and last but not least,  ROY ZIMMERMAN! Roy is just an amazing political satirist: look up his stuff on youtube. Here's what's cooking for the upcoming months: 
Sun Jan. 2; 2011: Boston, MA 11 AM; Singing in the New Year; Dean Stevens/Suzie Giroux/David Broeg and friends join us for this singathon at Community
Jan 3 to Jan 10 Trip to El Salvador (too late to join this one, next trip is in late June)
Fri. Jan. 14: Watertown, MA; moirasmiley and VOCO
Thu. Feb. 17: Jamaica Plain, MA; Ann Randolph's LOVELAND;
Sat. Mar. 5; Dean Stevens and Friends in Somerville, MA: Third Life Studio
Fri. Mar. 11; Baltimore, MD; Dean house concert;
Sat. Mar. 12; New York City; Jenkins House Concerts;

Sat. Mar. 19; Watertown, MA; Kallet, Epstein and Cicone:
Sat. Mar. 20; Newton, MA; Dean Stevens house concert; Lower Falls House Concerts;
Fri. Apr. 8; Watertown, MA; David Massengill;
Sun. Apr. 10; Boston, MA; Roy Zimmerman; First Church in Jamaica Plain UU, 6 Eliot St. JP, MA 02130; to benefit Community Church of Boston Flood Reconstruction; 
Sat. Jun. 4: Sweet Chariot Festival: West Roxbury, MA;
See you there!  Love Always,  DEAN
Monday, November 8th, 2010 3:17 PM EST

Vos sos el Dios de los pobres

Several people asked me to post this translation. My recording of this was posted on a youtube that is getting lots of hits:
so here it is:
            Vos sos el Dios de los pobres
                                                            de la Misa Campesina Nicaragüense
                                                                        by Carlos Mejía Godoy
Vos sos el Dios de los pobres
El Dios humano y sencillo
El Dios que suda en la calle
El Dios de rostro curtido
Por eso es que te hablo yo
Así como habla mi pueblo
Porque sos el Dios obrero
El Cristo trabajador.
Vos vas de la mano con mi gente
Luchas en el campo y la ciudad
Haces fila allá en el campamento
Para que te paguen tu jornal
Vos comes raspado allá en el parque
Con Eusebio, Pancho y Juán José
Hasta protestas por el sirope
Cuando no te le hechan mucha miel.
Yo te he visto en una pulpería
Instalado en un caramanchel
Te he visto vendiendo lotería
Sin que te avergüense ese papel
Yo te he visto en las gasolineras
Chequeando las llantas de un camión
Hasta patroleando carreteras
Con guantes de cuero y overol.
You are the God of the poor
The God human and simple
The God who sweats in the street
The God with the suntanned face
That's why I talk to you
Just as my people talk to you
Because you are the God who labors with us
You are the worker's Christ
You walk hand in hand with my people
You struggle in the countryside and in the city
You get in line out there in the field
To wait for your day's pay
You eat slurpy ice in the park
With Eusebio, Pancho and Juán José
You even complain about the syrup
When you don't get enough on your cone.
I've seen you in a tiny corner store
Sitting inside an even tinier corner store
I've seen you selling lottery
Without being in the least ashamed
I've seen you in the gas stations
Checking the tires on a truck
Even patroling highways
With leather gloves and overalls.
                                                                                    ©1978 Carlos Mejía Godoy
Vos sos el dios de los pobres means "You are the God of the poor". It is the beginning number in the Misa Campesina, or Nicaraguan Farmers' Mass, an amazing piece of work by Carlos Mejia Godoy, whose songs, many say, were the reason that the Sandinista revolution in 1979 succeeded in overthrowing a 50 year dynasty of US installed brutal dictators. It is a seminal expression of what's called Liberation Theology, which says that you can look around at each other and look at scripture, and receive your own sacred inspiration, draw your own conclusions from it, not have to swallow what is handed down by the eclesiastic heirarchy whose purpose is more to keep social control, than to bestow peace or ease human suffering. (Liberation Theology is also the object of Glenn Beck's latest McCarthyesque hateful fearmongering spewings) 

In the thirty years that have ensued, Sandinismo has taken several different turns into cynicism and power hunger, away from its original revolutionary inspiration, and many of the founders of its ideas, especially the artists, including Mejía Godoy himself, have become deeply disenchanted with the present Sandinista leaders now in presidential power in Nicaragua. Still, those of us who were deeply moved and transformed by the Nicaraguan Revolution will not forget, and take deep inspiration from its ideas, and from the blooming of artistic expression that unfolded during its heyday.

On this 1990 recording I was joined by Willie Sordillo (sax), and Brian and Rosi Amador (voices and percussion), folks with whom I had traveled to Nicaragua on a music tour.
Tuesday, October 26th, 2010 12:58 PM EDT
Hi Folks, In anticipation of some gigs with Linda Waterfall in Seattle and vicinity, I send you this video. Thanks, Cindy and Grey for putting it up!! I totally love the way they do the song. Check it out:
I'm taking a breather from sitting in a hospital room with my son Daniel, who just had a ruptured appendix removed, and is recovering well, but has to get IV antibiotics for a few days. I am grateful for great health care, and let's work to make it available for all peoples on this planet. I am humbled to be in those hospital rooms, with brave parents with kids a lot lot sicker than mine. Brave brave folks, brave brave kids. Stand by, support, pray for and with the parents of sick kids.
See the website event calendar, for some upcoming fun, coming to a place near or far away from you. Wherever they'll have me, I'll be had. That's my slogan. Also, I'm taking another group to El Salvador on January 3. If you want to come, be in touch, I'll give you the scoop.
Humbly and Thankfully,   DEAN
Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010 2:50 PM EDT


My Dearest Dears, 
I can't think of a more delicious summer than the one we just lived, even with oil spilling out of the bottom of the ocean, even with glaciers melting, even with a crazy, broken's a beautiful life from where I stand. And  I want to tell you about a few things coming up. 
But first, a moment to remember two friends we lost this summer: 
Rev. Lucius Walker: worked harder than anyone on the planet to end US' Insane failure of a war against Cuba. Spearheaded years of caravans of medical and school supplies to challenge the Embargo. Organized "Pastors for Peace" material aid truck caravans to Central American refugees, in the aftermath of the conflicts there. An amazing activists, truly will be missed.
Walkin' Jim Stoltz: songwriter, photographer, multimedia artist, most avid hiker ever, trekker, fierce advocate for wilderness, against insane destruction of wide open spaces. Produced the Rachel Carson " Songs for the Earth" CD compilation that includes my song, "Salmon River".  Fond Farewell,  Jim, inspire us...
I just spent a wonderful few days working for Equal Exchange, on a tour with Pedro Ascencio, coffee farmer from Ahuachapan, El Salvador,  member of a 89 member cooperative that produces lots of shipping containers of coffee for EE. We went to Food coops, colleges, churches, NGOs. A truly inspiring brilliant little guy, profoundly eloquent despite his humble origins, and only basic education. 
My church (www.communitychurchof has just ordained a new minister, Rev. Jason Lydon. We hired him as a young firebrand who had come up in UU youth leadership circles. What most attracted us to him (besides his leadership credentials) was the six months he spent in jail for protesting against the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, GA (aka School of Assassins). He was our "congregational director" while he finished seminary, and now, we just had a beautiful ordination service last Sunday, and he is our minister. It is a truly joyful moment in our church's life, and comes at the perfect moment, when we are struggling to raise funds to rebuild from a devastating flood last December. 
Upcoming (includes shows I'm hosting, trips I'm leading, and shows I'm performing): 
Oct. 7-9; in CAMBRIDGE, MA; US-El Salvador Sister Cities National Gathering  (Oct. 8 evening event will be sponsored by the Salvadoran Consul to New England, Jose Aleman, joined by El Salvador's Ambassador to the US. My, what a change of government hath wrought!
Sat. Oct. 16: WATERTOWN, MA; Tremedal Concerts Season Opener: Lev Friedman with daughters, Ari and Mia Friedman and Friends;
Northwest with Linda Waterfall:
Oct. 29; Bellingham, WA   (info TBA)
Oct. 30; SEATTLE, WA; Seattle Folklore Society;
Sat. Nov. 6; Olympia, WA, Traditions Cafe and World Folk Art;
Sat. Nov. 20: WATERTOWN, MA; Tremedal Concerts presents: Jim's Big Ego;
Sat. Dec. 11; Watertown, MA; Tremedal Holiday Show and Crafts Fairs: Dean Stevens and David Dodson (David's CD release!!);
Mon. Jan 3 to Mon Jan 10th: El Salvador trip. Want to join us? contact
Saturday Feb. 12: NEWTON, MA: Lower Falls House Concerts;
Thu., Fri. Feb. 17, 18: Location TBA; Ann Randolph's one woman show: Loveland!!
Sat. March 5; Somerville, MA; Third Life Studio;
Sat. Mar. 12; NYC; Jenkins House Concerts;
Sat. Mar. 19; Watertown MA; Tremedal Concerts presents: Kallett, Epstein and Cicone, CELEBRATING THIRTY YEARS TOGETHER!!
So that's a thumbnail of the next few months. Thanks so much for keeping up with all of this...
Peace to you!  DEAN
Friday, June 4th, 2010 2:34 PM EDT

