El Salvador - Interior

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I've chosen this photo to represent my foremost impression of the El Salvadorian people. These are a people with a great heart. Their heart has been broken, but they have enormous hope for the future. The people on the path to El Boqueron have planted this beautiful garden.

When you look at these photos you may be asking, "Why am I showing you these?" What I'm trying to show you is just what we saw. El Salvador is NOT a tourist country. The fact is that the civil war has decimated the country. I'm trying to put faces and images to words.

If there is a face to that hope it is seen in these little children from Panchimalco.. We were told that the vast majority of children now attend school. Whereas, most people over 20 years old are illiterate.

This 92 year old lady was preparing to be part of the festivities. She dances to show off her native costume. The shawl in her right hand is the traditional hand-woven pattern for a married lady.

Nobody seems to understand the need to nurture young people and provide hope for them better than Miguel, a well-known artist from Panchimalco. Miguel has made his studio into a safe and peaceful place for budding young artists in the town. 

Another view of Miguel's studio shows the inspiration he tries to give to young people.

 

This is the oldest church in El Salvador, built in the 1500's To the left is the cleft in the mountains where young women were sacrificed to appease pagan deities. This cleft is called the Mouth of the Devil. The church is a symbol of hope to many people in Panchimalco.

Prayers for peace and prosperity are certainly offered on a regular basis.

 

The enthusiasm and desire to succeed is exemplified by these boys trying to climb a greased pole. We watched these guys striving to climb the slippery pole. This is a traditional game. I saw the face of determination and cooperation in these young boys and came away very hopeful for the people of Panchimalco.

We saw many scenes along the road of the most minimal living conditions. In fact, the majority of people in El Salvador are squatters - living just like this along the road or on some other small unused piece of property.

 

These types of homes are often built by squatters. You see them everywhere throughout the countryside.

Some are better than others with stacks of firewood for cooking stacked along side the house. Many of these homes have electricity and television which is a major source of education.

 

We passed many neighborhoods where people are trying little by little to clean up after more than a decade of civil war. These piles of rubble are much reduced from even a few years ago.

 

A lot of building is going on throughout the country.

 

 

New homes are being built.

 

Big housing tracts have been built to try to house the many people that have migrated off the farms. It turns out that the original land owners were thrown off their land by the rebels who now control the land. The knowledgeable farmers were also thrown off, resulting now in about 10% of the original production of farm goods in the country. Most of the fresh produce in El Salvador is now imported.

We saw middle class neighborhoods as well. Some were individually built.

 

Others are built more like condominiums or town houses. You can also see that many roads have been built and electricity is much more readily available.

In the 13 years since the end of the civil war many major thoroughfares have been paved. Pickup trucks are a common form of transportation in El Salvador just as you might see in certain parts of the U. S.

It's common to share the road with livestock.

 

Most businesses seem to be right along the road. This man repairs tires.

 

Here's a typical roadside diner. I was amazed at how close the tables are to the street. There just isn't any land available. You see this at El Boqueron where people are farming on the very steep slopes of the crater. AN YES, people have died trying to far almost vertical slopes.

Roadside eateries are very common.

 

 

In the larger towns every day is market day.

 

Each umbrella is a separate owner.

 

We toured up into the mountains to visit El Boqueron, a big volcano. We stopped at a very lovely restaurant where middle class El Salvadorians go for dinner out. This was a little shrine of Thanksgiving for a May 3rd holiday.

 

These are the grounds at the restaurant. Clearly this is a former hacienda. Many of the reallocated properties have gone to ruin because new owners don't know how to care for them.

 

This was a little display in the restaurant. These are native artworks. Also on sale at the restaurant is coffee (which we could NOT pass up!), baskets and pottery. We actually found a basket that would help hold Scott's many books! The fact is, though, that in these countries of extreme poverty it is expected that you will buy things!

Coffee grows all over the hillsides in this location. Coffee and sugarcane are the main exports in El Salvador. (Besides people) These coffee blooms are like snow on the tops of the mountain. They require a certain amount of rain to develop into coffee beans. Then they are harvested one at a time when they are mature. An entire family will be involved in harvesting as people are paid for the amount they harvest. The trees above the coffee plants must be trimmed to allow just the right amount of light. The trimmings provide fuel for people's cooking stoves. The coffee plants must be fertilized and cared for during the annual cycle. You can see how steep the mountains are and how difficult it would be to perform these tasks.

This is looking down into the crater of El Boqueron. In the early 1900s this crater was filled with water and the people would fish in this inland lake. An earthquake caused the water to drain out of it. 

Farming goes on inside the crater. This tells you how scarce good farm land is. Lives are lost trying to cultivate crops on such a steep wall. Farmland and water are so scarce that much produce is imported from Guatemala. As a consequence the cost of living is quite high.

You can buy fruit, flowers, and drinks here just across from the parking lot to the volcano. As you can see people live nearby.

 

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