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Milagros Vela

Milagros is the tenth child of Pipil and Creole parents. She grew up neglected and hungry on the outskirts of San Salvador, where she suffered abuse from the Salvadoran military as well as the revolutionary guerrillas. Milagros also survived earthquakes, illness, and a violent and chaotic family environment. For three years she was forced to train as a child soldier, but in eighth grade she defied the school principal and refused to join the guerrillas. 


Despite vicious sexual harassment, Milagros graduated from the National Institute for Industrial Technology. The first in her family to finish high school, she was also the first to be legally married. In 1989, during the final offensive of the civil war, Milagros and her family survived nine days of shelling in the ruins of their home. Years later, when they could no longer protect their children from gang violence, she and her husband fled with their family to the United States, leaving behind everything they had worked for all their lives.


Milagros in Spanish means "miracles." From trauma to trauma, Milagros has been sustained by powerful dreamlike experiences and an intense spiritual life, which are reflected in her deep, pentecostal Christian faith. She has always loved literature, and has read the great writers:  Dante, Cervantes, Claudia Lars, Alfredo Espino, Roque Dalton, and los hermanos Grimm.  Now she is telling her own life story.  


Rita Moran

Milagros has collaborated on her memoir with her former English teacher and longtime friend, Rita Moran. Rita is a professional writer and human rights activist. Also one of ten children, Rita comes from a Catholic, Irish-American immigrant family. She lost her eldest brother to police violence at the University of California at Santa Barbara in 1970, just two weeks before the killings at Kent State. Rita has been a lifelong community organizer.


For many years Rita taught English as a Second Language to Latino and Indigenous immigrants in San Francisco’s Mission District, working for both City College of San Francisco and the San Francisco Unified School District. For more than 15 years she has collected and exhibited paintings by contemporary Maya artists from Guatemala, supporting the artists and bringing attention to the lives of Maya women and their communities. Rita has spoken on art and human rights at many conferences and college events.


Rita worked for 20 years as a writer and publications manager in Silicon Valley. She graduated from the University of California at Berkeley, and earned an M.A. in English from San Francisco State University.

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