Sweet Chariot; June 19; Apartment for Rent on our Street'; Seeking Wheelchair

Hi folks, 
We have a big wingding coming up, Sweet Chariot Music Festival the yearly event that I organize in West Roxbury, on Sat, Jun. 19th.  For info, go to, or, and search for Sweet Chariot Music Festival. It's great fun. We hope you can be there. 
Looking for a great, spacious apartment to rent, in Roslindale?  Want to be our next door neighbors, and have some great landladies? Let me know 
Finally, as you might know, I am leading a group to El Salvador on June 25. There are still spaces left, and the ticket price has gone down in the last weeks! I am looking for a wheelchair to take with me. Toño is a paraplegic young man who lives in a very remote town where my amazing coffee comes from. His chair, the last one we brought for him, is just about given out, due to the rough conditions there. If you know of a wheelchair to donate, let me know ( 
It looks like a great summer, but mostly I am grieving for all things alive and wonderful which will soon be things dead and oil-soaked in the Gulf of MExico, from the simple plankton all the way up to the top of the food chain, whales, dolphins, us. Let's hasten the end of the age of fossil fuels. And with that simple and positive challenge, I say good bye to you...let's get this done this summer. OK? 
Much Love,  DEAN
Tuesday, January 12th, 2010 6:54 AM EST

El Salvador: 2/12/10-2/19/10: Want to Come

Spend a winter week with us in Salvadoran Villages. Lots of people really enjoy these trips, and many come regularly repeatedly. If you're interested, send me an email:
Tuesday, January 12th, 2010 6:51 AM EST

VOCO Cancels/Happy New Year/ Community Church: Flooded Out

Happy New Year, My Dears,

Moira Smiley and VOCO had to cancel the New England portion of their winter tour, due to unforeseen medical issues. There is no January 8 Tremedal Concerts event, as previously announced. We will figure out, with brown paper tickets, how to refund the advance ticket sales, and we hope to reschedule this marvellous ensemble for another date soon. I am so sorry to bear this news, and we are planning for there to be an enormous blizzard in Boston that night, so it's just as well that we postponed! Stay tuned, because Linda Waterfall is coming on Sat. Mar. 20. I can hardly wait!

We returned from a marvelous Christmas in Costa Rica with my folks, to another piece of really sad news, that my beloved Community Church of Boston had been severely damaged by a flood caused by a ruptured water pipe: our Lothrop Auditorium ceiling caved in onto the floor, onto the piano and sound system. The restaurant underneath the Auditorium,. our church's principal sustenance and income source, is also totally destroyed and closed down for at least a month to rebuild. We have insurance, and are, I believe, in good hands to rebuild and renew, but it feels like the phoenix just rising from the ashes. If you are anywhere near Copley Square this Sunday Jan. 3 at 11 AM, join us as we "Sing in the New Year", our annual 1st. Sunday event, which we will hold in the third floor Guatemala Room, not in the Auditorium. The renewal and rebirth that this season is about will have very special meaning for us this year.

At moments like this I think back on Salvadoran refugees that I met in 1991, returning after the war to their villages with nothing, putting up plastic sheets, then corrugated tin shacks to keep their families from the rain. I think of how far they have come, and how far we have to go to get there. Keep your eyes on the prize!!

We send to you our sweetest greetings of faith and hope for a bright and blessed New Year and New Decade!

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009 11:21 AM EDT

Dillon Bustin/David Dodson: Watertown, MA; Fri. May 22; Double CD Re-Release!!

Hey Folks, Come be with us on my birthday weekend: two of my finest friends, both of them, in my estimation, genii (geniuses?), celebrate the re-release of their old recordings, on CD. David's "Goldenrod", and Dillon's Almanac, two of my favorite recordings of all time, faded into obscurity, but are now freshly available on CD!!
Dillon Bustin and David Dodson: Lost Gems Found: CD Re-Releases
Tremedal Concerts/ First Parish in Watertown
Friday, May 22nd, 2009 8:00 PM

35 Church St.
Watertown, MA 02472
Reservations: 617-782-8718
Price: $15 ($13 in advance)
David Dodson and Dillon Bustin sing for us to celebrate the rediscovery, from LP and cassette, to CD, of their long dormant masterpieces, David's "Goldenrod" and Dillon's "Almanac", two Lost Gems found once more!! Don't miss this rare event. Also featuring: Denny Williams, Daisy Nell and Captain Stan, Ellen Epstein, Eric Kilburn,  and Dean Stevens on sound and song.
Wednesday, May 13th, 2009 11:19 AM EDT

Dillon Bustin/David Dodson: Watertown, MA; Fri. May 22; Double CD Re-Release!!

Hey Folks, Come be with us on my birthday weekend: two of my finest friends, both of them, in my estimation, genii (geniuses?), celebrate the re-release of their old recordings, on CD. David's "Goldenrod", and Dillon's Almanac, two of my favorite recordings of all time, faded into obscurity, but are now freshly available on CD!!
Dillon Bustin and David Dodson: Lost Gems Found: CD Re-Releases
Tremedal Concerts/ First Parish in Watertown
Friday, May 22nd, 2009 8:00 PM
35 Church St.
Watertown, MA 02472
Reservations: 617-782-8718
Price: $15 ($13 in advance)
David Dodson and Dillon Bustin sing for us to celebrate the rediscovery, from LP and cassette, to CD, of their long dormant masterpieces, David's "Goldenrod" and Dillon's "Almanac", two Lost Gems found once more!! Don't miss this rare event. Also featuring: Denny Williams, Daisy Nell and Captain Stan, Ellen Epstein, Eric Kilburn,  and Dean Stevens on sound and song.
Sunday, April 26th, 2009 11:53 AM EDT

Spring sings and takes wing

Hey, Y'all,
I'm enjoying the calm before the storm, and taking advantage of it to get my garden in. I'm very sore from that, but soon to recover. So what storm cometh? Here it is: 
Mon. Apr. 27: Cantab Lounge in Central Square, open mike featured guest.
Sat. May 16: Orono, Maine; Benefit for PICA and Bangor-El Salvador Sister City Project (special guest David Dodson)
Sun. May 17: Vinalhaven, Maine; Benefit for ARC Youth Center; (special guest David Dodson)
Fri. May 22: Watertown, MA; Dillon Bustin and David Dodson; "Lost Gems Found" Celebrating the CD Rerelease of two masterpieces, Dillon's "Almanac" , and David's "Goldenrod"; Tremedal Concerts (Dean Stevens, producer and sound guy)
Sun Jun 6: Newton, MA; House Concert Lev and Joyce Friedman Home
Sat. Jun 13: West Roxbury, MA; Fifth Annual Sweet Chariot Music South rolls into Theodore Parker UU Church. 
Fri. Jun 19; Cambridge, MA:  Fred Small in Concert with guests Brian and Rosi Amador of Sol y Canto (and the twins, age 13). Benefit for The Beloved Community (Firist Parish UU in Cambridge). Dean Stevens, producer and sound guy)
Tue to Sun.. Aug 4-9: The Islands of Maine (and Camden too): Sweet Chariot Music and Arts Festival
There is more info about all of these events at
Revel in the renewal that this season brings to all of us!! I hope to see you at one of these events. If you're too far away to come, I'd love to come to you. Help me set up a gig near you! I've got a new CD to promote. I especially like to do benefit events for great causes. 
Love, DEAN
PS: Our next trip to El Salvador is July 2 to July 13 (getting full, but if you pretty please me, maybe space is available)

