Esta Chica Va a Llegar Lejos…Como El Salvador.

26 Sep

Listening To: “Go Places” – The New Pornographers, Challengers

So I have been avoiding writing blog(s) for El Salvador because a) we were so busy I can literally never say anywhere close to as many things as I want to, and b) it was so full of emotions and learning and general life-changing that it will be impossible to express appropriately with words. But it was also the 10 best days of my time abroad so far so I feel like it is unfair to skip over it just because I am scared of the commitment of writing about the ten days. So, I will write about it in installments and hopefully I can do the trip justice.

Setting the scene: My entire group went, 7 girls and 1 boy, names as follows: Chloe, Ka (both of whom are my roommates), Lisa, Makela, Marie, Alom, and Michael/Miguel. The director of the program in Mexico, Anita, also traveled with us, and when we got to El Salvador we met up with the director of CEMAL’s program there, César. We spent the first week or so in the city of San Salvador and then spent some time in a rural community and at the beach…to be discussed later.

To begin with, we had a layover in Guatemala that was long enough that we were able to leave the airport and Guatemala City and head to Antigua, probably one of the cutest and quaintest towns I have ever seen. We ate lunch at an Italian restaurant (what?) and then shopped at our first (of very very many) artisan markets of the trip. I was pretty much in love with Antigua the second that I saw it and have already planned my return to this town.

Eventually after many many hours we arrived in El Salvador and met up with César and traveled to the guesthouse at which we were staying. The house is rented out to travelers and is absolutely beautiful – but it was also an FMLN safe house during the civil war that occurred in El Salvador between 1981 and 1992. During the war, the FMLN was the guerilla movement that was fighting against the government/military, and after the UN Peace Accords of ’92, the FMLN transitioned into a political party. The two main political parties in El Salvador currently are ARENA and the FMLN, and their equivalents in the United States would be the Republicans and the Democratics, respectively (although in my opinion, both parties are much more extreme in El Salvador). So pretty much if you know me at all you can guess that I side with the FMLN, so the fact that I stayed in a house that had once functioned as a safe place for the members of the FMLN was one of the coolest things I could have found out (the only way it could have been made cooler would be to learn something along the lines of Neil Patrick Harris being the true owner of the house and that he would be stopping by to make sure that we were all having a comfortable stay).

 So the first full day we had a meeting with a representative of Equipo Maiz (the Corn Team), a group that focuses on popular education by providing materials on lots of important social issues, but instead of selling textbooks with fancy words, they have things like posters and picture books and comic books with common language that make it possible for even those who have not received enough schooling to read textbooks to learn about important issues that affect their lives and in doing so provide the space for organization for or against issues that should be addressed by the people, not just the government or businesses. The representative met with us to talk about Salvadoran history (something that I studied extensively before the trip), but also discussed what had being happening in El Salvador since the signing of the Peace Accords that ended the war. It was the first time that we heard about anything that had happened in El Salvador after the war, and it was great to finally have a current context of the political, social, and economic situations in the country we were visiting. Later that day we met with a theology professor from the Central American University in El Salvador who discussed the different types of independence that are needed today in El Salvador and the effects that neoliberalism has on the country, and this discussion also too helped us to frame the context in which El Salvador is currently functioning.

César then took the group on a tour of San Salvador which left me with much confusion. First, it was the coolest tour of a place I have ever been on because I really feel like I know the history of El Salvador. So seeing the church in which Archbishop Romero gave his second-to-last sermon and is now buried, or walking on the grounds where protests and massacres occurred, meant more to me than other academic field trips usually do. I was able to make connections and understand the significances of places without everything being explained to me, and understood as best as I can as someone who is not Salvadoran the importance of the history and of all the places we saw to the people of the country. However, as much as I loved many moments of the tour, I also absolutely hated the city, or at least many of the parts in which we were walking. I don’t know why, but I felt a sense of discomfort as we walked around the city and I have a lot of trouble imagining ever spending extended time in the city in the future (although this may have been in part because there seems to be lots of meat all over the city – in the markets and on the streets – and I was made very uncomfortable because of the constant smell…definitely not something I am used to or like to see).

That is not to say that I didn’t like El Salvador…because I did. I have never had a greater desire to return to a place than I do for El Salvador.  But before I write about all of the other experiences that made me love it and write a full thesis paper-lengthed blog post, I will stop and return at another time to talk about the other 9 days in El Salvador.

a-Dios

-E

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