In the wake of the deaths of several persons who mounted a resistance against the mineral excavation expansion in the state Cabañas in El Salvador, Bay Area residents now have the chance of another struggle. This time the fight is for another precious natural resource: water.

Directed by Jason Wallach, a political activist from Santa Cruz, Calif., this 30-minute documentary chronicles the struggle of a small town in El Salvador against a speculators trying to control their water supply.

The documentary was produced with the help of UC Santa Cruz, UC Berkeley and the Center for Human Rights. It was filmed in El Salvador over the summer of 2008 through June of 2009.

“Until the Last Drop” begins in the town of Tacuba that in 2006 erected barricades around themselves demanding access to their land’s water. After the municipality denied their request, they create a parallel governing body and rejected the mayor’s authority resulting in the inhabitant’s water supply being cut, and later in a clash with local police.

Using Tacuba as a launching pad, the film’s scope goes from micro to macro, visiting several Salvadoran villages, analyzing the local citizenry’s lack of access to drinking water.

The owner of a pupusa shop in Altavista, an area on the outskirts of San Salvador which has seen increasing number of new housing developments in recent years, explains how there are days when their local water well runs dry and is forced to buy drinking water at a price that rivals the value of gold in order to keep her restaurant open—a business that sees scarce profits.

From there, the documentary travels to the villages of El Polvo, on the country’s southeastern border, where the locals established a system of monitoring local government and an infrastructure that provided water to more than 70 homes. However, problems arose and they were forced to install usage meters in these homes to track consumption. Then the problem was that everyone interpreted the meter’s readings differently.

“Until the Last Drop” shows how the conditions imposed by international lending agencies have contributed to decentralization and abandonment of public water management, providing ammunition for the supporters of privatization.

In villages like San Pedro Nanualco, movements arose to combat decentralization, return control of local water supplies to nearby inhabitants and move away from traditional political parties.

On the surface, the documentary shows how the FMLN’s newly established government finds itself unable to reverse political machinations that make water a privilege instead of a right; as well as, how the legislative assembly’s minority party has stalled the passing of any laws democratizing the country’s water supply.

Environmental activists and union members also took to the street of San Salvador demanding equitable access to drinkable water, because it’s a human right.

At it’s heart, this documentary acts as a beautiful vehicle for the voice of El Salvador’s disenfranchised, who despite coming from humble origins, express their needs, their demands in succinct unison, a byproduct of years of political mobilization. They want access to their land’s streams and wells, many of which were built by villagers themselves. It also gives viewers a peek at a grassroots movement operating outside of traditional political frameworks.

Living in the Bay Area, we take access to drinking water for granted. Whether in El Salvador or in California, the right of access to natural resources in the land we live in should be an inalienable human right for which we shouldn’t have to fight for.

“Until the Last Drop” makes clear that in El Salvador, human rights are being trounced upon—and the populace is crying out against this abuse. Wallach does a wonderful job of documenting the injustice, and interviewing its victims.

“Until the Last Drop: Tales From El Salvador’s Agua-Apocalypse” will be screened at Modern Times Bookstore, 888 Valencia St., SF, on Wednesday, Jan. 20 at 7 p.m. Director Jason Wallach will be present to answer question from the audience. For more information visit

—Translation Roberto Daza