Friday, March 27th, 2009 1:09 PM EDT

Court Interpreters: Public Hearing 3/26/09

My name is Dean Stevens. I've been a Spanish Interpreter in the Courts of the Commonwealth for 25 years. I hope my health holds out for another 25 years, because the mutual-fund money that I carefully squirreled away over all of that quarter-century so I could retire some day, is suddenly worth 60% of what it was a year ago, and being self-employed, freelance, seat-of- the pants, guess what: I don't have a retirement package of any kind coming. That's a bargain that I made with the Commonwealth, an arrangement I entered into freely and voluntarily. An arrangement that worked well for me, but which at this point feels more like a devil's bargain. No, I'm not calling the Trial Court the devil incarnate. I'm just saying that this pay cut feels like a step backward. And I speak more for other interpreters rather than myself. I am male, white, married, middle-aged, heterosexual, have all the characteristics of privilege. Most interpreters, like most people in this country, don't fit this demographic, and partly because of that, are in a much more difficult financial situation than I'll ever be.
   It is a scary thing to admit to you that I started in 1984 with Blanca Batteau's Judicial Language Center. And in 1989, when the OCIS was founded, I began to take work with them as well, work which I continue to this day. I have always worked part-time. I feel a great deal of gratitude for this freelance job, which has allowed me to earn a decent living, while pursuing a number of other time-consuming life goals. I have generally worked two to three days a week, spending the rest of my time chasing a music career, leading numerous Sister City and Sister Parish activist delegations to villages in Central America, producing concerts, working as a sound engineer, but mostly just raising a child and feeding a greedy mortgage.
I'd like to preface these words with a nod to my fellow interpreters. We hardly ever see each other. This is truly a solo gig, and it is regrettable that we haven't really built a community of interpreters. There have been several brief attempts at organizing a semblance of a guild or union, attempts which have in small ways, advanced our cause for some better conditions and improved compensation. But for the most part we remain isolated. The OCIS office, because of its strange role, being neither management nor labor, advocating for us, but having to implement management's decisions, has not really provided a community building platform for us.  I'd like to challenge each one of you to help  figure out how to do this, how to build a community of interpreters, freelance and staff, that looks out for our interests, that truly works to improve the practice of what we do, as well as to improve how the courts handle persons with limited English. One part of me has always liked the outsider role that we have in the courts, which has made it easy for me to simply walk away from my day's work and wash my hands and soul of what went on in there. "This is not truly me, this is not what I am", I have said to myself. My mantra in this work has always been a line from an old Quaker Hymn, which says "no storm can shake my inmost calm". I could drive home at night, to my life, which included a lot of better things than working in the courts day-in and day-out.
But there has lately been a storm that has shaken my inmost calm.  And it's not about the cut in interpreter's travel time that was just announced. You thought that was what I was going to talk about. Bear with me, I'll get to that too.
One day, about two months ago, I had a really nasty encounter with a rude and arrogant probation officer. I found myself doing something a colleague in the courts should never have to do, apologizing to the Spanish speaking client for the unprofessional behavior of a fellow court staff member.
The next thing that happened was that I had to make four visits to the Registry of Motor Vehicles, to transfer ownership of an inherited '96 Buick, from the estate of my late mother-in-law. You thought that our court staff was rude and arrogant: folks, check out the Registry of Motor Vehicles.
Then just this week, I had another really unpleasant brush with a senior person behind a counter at a clerk's office, all this while trying to help a Limited English Person navigate the court system. Rude with the client, rude with the interpreter for wanting to help the client. And all of this he did with junior clerk personnel standing by, watching his less than model behavior. There is a word in Spanish, "prepotente", which doesn't translate very well, but it's about people who say with their whole being, I have all the power in this encounter, and I'm going to project it in every way I can.
These incidents have me thinking about interpreters. Can we as outsiders, influence the way business is done in these halls, truly have an impact on the culture of the courts? After this series of experiences, I really want more than ever to believe that we can. I used to think that all we were was a  telephone line between the speakers of one language to another. And it was a convenient belief, that allowed me to walk away from everything, wash my hands, and say, it's not my job, all I do is interpret. As time goes by, I think I have to come in from the cold, and accept that I am a part of this. I truly want to believe that we can model good behavior to other court personnel. That we can, within the limits of what the Code of Ethics allows us to say and not say, show dignity and respect for people, show acceptance of the personhood of our clients,  promote notions of diversity and anti-racism, truly be of service to the people we are working with.
Don't get me wrong. There are a lot of very professional gifted and compassionate court employees that amaze me over and over. But it's the bad apple that spoils the bunch, and leaves me losing sleep at night. This is starting to sound like a pep talk, it sort of is, it's also just me, trying to process these encounters, and figure out what to do differently. I wish I had more of a community to bounce these things off, a community that might include interpreters, clerks, probation officers, judges. But again, we are outsiders. I think that's the theme of my talk.
And as outsiders, with no representation, with no seat at the table, our compensation has been just decreased.
We have been paid for travel time since 1991, soon after OCIS was formed. That was when our salary was increased, from $15 to $30/hour. It was truly the moment when the decision was made to professionalize the court interpreters, and this came about as a result of statewide legislation that brought the OCIS into being. It was a step in the direction of compensating interpreters for what they were truly worth. The travel time formula is a long standing settled arrangement. It is an arrangement that benefits some interpreters handsomely, and others much less. I've always viewed it as a sort of combat pay. In my years of traveling all over the state, I've had two cars broken into, windows broken, stereos stolen. Once at the Juvenile Court at 10 Railroad St. in Lawrence, someone succeeded in getting into my car, releasing the emergency brake, then running off, causing my car to roll into a police officer's truck, costing me, Mr. Liability-only insurance, $1000. I've paid innumerable parking tickets to countless jurisdictions, and paid plenty to park in lots as well. I've been in some pretty nasty snowstorms on my way home from places like Dudley, Worcester, and going way back into the 80s and early 90s, places like Pittsfield, Greenfield, and Chicopee. We've always been available to go anywhere, on a moment's notice. We serve in front of judges all over the state. We go to prisons, institutions, and state hospitals, I refuse to accept that the travel time formula is in any way excessive, as this action before us suggests. And I hope that it is restored soon. Having said that, I imagine that this is not very likely, given the present economic climate. Still, I'd like to ask for a few things in return, which I think are fair for interpreters:
1) How about regular periodic compensation review, say every 2 years, with cost of living increases, just like most salaried employees receive? In my 25 years, our compensation has gone up twice. Once in 1991, and once in 2006. Then in 2007, I believe, we got the extra incentive to go to a second court. At those moments, compensation went up significantly, but how much that we deserved did we lose, by not having a regular, scheduled periodic review and cost-of-living increase?
2) How about fixing whatever it is that holds up our compensation during budget time at the State House?
3) I don't know if it still exists, but some years back I saw a graph that showed how Sign Language Court Interpreters are compensated according to their years of service. That is, that an interpreter with 25 years should make more than one who just got certified. That's fair, isn't it? Fairer for me than for the one who just got certified, but yes, fair.
4) Finally, please don't laugh at me when I say this, because it's never going to happen, but how about parking privileges for free lance interpreters? We travel more than anyone. I love the City of Boston, but I'm sick of paying parking tickets for not being able to feed the quarters on New Chardon St.. The alternative, if I come from another courthouse, is to park for $35, or take the T from some outlying place, and not make it on time for the judge who is screaming for an interpreter. Another alternative would be to allow us to bill for parking, especially when going to a second court.
My 1099 from 2008 tells me that I was paid $19,278 by the Commonwealth. Of this amount, $1414 is attributable to travel time, which is about 7% of my compensation. As the OCIS knows from processing my invoices, my language skills are far superior to my math skills, but it seems that with the new formula, which cuts our hourly travel time 75%,  from $40 to $10 per 25 miles,  I will be earning about 3% less than before. I'd be curious to know what this figure is for other interpreters. As I barely get assigned to far away courthouses any more, this is not a huge decrease for me. And I congratulate OCIS for regionalizing the Spanish Interpreters, even though it means I make quite a bit less money than I used to. And the Planet congratulates you as well. And I, as a good patriotic citizen of this Commonwealth, am willing and able to make a sacrifice of this kind.  I just ask that you, Judge Mulligan, as a good citizen and employee, accept a similar decrease in salary. Same for every one of the Commonwealth employees who are in this room, judges, clerks, probation officers, OCIS managers. Wouldn't this be fair, and good for the Commonwealth, good for the deficit? We could all get healthier by tightening our belts, isn't that true?
Yes it is true, but this is never going to happen. Why? Because interpreters are still the outsiders. Even after 20 years of existence of OCIS, even after the great progress that our profession has made in the 25 years that I've watched it, we're still on the chopping block. We're kind of like the music and arts programs in public schools: if there is a little left over after everything else is taken care of, maybe we can afford the interpreters.
So, if this is a done deal, why are we meeting here?  Ostensibly for public comment on a proposed change in our compensation package. This should be the place where the powers that be take advice on a proposal, then in all their wisdom, tempered by ours, make a final decision. But that's not what's happening here. It's already a done deal. So, in conclusion, let me talk about something else altogether. When I am not an interpreter, a musician, etc., I am a climate-change environmental activist, with a group called the Boston Climate Action Network. Tomorrow we are doing a barn raising, as a group, helping one of  our members weatherize her house. As an advocate for the planet, I say we have to rethink the interpreters' travel compensation altogether. If interpreters are going to travel, which is inherent to their work in the courts, we have to create incentives for them to use public transportation, to reward their use of cutting edge energy-efficient vehicles. This is something we need to look into, and need to do it soon.
Unfortunately, this topic pales by comparison to the big environmental issue in the court system, which is location of the courthouses, the prisons, the facilities. Please, please if you can hear me, for the sake of interpreters, and their clients, for the sake of people with limited resources and limited transportation,  for the sake of our environment, locate courthouses and prisons right on top of, or near public transportation, not in malls or office parks, or in the middle of nowhere (apologies to any residents of Middleton,MA), or like in Central and Western Mass, on the outskirts of town, Wallmart style, where you have no choice but to drive to get there. And if you don't have a car, you have to take a taxi or have a friend take a day off work to drive you there. I recently read a statistic that 30% of Massachusetts residents don't have a car, don't have access to a car, or cannot drive for some reason or other. I say this on their behalf. And I think it’s the most important thing I have to say here.
Thank you for listening to me hem and haw. I hope something constructive comes from this exercise. I look forward to hearing the other interpreters' remarks, and include this copy of my chicken scratchings for the public record, which I'm fairly sure will collect dust somewhere where no one will read or heed, so be it. Amen 
Thursday, March 5th, 2009 3:21 PM EST

3/5/09, El Salvador News!!

El Salvador Updates: 3/5/09  (Next Trip is in July 2009, come with us!!)
In the aftermath of Obama’s win, I heard several people in El Salvador say, “we hear the frente won in the US?” News that maybe the good, at least the better, guys won in the US is infectious, and hopefully will have the right effect on the upcoming elections in El Salvador.
We were in El Higueral, five of us, between January 5 and January 12. I was joined by Ed White who has come on every trip for four years now, and is the beloved Pied Piper of El Higueral. We had two Kansas City travellers, Brandon (repeat traveller) and Gary (first time). While there, we met up with Andy Schleismann, a young Peace Corps volunteer who is living in nearby county seat San Francisco Morazán, and working at the alcaldía (county offices). He is also teaching English and computers at nearby schools, when he can get his hands on the equipment. We were in the middle of the election campaigns, and got to see some politickiing, as two candidates came to El Higueral to promote their campaign. Andy was an interesting window into this world, as he has seen this campaign close up and personal, and has worked quite a bit with Osmaro, the present mayor. (We later found out that he was defeated by the ARENA candidate, a woman named Tona, whom I know very little about, except that the villagers like her better than the present mayor). We also met with Geovanni, the FMLN candidate, who was campaigning in El Higueral one day. He is from Tremedal, and has done a lt of the msonry work on the church in El Higueral.
We did our usual rounds, checking up on the new and returning scholarship students, getting updates on the projects we’ve helped fund. Some students are living full time away from El Higueral, attending high school, while others are taking distance learning classes, where they live in the village and only go to classes on Saturdays.
Trip Outline:
Our struggle to motivate villagers to oust an abusive teacher from El Higueral. He’s been there four or five years, and has had numerous run ins with parents, has a child by one of his students, and is reported to have sexually abused a number of girls.
My frustration in not having enough room to bring back everything on the airlines, coffee and crafts. I HAVE to figure out how to bulk ship merchandise, especially coffee, to Boston. It might require a special trip to ES, just to research this.
We find out about the El Higueral Ladies’ Saving and Loan Club. They get together in an organized way, using a kind of microcredit model, and agree to save a tiny bit apiece each month into a pool, and support each other in saving money. They also engage in joint money making activities. They made pupusas when people came up with the mayoral candidates. They made empanadas and quesadillas to sell, and save the money they make to loan sums to individuals. I don’t remember all the details of how it works, but I am really happy that they are doing this together, and are all really enthusiastic about it, and proposed that we lend or give them money to build a little kiosk from which to sell food in the middle of town ($375, if I recall correctly). Almost all of the women are participating, and a second group was started.
The electricity has arrived. It was a mixed blessing, seeing light poles all over the place. It hadn’t been hooked up yet, because nobody has the money to pay the hookup fee. But when the mayor came up, he brought an electrician who installed three street lamps, and brought an enormous PA system to blare music for a dance. Everybody in town is leery of him, and noone danced much. They were also trying to be polite, because he owes them a lot of money for roadwork they have done over the past months, and not gotten paid for.
We are talking about doing a summer (July) work delegation, a week and a half instead of the customary 1 week. Possibly a church painting project, maybe some cement work around the church, we’ll see. July 2 to July 13, approximately.
As always, I am humbled by my visits. I want to make an extra trip, maybe in March or April, to bring more crafts back, and to try and figure out how to ship large quantities of coffee to Boston. I am running out of coffee too often, and my own addicition to it tells me it’s time to step up the business a notch.
In Izotalillo, we did coffee business, and talked to Niña Trinidad. Her son, Petronilo, came to the US in 2003, and is in Long Island. He has abandoned hope to pay his coyote fee. Instead, he put money into bringing his wife up, (and leaving their five kids with Grandma, the same Niña Trinidad. When wife Yolanda got to the US, they had another baby, then she found that she is quite ill, with some kind of kidney ailment. She has been in hospital a lot. Recently some worker at the hospital told Petronilo that he should send his wife and baby home to El Salvador, because it is cheaper to send her home alive than in a casket….
On the way back, I was laden with encargos, things that moms wanted to send to their kids in the US. I didn’t know that three moms had made corn sweet bread to send to their kids as comfort food. Big batches of sweet bread. I couldn’t even think of fitting so much corn sweet bread in the luggage. There were two boxes full. So we had a corn sweet bread feast at the guest house, on the last night before heading back..Sorry Mom’s,  I will let you know next time, not to make corn sweet bread.
Hearbreaks: Adelina and Orlando might lose their land to the debt they incurred trying to send two sons to the US. I don’t know the details, but it sounds like usury to me. The community is trying to persuade me to help them, by buying a part of their land so they can pay off the debt, and making it part of the community land that we have helped them purchase over the years. It’s a thorny proposition, because of the message it maybe sends (Send your kids to the US, go ahead and put up your land titles as collateral, Dean will bail you out). Still, I feel deeply for this dear family, and wonder how to help them. And how to persuade families not to send their kids to the US. It’s a tempting gamble. Sometimes it’s a bargain with God, and lots of times, like with Adelna and Orlando, it’s a bargain with the devil.
Toño and Elena’s boy is named Edwin Josué, age 8. He fell out of a tree, and damaged one of his eyes. Last year we sent him to an annual eye surgery campaign that is hel in Santa Ana (several hours away), sponsored by a medical NGO named ASAPROSAR. US professionals and volunteers come down and do a week of surgeries. These surgeons said that there was nothing they could do to restore this child’s eyesight, which is barely a blur in that eye (the other eye is fine). Then comes a Salvadoran doctor, who says that he is willing to operate on Edwin’s eye at his private clinic in San Salvador. Toño pleads with me to gather money to make this surgery possible ($3000). Maybe the most heartbreaking thing fr me was to have to tell him I don’t want to fund this (though a part of me says maybe it’s a worthwhile exercize in futility, just to reward the father’s incredibly dogged persistence in advocating for his boy). I realize that as long as I return to El Higueral (as long as I’m alive), I’ll have to face Toño, and know in my mind that I didn’t come up with that money for that surgery. 
             And there is Nelson: the brightest boy, recent high school graduate,  musician, employed by the Minitry of Health to be a promoter in remote outposts like Izotalillo, where my coffee comes from. Soon after he got the job, he was befriended by some roving lay pastors who were coming to the town to do religious revivals with a Catholic Church affiliated movement called “Renovación Carismática”. One of these visitors found out that Nelson was really wanting to buy a car (though he has no license, and noone owns a car in El Higueral, the road is too rough during the rainy season for anything but a hefty four wheel drive). He went as far as to talk him into taking out a loan at the bank, with automatic payments from his salary at the Ministry of Health. Nelson brought him $1500, half of payment for the car, the second half to be delivered upon delivery of the car. The guy then came up and said he needed the other half of the $3000 payment, before the car could be delivered. Nelson gave him the other $1500. Then the guy disappeared, never to be seen again by anyone, his colleagues in the Renovación movement, the priests who had sent them, disappeared. This was the most naïve, stupid thing I’d ever heard done by a young, otherwise bright and shining young leader of the church and of his community (a chip off the old block, his mother is Rosita, my most trusted, favorite woman in the community). Now he is strapped with paying $60/month for seven years, automatially withdrawn form his salary. You figure out the interest rate….I wantto help Nelson get out of this debt also, but don’t know how, or what would be right in this instance.
Salvadoran elections are on 3/15/09!! I just played a benefit event for CISPES' Boston delegation travelling to observe the election. 
Great News (we hope): even the ARENA presidential candidate has come out against gold mining in El Salvador (maybe it's just his political posturing). I've just watched a deeply disturbing video on youtube about strip mining in Honduras and Guatemala, and it's devastating effects on a place and its inhabitants. Pray to God it doesn't come to Chalatenango. The video is called "All that Glitters is not Gold" and is in several pieces on youtube. 
I hope this will soon be on a blog, delivered to all of you folks who have travelled with me, plus whoever else is interested. Love to all of you,  DEAN
Wednesday, November 5th, 2008 2:53 PM EST


Hi Folks, (Feliz dia del los muertos!)

I've finally done it. I've finished the new CD, at last. That's why it's called "At Last". It's a collection of twelve songs, two of my own, the rest written by a vast assortment of writers from several continents. A bunch of friends, mostly from the Sweet Chariot Music Festival, made delicious musical contributions to the endeavor. It was all masterminded by Eric Kilburn, musician and recording geek/producer extraordinaire. It all took only fifteen years to finish. Raise a glass with me.

The masterful finishing touch was delivered by graphic designer Cassie Jenkins, who came up with the most invitingly beautiful cover you've ever seen. It's a stunning illustration of a passion flower. When I was growing up, we called these vines in our back yard granadillas. They grow on a fencerow or a trellis, then throw a most beautiful fleeting flower that gives way to an oval fruit filled with seeds in a sweet gelatinous pulp. You open it up and plop it in your mouth for a tangy sweet treat that you won't forget soon. Just the CD cover is worth the price of the CD, and check out the interactive information/lyric sheet/link page that Cassie designed for the website, YOU, CASSIE!!

I've had a great deal of amazing help on this project. A very generous friend who has been with me on trips to El Salvador provided the funds to record and manufacture this CD. As a way to give back this largesse, all of the proceeds from the sales of this CD during this holiday season and beyond will go to funding scholarships for high school students in El Higueral, Nueva Esperanza, and Teosinte. You can mail me a check for $15, plus $3 shipping and handling. (Dean Stevens, 14 Ridge St., Roslindale, MA 02131). You can also find "At Last" on All of my other recordings are available there now as well (except "The Overview" (1983), available only on LP from me). Everything will soon be available as digital downloads by song or by collection, on several of the main websites that do that, like ITunes and Rhapsody. It boggles the mind, especially the mind whose paradigm is still the LP (my cellar holds all of my million sellers). Revolution happens. Get used to it.

Our CD Release Celebration is on Sat. Dec. 6, at the First Parish Unitarian Church in Watertown, 35 Church St.. See, print, and spread the attached gorgeous flyer. It is sponsored by the Watertown-El Salvador Sister City Committee . I will be joined by some of the main musical contributors to this project, like Denny Williams, David Dodson, Eric Kilburn, and others. It will be an embarrassment of musical riches. There will be gorgeous crafts for sale, and Izotalillo coffee, if I don't sell ut before then. Please join us if you can. Reservations suggested: 617-782-8718. For more information, visit

Gratefully Yours, DEAN

PS-Finally, spread the news that our next trip to the villages in El Salvador will be from January 5 to January 12. There is more information about the trips on the website, or feel free to call me at 617-327-7701. or email at
Wednesday, November 5th, 2008 11:38 AM EST



Please advise me on how to come down from this ecstasy, and get on in an energized way, with the work of healing a fragile and beautiful planet. With the task of being a better father, husband, teacher, guitar player, and global steward. With the challenge of being more generous, more humble, more passionate, more alive.

I cannot contain my joy. I wept as I cast my vote, and wept as I watched that sea of people in Grant Park. My God, what a delicious moment in time this truly is.

I woke up at 4:30 AM, and wrote Mr. President-Elect a letter, congratulating him, and his beautiful family, for this magic turnaround. I also asked him to, as his first act, reinstall the White House solar panels that Carter put up, that Reagan tore down, and to do the same on every federal building and facility nationwide, including military bases. We lost thirty years in our struggle to save the planet, and there's not much time left to fix it.

Then I asked him to take global leadership in getting every single country in the world to reduce their military budget by 50%, and to guarantee employment of the displaced military personnel in the new Green New Deal Economy. It seems like a no-brainer, right?

I am feeling inspired, and vindicated. I'm feeling whole again.

I am sure that as soon as the enormity of the task ahead sinks in, I won't feel quite as energized or motivated. But for now, I'm wallowing in this bliss, and I hope you feel the same way.

I love you all deeply, and can hardly wait to see you again.

Hasta muy pronto,
Monday, April 7th, 2008 11:00 AM EDT

Phil Ochs Night 4/12; Spanish Civil War Songs and Letters 4/18

Hi Folks, (El Salvador Trip is June 26-July 3; slots available)

Here's a heads up about two great upcoming events

Sat. April 12-Phil Ochs Song Night; Lexington, MA;, or 781-861-0142. For years Sonny Ochs (Phil's sister) has organized these very well attended events as benefits for local causes. This one at one of my favorite coffeehouses, includes Greg Greenway, John Flynn, Magpie, Emma's Revolution, Chris and Meredith Thompson, David Roth, and Yours Truly.

Fri. April 18; George and Ruth; Songs and Letters from the Spanish Civil War; First Parish, Watertown, MA;; 617-782-8718
Dan and Molly Watt team up with musicians Tony Saletan and Silvia Miskoe to present a deeply moving tribute to Dan's parents, George who served in the Lincoln Brigade, and Ruth, who wrote letters from New York, and organized delivery of material aid. Their beautiful correspondence is interspersed with multilingual songs from that struggle against fascism in the years leading up to World War II. this is a gem of an event, not to be missed!

and while I have your attention, mark your calendars for Sat. Jun 14; Sweet Chariot Festival South in West Roxbury.; 617-869-3014
Wednesday, March 12th, 2008 12:45 PM EDT

Next El Salvador Trip: 6/26/08 to 7/3/08; Village News; Music News


I am busy finishing up the new CD. I think it will be called "At Last!!". It's been such a long time coming, with so many pitfalls, distractions, postponements, hibernations, money and time shortages. I am very excited about a possible fall release of this project. I can hardly wait to share what my many musical friends, both the songwriters and the players, have contributed to this effort. It feels great to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Finally!!

We are organizing another trip to El Salvador in late June. It's not a trip for everyone, but all are welcome. Most people who come have a marvellous time, and many come back repeatedly. There is more info about the trips on the website. (

In January there were eight of us who travelled to the villages. I called it the best trip ever, but I seem to describe every trip that way. It's a routine that I don't seem to get tired of, and I feel very proud of the relationships we have developed over the course of 17 years, and of the 150 or so people I have taken with me, and of the projects that we've carried out with these four villages.

On this trip we met with El Higueral's four new high school graduates, and with some of the others who have graduated already, about eight in total. We talked about their plans for further education. Some are working, others cannot go on with their schooling because of other family obligations, and some have genuine desire to continue. The step from high school to university is a BIG and difficult one for them. We're trying to locate some guidance resources for them, to see if we can make it happen, at least for a few of them.

We have been struggling to get the new students enrolled in school. Tejutla's high school went back and forth about whether or not they were going to give extension classes on Saturdays, as they always have. Finally they decided not to admit new students, which meant that three had to scramble to enroll in the regular day to day classes, and find lodging in the towns where they are studying. Two of them, we were thrilled to find out, are staying with former El Higueral schoolteachers, and one is with relatives. These three girls are in three different villages, Tejutla, San Francisco and La Reina. We also have one girl, Esmeralda, who is studying in San Salvador, afternoons. She is a domestic worker all day, then goes to school at 4 PM.

On January 4 we were in Izotalillo, the village that grows the amazing coffee that you can get from me, from St. Andrew Christian Church in Kansas City, or at some of my musical events. They had just been through a wicked wind storm, that did serious damage to every one of the fifteen roofs in the village. there were still twisted pieces of sheet roofing strewn about, and broken pieces of roof tiles everywhere. Lots of pine trees were blown down. It was a storm like had never been seen before, and they were on the front line, being up on that high ridge. The wind also blew most of their coffee crop to the ground. The coffee trees were all bare, all the leaves and fruit blown to the ground, a very eerie scene. The leaves will grow back, but this year's crop is gone. What coffee they had already picked and dried, maybe about 20% of their normal crop, is being held for us, which we will bring back in July.

They have managed to get some reconstruction aid from the governor of Chalatenango, and from some other NGO sources, and have been able to repair their roofs. We also did a fundraising appeal upon our return to the US, and Izotalillo's Sister Community of Crested Butte, CO came up with $2000. This will be used for construction of a new water tank. The materials have been purchased, and a mason is going to spend some upcoming days working with them on building the tank.

There have been two death's recently: Don Higinio, the very old man from El Higueral, who had recently lost his wife Nicolasa, finally went on to join her. This was an amazing man, beloved by the community, who hung on for several years after most people though he'd be gone. On one trip about three years ago, they were saying the last rites for him, but he came through, as he had several times before. I always loved the morning sight of seeing the very very old Don Higinio headed out to the fields. It was such a picture of hearty survival and deep strength that I so admire about these folks. The other passing was Don Benigno from Izotalillo, who at about age 50+, got sick very suddenly, and died. He leaves a wife and three teenage children in Izotalillo. He was also the father of El Higueral's Lucia, a young mother we have had a lot of contact with over the years.

On this trip we found out more about two El Higueral children who have eye problems: Dora Estela is a one year old who has something called ptosis, an eyelid that will not open properly. There is another boy, Edwin, who at age six, fell out of a tree, and one of his eyes sustained serious damage. We had both of these kids seen at an annual eye campaign realized by US opthamologists, eye surgeons and volunteers, along with a Salvadoran medical organization called ASAPROSAR. Dora cannot have her very treatable problem taken care of until she is about 5 years old. Until then we will keep track of her progress. Edwin's situation is more difficult, not treatable, except perhaps a cataract surgery, which may improve his blurry vision in the left eye a tiny bit. He will have this surgery soon, performed by a Salvadoran doctor.

Last week I got a call from Ernesto in Dallas, TX. It took me a moment to remember who he was, until he told me his nickname, Neto. He is Adelina and Orlando's oldest boy. He made the trip to the US, almost totally because of pressure from his family. Another of their boys, Manuel, had attempted the trip, but had been arrested, held in Texas for a month, then returned to El Salvador. In order to finance this trip the parents had put up a title for a piece of land to a local "coyote" as collateral. When Manuel didn't make it, they put up title for another piece of land as collateral for Ernesto's trip. He made it to Texas, but it doesn't sound like he's doing that well. He's working minimum wage for a contractor that washes vegetable boxes for a Walmart store. He's trying to get another part time night job. He barely makes enough to pay his expenses, and send money to pay the exorbitant interest on the loan that the coyote made to his family for his trip. By his account, he seems to be just spinning his wheels. He is very worried about the debt quandary that his family is in, and concerned about them losing their land.

There are six people from El Higueral in the US (Beto, Armando, Oscar, Daniel, Eduardo, Ernesto). Some have managed to slip into fairly stable work situations, pay off their trip, and save some money. Others have not fared so well. There are another six from Izotalillo (Rogelio, Ana Silvia, Cruz, Fermin, Petronilo, and Petronilo's wife). Their outcomes have been equally mixed. Some of them have left children behind with grandparents. Some have defaulted on their coyote loans. In a twisted way, they might be the smart ones: what good is a worthless piece of subsistance land on the side of a mountain, and what coyote is going to be able to repossess it, sell it, and evict the family off it? Better to provide immediate cash to your kin and to hell with the coyote and with your stake on a piece of remote land.

To some the coyote is a hero, risking a lot to bring people to a place where they can make a better life for their family back home. To others the coyote is a villain, bilking money from unsuspecting peasants in these villages, touting the trip as easy and secure. There are people that we know who are recruiters for the coyotes, getting a commission for every young person that they line up for the coyote to take on the perilous trip.

I always tell young people in El Salvador not to come to the US. Stay in your community, I will do everything I can to help you build your community, get education, and develop an economy in these villages. Don't leave your kids with your grandparents. They need YOU to raise them. Stay here. But it doesn't always work out that way, and the reasons are obvious. Grinding poverty, desire for a better life for their kids.

Still I feel deeply for those who have come to the US. They work ridiculously hard to survive. They are scared, fish out of water really, but learn to survive the best they can. They all talk about returning, but none ever seem to. Among the ones who have been here the longest, only one, Beto, has been able to stabilize his residency situation, and get a work permit, which allows him to visit El Higueral. Cruz, from Izotalillo, has done well, and bought some land in the vicinity of Izotalillo, had his family plant it with coffee, and is rumored to want to come back, driving a truck. The rest of these pilgrims are without documents, but there is usually plenty of work of all kinds for them here, though none with any job security or decent wages. So they live for years and years, underground, hidden, but also, ironically, a vital part of this economy.

I could go on and on, and will, when I have more time. Check out my concert schedule on the website, and the next trip dates, and the big CD release next fall, I hope!!

Love, DEAN
Friday, August 17th, 2007 6:55 PM EDT

What a Summer!!

Hi Folks,

I just figured out, for the first time, how to check how many hits the news page received: 900. I am humbled. Of course I don't know if 899 of them got past the first sentence. If so, to the one set of eyes who actually read this Dean-drivel, thanks, I love you madly!

My summer started out with the customary trip to the villages, with another wonderful group, five of us from Boston, and two from Kansas City. Our trips focus mostly on the village of El Higueral, but we visit three others as well, and do crafts, coffee and other Sister City business in those places. I am really glad that there are several US people who share in my passion for these villages enough that they have returned numerous times. On this trip there were two of them, Ed White, who has come on five trips in a row, and Lee Fich, another repeat offender who has come I don't even know how many times over the years. There is also Carol Allen, who was not on this trip, but who has gone with me about ten times!!

These are really good times for our friendship with El Higueral. There are several endeavors that have gone really well that I'll list really quickly for you:

We sent money several months ago for construction of cement tilapia ponds. They have been experimenting with fish culture, mostly in plastic lined ponds: dig a hole, put down a huge piece of plastic, fill it with water. This worked for them, but eventually the plastic gives out when roots come up and rip it, so cement is the next step. Twenty six families built ponds, and have seeded them with fish. We are going to have a contest to see who can raise the biggest one. Last week I read a really interestiing article about farms in Vietnam that raise tilapia as well as goats. They build the goat pens directly over the tilapia ponds, because it turns out, tilapia thrive on goat turds, and it's a wonderful symbiosis, according to this article, in The Ark, which is Heifer Project's monthly magazine. It just so happens that several families in El Higueral just came into some goats, courtesy of a Heifer-like organization called Samaritan's Purse (I later found out that this is Franklin Graham's organization, as in Rev. Billy Graham's son. He was my classmate in high school at a religious prep-school on Long Island. He runs a very evangelical outfit, with a religious agenda, but hey, they gave El Higueral a bunch of goats). When I read about this, I immediately had to call Arnoldo, the amazing Directiva president and Catholic lay leader, and tell him about this. They are going to try it out on their tilapia. I hope it is a succesful experiment, because it would be an amazing new source of tilapia food. I hope this does not gross you out, or keep you from eating tilapia when you come and visit El Higueral!! It certainly won't impede me! Feta cheese flavored fish!!??

I'll tell you more about Arnoldo. Earlier this year his wife Maribel gave birth to Jocelyn, their first girl after six boys, the last boy having been born eight years ago. Arnoldo is a marvellous leader, and has spearheaded the tilapia endeavor, as well as the water project that will make the fish farming a feasible option. We helped them buy land that contains a spring, and channel it down a mile of pipe to the tank. This is the third spring they have now (two of them which we funded), and will assure a good water supply for years to come, allow for the tilapia, and for dry season vegetable growing as well. Arnoldo also leads the lay services at the church (sort of like a mass, but with no priest). His father Arturo used to have this task, as well as the catechism classes, but in Arturo's old age, his son, with whom he is well pleased, has taken over. They built the shell of a church two years ago, and we have been able to help with the windows and doors, and now with plaster for the interior walls, then they can put down the ceramic tile floor. Arnoldo is a marvellous guy to work with, very inspiring, and very thorough with his accountability.

Veronica is a quite disabled ten-year old girl with something that they originally called cerebral palsy, though now it seems like there is also some kind of dwarf condition in play as well. She is tiny. Put her next to my son Daniel, who just turned ten (Happy Birthday, Daniel!!), and you'd have Mutt and Jeff on steroids!! But the coolest thing is that Veronica has had this development breakthrough, and is talking up a storm, which she never did before, and is walking with sticks. The ABSOLUTE HIGHLIGHT of this trip was seeing her walk across the dirt floor with the sticks that her mother had just cut for her from a bush nearby, beaming ear to ear as she showed off her new skill to us, every once in a while whacking at her brother who pretended to try to trip her up. I want to get her some real cool kids' telescoping ski poles to walk with.

We had twelve students going to high school on Saturdays, as part of a distance learning program. We provide them with money for their tuition, supplies, and transportation and meals on the day they go to classes. This adds up to $400/year/student, and there was an idea afoot among the delegation that we seek sponsors to pay for high school scholarships. We already have some folks signed up. For a variety of reasons, three students dropped out of classes, leaving nine to hopefully finish the year. Among those nine, four will graduate from high school, after three years of study. Among those I'll mention two of note, actually I've got to talk about them all, because they are all of note:

Elba Portillo: if you've been following our doings since inception (1991), you will know that Elba is the kid who at age 8, in 1994, we brought to Boston for a successful heart surgery. She is now about to graduate from high school, and has a daughter Jenny, who is named, we believe, after my wife Jennifer, her honorary grandma.

Nelson, age 23, is the son of Rosita Recinos, the village health promoter, treasurer, and saint. Nelson was identified as a youth leader in the community, and recommended for a job with the Ministry of Health, promoting health in remote villages, vaccinating children and animals, keeping records, giving out advice and information, accompanying sick people to hospital. He is a chip off the old block, taking up where Rosita has not even left off. She is the community's real health guru, although her son is the one who has the official position, and makes the salary. On top of this full time job, Nelson is finishing high school, and becoming a wonderful musician as well.

Rosa and Rosa-we call them the Rosas. They live in the houses way up the hill. They are from the two poorest families in the village, and at first their families did not want them to attend high school, they wanted them to stay home and help around the house, perfom the "oficio", the essential woman's work in a traditional farm family: preparing tortillas, cooking, washing, taking lunch to the men and boys out in the fields, caring for the kids. Their schooling was made more difficult because their houses, being far from the villages, don't have the photovoltaic light that the rest of the village enjoys, so it was not as easy for them to study at night, despite the flashlights that I bought for them. One Rosa is very bright and has always gotten very good grades, until last November, when her mother died of cancer, and she has had to take up a big part of the household work burden. She is however, as far as I can tell, in line to graduate! The other Rosa was the shyest, meekest thing when she started studying, and has turned out to be a very eloquent leader and lay youth organizer in the church.

There will soon be a new project spearheaded by the same UCA (Jesuit University in San Salvador) engineers who brought the photovoltaic project 11 years ago. This will be a more expanded version of the existing electric project, supplemented by a corn mill that runs on diesel. They are spearheading the planting of a kind of tree (I don't remember what they are called) whose fruit is easily convertible into a kind of biodiesel, hopefully to run the corn mill. Sounds fascinating. Three young men from El Higueral are going to the university to study basic electrical skills, to be able to help install the new system.

Lilian is the third person from El Higueral travelling to Cuba for eye surgery. This is a project funded by the Venezuelan government, administered by the FMLN party in El Salvador, to send many people to Cuba for several different kind of treatments, laser surgery and cataract procedures. Think about that every time you buy CITGO gasoline, or when you hear the increasing US media tirades demonizing Hugo Chavez. Nuff said. We sent $200 to Lilian, and got her son Oscar in Boston to match that. This will allow her to obtain her passport, and to have expense money while she is in Havana (the plane ticket and the surgery are free).

Another amazing highlight: we saw a PUMA, or maybe a JAGUAR. We were having lunch on Maribel's front porch, when we heard some squawking chickens at a nearby house. We looked over the side of the hill, and briefly saw a big black cat, about the size of a golden retriever, with a big long black tail, vanish into the thicket. The kids told us they saw him with the chicken in his mouth. Not very many people in El Higueral have seen a "gato de monte", though they know that they come around to prey on barnyard animals. So we were magicked with an amazing sight. How many people in this world will see a big cat in the wild any more?

I just heard, when I talked to Arnoldo, about the death of Nina Nico, (aka Nicolasa), one half of the pair known as "los abuelitos" a very old couple in their nineties. Her husband Higinio, is the one whom I suspected would have been long gone. On one of our trips a couple of years ago, they were saying his last rites, but he came through, and is still there, amazingly, now a widower. They are the last of a generation of old timers, slowly fading away.

After I got back from El Salvador, I had to start working furiously in the courts during July (I work as a court interpreter, Spanish) so that we could afford to spend the whole month of August away, first on Swans Island, Maine, and finally, here in Denver, caring for Jennifer's folks. Be well, all of you, or at least the one of you that got through this entire missive!!

Our next trip is in early January. Come along if you like!! If you're near Boston in September, come and hear some amazing young string players in Watertown on September 7, at the Tremedal Concert Series, an endeavor which I am now booking and promoting, along with an amazing gang of long standing volunteers from the Watertown-El Salvador Sister City Committee. For information go to, or call 617-869-3014

Love and goat turds, DEAN
Thursday, June 14th, 2007 2:38 PM EDT

New CD Progress and El Higueral News

There is a new CD on its way, although it's old. I've been working on it since 1995. Then Daniel was born. Got sidetracked... Ten years later, I'm back at it. I like to say I'm halfway there. At this rate, I'll be done by 2025 or so. But I'll tell you that on my birthday, May 24, a certain Ritt Henn came into the studio, and having done his homework, written his charts and woodshed his parts, nailed bass parts onto 12 songs in two short days. Best birthday present I can remember. Thanks Ritt. He's one of the Sweet Chariot gang, and will be with us on Sat. Jun 16 in West Roxbury, near Boston!! I've also had shorter recording sessions with percussionist Tom Macdonald, and vocalist aoife O'Donovan, and Laura Cortese, vocals and violin.

The overwhelming task will be knowing when to stop. I hope it will be simply evident. Enough!! No more layers! Press the thing and get it out the door.

In the midst of promoting this Sweet Chariot event, comes news of the death of Tia Cande. You El Salvador travellers will remember the very elderly lady who would come to visit on the porch of the Community Center where we stay. Cane in hand, she would struggle her way up the hill to see us. In the early days she would bring us very beautiful embroidery. She was a widow, whose entire family, husband and four sons, had been killed during the 80s conflict. She returned to the village in 1988 with her nephews and nieces, and settled in a mud shed that a relative built. She had a piece of land that she owned, a home plot that she had gotten through the Peace Accords, which gave land to people displaced by the war. She always wanted us to help her build a house on that land. We wanted to help make this happen, but she became too frail, and her relatives didn't think she could care for herself in the house we were going to help her build. So instead, we built a small addition onto the home of Rosita, the health promoter, who cared for until she died. Still, every time we came, she came to ask why we hadn't built her her own house, which was all she wanted, to be by herself. I had to explain it to her every time we came, that this was the best we could do, and that her relatives thought the same. So she was disappointed with me, all the way to the end. I didn't build her her house. What can I say? She was a fighter, and she hung on for a long time, lived deep into her nineties, though no one knew for sure exactly how old she was. We will miss you, Maria Candelaria, better known as Tia Cande.

After a ten year stretch of very good health in El Higueral, we are having a rash of illness and death: Teresa, Don Teyo's wife, died earlier this year, and now, Tia Cande. We have two babies with vision problems. They will both have surgery, one in Cuba, the other in San Salvador. Thank you, St. Andrew Christian Church, for the extra money into the emergncy medical fund, to help make this happen. We also have two more people recently hospitalized: Enma (Arturo's wife, mother of many, many in the community, she had 20 live births, most of them are still alive). Lito (husband of Tila, brother of Jorge) was also hospitalized, for dizziness and nausea. Every time someone has to go to the hospital, a hammock is tied to a pole which two men can carry down the mountain, to Teosinte, where a truck is hired to take the patient to the hospital. Some day they hope there mght be a vehicle in the community, mostly to take sick folks to the hospital, but also useful to get merchandise to market, to move construction materials up the mountain.

The men are hard at work on the water project. A spring has been tapped and channelled about two miles down to the preexisting pipeline. Once this spring is online, El Higueral's water situation will be vastly improved. We have financed this project, from the spring purchase about 8 years ago in 1999, all the way to the present pipelaying. The work involves hauling enormous sections of steel pipe, up a steep mountain through nasty terrain. They are hoping to have the new water flowing in time for our visit at the end of this month, June 2007. This water will also help make the fish pond project (26 ponds have been built) possible, as well as allow for some vegetable gardening during the dry season. It's a remarkable project, almost done.

There are 7 of us so far travelling at the end of Jun 2007. More travellers are always welcome. We will also be picking up more coffee and crafts. Thanks for reading this. I'm wanting to submit these news items every time I talk to someone in El Higueral.
Thursday, May 3rd, 2007 10:06 AM EDT

Dates for Next El Salvador Trip

Hi Folks,

The next trip to El Salvador departs on Thu. June 28, and returns on Thu. July 5, 2007.
For more info. on these trips, go to the Central America, Crafts, Coffee, and Activist pages of this website. We visit 4 villages, the same ones we've been frequenting since 1991, and get updates on several projects that we're involved in with folks from these rural communities.

If you're interested in travelling with us, give a call, 617/327-7701 or an email at for details.
Thursday, April 19th, 2007 8:15 AM EDT

Rachel Carson Tribute Concert: Sat. May 5

Boston Climate Action Network presents:
A Concert Honoring RACHEL CARSON on her 100th Birthday,
Magpie (
emma's revolution (
Dean Stevens (
Geoff Bartley (
and special guests: Jill Stein, Ken Selcer and friends.

SAT. MAY 5; 7:30PM
Central Congregational Church
85 Seaverns Ave.
Jamaica Plain, MA
(half block from Green St. Station, Orange Line)
Admission: $20, sliding scale, kids free.

For info:
For info and reservations: 617-869-3014.

Proceeds to benefit Boston Climate Action Network

Wednesday, April 18th, 2007 1:16 PM EDT

The Sweet Chariot Music Festival South: Sat. Jun 16 West Roxbury, MA

The Sweet Chariot Music and Arts Festival is a sort of Algonquin Circle of musicians/songwriters/artists, who have gathered every summer for 19 years on gorgeous Swans Island, off the coast of Acadia National Park, Maine. We perform three sold-out concerts, that finance a week of festivities/food, merriment, and mostly the joy of seeing each other and watching each other's kids grow up. We've lately been doing these shows, or excerpts of them, in other parts of the country, in California, and most recently, in Boston.

Come see us for the Third Annual Sweet Chariot South Music Festival, on Sat. Jun 16, 2007, in West Roxbury, MA!!(see the home page, or the schedule page for more info, directions, phone numbers, etc.

Saturday, March 10th, 2007 5:33 PM EST

El Salvador Trip-Newsletter

Hi Folks,

If I start a newsletter about our recent trip to El Higueral, I'm more apt to finish it than if I don't start. Right? Every journey begins with one step, etc., etc. I just took the first step. Having just returned, I'm already up to my neck in climate change activism, and immigrant support work. I also happen to be president of the board of my church, not to mention the biggest time thief of all: Dadhood. Up to my neck, and loving it!!

We had a GREAT trip. There were six of us, including repeat travellers Carol Allen and Ed White, as well as two members of my wife Jennifer's church, Avi Davis and Joy Martin. There was Shannon Koenig, who is active with the newly rejuvenated Arlington (MA)-Teosinte Sister City Committee. Shannon stayed on, then went on to study Spanish in Guatemala and Costa Rica. We were also joined by Jesse Dyer-Stewart, who is one of the El Salvador reps for the National Sister City Organization. I am hoping we can coordinate more with the National Sister City movement, especially on burning national political issues in El Salvador, such as antigold mining and anti dam-building activism in Chalatenango, as well as the anti-globalization/free trade work that they do. Another member of the delegation was Alex (se me olvida tu apellido, Alex!!), who has been working with Avi on stove projects in the lakeside town of Suchitoto.

I feel very strongly about our projects in El Higueral. There is a newly elected directiva that has a president, Arnoldo Arévalo, whose wife had just given him a baby girl, Jocelyn,the first girl after a string of six boys. Arnoldo is a fabulous leader, having served one previous term as president, and also a spiritual leader, filling the shoes of his aging father Arturo, who has always been the one who motivated folks to participate in the pastoral life of the community. Arnoldo is on fire with ideas to advance the community's participation in the directiva's projects. There are two new young people on this council, Norma and Eusebio. Arnoldo wants to form committees to support several aspects of the directiva's work, and especially wants to include the young people in these committees. He is one of my favorite beloved folks, and I look forward to working with him during these next two years.

Among the crowning jewels of our endeavors, I think, is the water project, ongoing, but near a milestone. By the end of the dry season (May), we are told that the men will have connected a third spring to the town's water supply. It is, they tell me, an abundant spring, which will ensure a good water delivery, and then some extra for watering vegetable gardens in dry season, and for their new interest in raising fish.
The work of carrying and installing water pipe up the mountain is a brutally gruelling thing. The terrain is really steep and wooded, no path, just straight up the mountain through the underbrush. The steel pipes are 4 meters long, and you carry one by yourself. Or else you carry a 40 pound bag of cement, to build the catchment box. The town's men are organized into work groups, each group going up the mountain one day of the week.

St. Andrew supplied another $1000 toward this work, as well as $1500 for purchase of cement and rebar for tilapia ponds, which will be built toward the end of the dry season. 26 families asked to be included in this project. Tilapia is delicious. Lent is upon us, and this is when people come looking to buy fish. Maybe we will have a contest to see who can grow the biggest fish.

We funded 13 scholarships for high school students to go to Tejutla to attend the distance learning classes on Saturday. There was a bit of trunover: a couple of students dropped out, and a couple added on. Lidia (Chila's daughter) graduated, and is working full time while she considers her college options. Then, after we got back from this trip, we found out that two students had not passed their first year of school. What angered me was that the school did not inform them that they didn't pass, until after the new school year had started, and they had already been attending class for four Saturdays!! I need to have a word with the director of the school, not to question their grading, but to protest that the students had begun the school year without knowing if they had passed the previous year!! What's wrong with this picture? Then, to add insult, they would not let them take the first year over, because the first year class is full.

This distance schooling is fairly poor quality, but it is something for these kids. It is a challenge, a socializing experience for them, and I hope it continues. It is a very popular program for rural young people who don't live near a town with a high school, and for working adults who want to keep studying. There are also rumors that the Ministry of Education has this entire program possibly on the funding chopping block. But despite all of this, I'd call the experience of the recently graduated Lidia a real success of this program, where she graduated, and tested well in national tests that put her against kids in the regular all-week schools. Maybe her success is more about her than about her schooling.

The lingering question remains: Our scholarship efforts cost about the same as it would cost to hire a teacher to give them classes, full time, in El Higueral. Is this an option? It's something to explore in further detail, but also a much more complicated endeavor than simply putting bus and lunch money into students' pockets, and telling them to go and study.

Some of our group spent a day in Teosinte. There are several US individuals and groups, in Arlington, MA, Eugene, OR, and Milwaukee, WI, who are interested in working with Teosinte. My main tie with this town is the sewing shop, where we buy as much stuff as the bank account and the space in the suitcases allows. I am reluctant to get any further involved in Teosinte: life presently allows me two trips per year, one week each trip. El Higueral is my focus, and I don't want to dilute that any more than it already is. But I am hoping we can help make some things happen there, enable some other folks here to get active with Teosinte.

We made our regular trek up the steep mountain to Izotalillo. Everybody made it with flying colors, and our customary güisquil soup was waiting for us there at Felix' house, as well as the business of coffee, which is our main reason for going up there. Izotalilllo has a more valuable, more dangerous and diasporatic export than coffee; its young people. In this village of 70 inhabitants, six young people have gone to the US. To get here they put up their family's land title as collateral, and make the dangerous trip to come to Minnesota, Virginia, or Long Island. Depending on what kind of work they find, it takes them between a year and three years to get the title back from the coyote who leads the trip to the US, and acts as the usurous financier as well. One man left his wife and five kids to come to the US. He then sent for his wife, who is in the US with him now, leaving the five kids with the grandmother. They have a new baby in the US. Although he is making good money, he has not yet paid off his trip, and his land title, as well as his sister's land title, is still in hock. Another young man has long since paid his trip, and built himself a house in Izotalillo, bought more land, plans to come back with a truck. Another man, the one I know best, paid off his trip, then brought his wife to Long Island. When she got to the US things went awry, and they split up on very bad terms, six thousand miles away from home. There are lots of stories. I am especially interested in finding a way to interview all of these folks, and compile the stories of their journeys north. I always tell everybody in the villages: DON'T GO TO THE US. STAY HERE WITH YOUR FAMILY, BUILD YOUR COMMUNITY!!. But I think we also want to be as supportive as we can to those who have come. Their journey is a journey of survival, don't forget, just as sacred as any of our journeys.

The plight of the immigrant is something deeply on my mind today, in the aftermath of an ugly workplace raid that happened last week here in New Bedford, MA, where 300, mostly women, Guatemalan Mayas were torn out of a factory by 500 ICE agents, and spirited away to Texas before they could even make a phone call much less consult with an attorney, leaving a whole bunch of children behind to be cared for by whoever was not arrested, leaving a bunch of children to be dealt with by one of my least favorite state entities, the DSS. The owners of the factory (which makes equipment for the US Army), are out on the street with a slap on the wrist, while three hundred are in custody, awaiting summary deportation. Not a pretty scenario. PLEASE, tell your US reps that this is outrageously unacceptable. (See below)

But mostly I wanted to talk about Izotalillo coffee. I am hoping to figure out how to bring more of it back than can be muled into the suitcases of returning travellers. I am talking to folks at Just Coffee in Madison, WI, and we are hoping to find a way for me to piggyback Izo coffee onto one of their shipments, which they are beginning to import, in an effort to start a line of Sister City Coffee. It's kind of what I want to do too, but I'm more specifically interested in bringing coffee only from the town of Izo, not from the regional coop, which is what Just Coffee is doing. I've got my work cut out for me.

We stopped by Nueva Esperanza at the end of the trip, as usual, to check up on them, and to deliver some materials from the Watertown (MA) SC Group. We had a wonderful lunch with them, and climbed to the top of the little mountain/molehill that is on their land. There is a beautiful view up in every direction, on a beautiful day like that. Nueva Esperanza also has a bunch of folks in the US, mostly in California, working in the Central Valley's pastures of plenty (to quote Woody Guthrie).

There is lots more news, but not to fit in this already overrambling missive. Thanks to all of you who are part of this. Thanks especially to St. Andrew Christian Church, who have been such a steady and bedrock source of support for all of the projects in El Higueral.

LOVE, Dean

Call to Action!
Rally to Support Detainees, Deportees, and their Families
Saturday, March 17 @ 2:30 PM
53 North Sixth Street (Corner of Sixth and Elm), New Bedford, MA
On Tuesday, more than 500 armed homeland security officers descended upon Michael Blanco Inc in New Bedford, MA. Over 350 employees, mostly mothers with young children, were swept up in the raid, shackled together in groups of three by their wrists and ankles and marched to buses bound for Fort Devens, 100 miles away.

Community activists in New Bedford have scrambled to locate the children and their parents. One baby who was breast-feeding had to be hospitalized for dehydration because her mother remained in detention, authorities said. One mother was located in Texas after her 7-year-old child called a state hot line set up to help reunite the families.

This is not a new story, but the story keeps getting more horrific. In recent months raids have hit nearly every state in the country. According to ICE's own numbers over 500 people are deported from this country everyday ! Each one of these deportations has a very human element that is about families and children. It's time that we pressure the President to "Stop the Raids" and lead on passing a Fair and Humane Immigration Reform Bill. Everyday we wait hundreds of more families are torn apart, children abandoned, and communities disrupted.

In New Bedford, families will be holding a huge rally at the federal building here calling for the release of all detainees, a congressional hearing on the raids, and immediate passage of humane and fair immigration reform.

What you can do:

- Call your Congressperson and ask them to "Release the Families and Stop the deportations!"

Bruce Chadbourne

District Director

Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement

US Department of Homeland Security

JFK Federal Building

Boston, MA

Dear Mr. Chadbourne:

We, the undersigned, write to communicate our dismay at the ICE raid conducted at the Michael Bianco, Inc. factory in New Bedford that resulted in the arrest of over 300 immigrant workers. As organizations representing all sectors of civil society in Massachusetts, we are outraged at the military style operation and devastating effect it is having on the New Bedford community, especially the families of those being detained. These types of raids tear apart families, spread waves of fear and panic throughout the community and hurt local economies. These actions do not make us feel any safer or stronger as a nation.

We wish to communicate to you our following demands:

1) We call for the immediate release of all the workers who have been detained. Many of the detainees are parents with children, some of whom are US citizens. All of them, however, are human beings, with certain inalienable rights. It amounts to cruel and unusual punishment for them to be detained on a military base and shipped across the country, far from their families, while their cases are being reviewed.

2) We demand that the detained workers have full access to appropriate legal representation. Our country prides itself upon respecting due process, therefore we expect that your treatment of those in your custody be consistent be with those values.

3) We also call for a moratorium on the raids. While the US Congress continues to seek a solution to the country's immigration system, with legislation to be introduced next week, we call upon the US Department of Homeland Security and the US Im migration and Customs Enforcement to put a stop to the raids so that the debate in Congress can be carried out in good faith, rather than against a backdrop of fear and repression.

Amidst the pain and trauma that this raid has already caused in the New Bedford community and beyond, we maintain hope that you will do the right and humane thing by responding positively to our demands.


(Signatory organizations here.)

CC: Michael Chertoff

Barney Frank