EMAIL 9: November 20, 2005
El Salvador Reflections... Leaving for Peru
So, I realize I have not been as good about sending weekly emails during my visit to El Salvador, but for one reason--my memory stick does not work at my internet cafe which makes sending detailed emails a little more challenging and secondly- I am sure you all have had the opportunity now to read the emails I already sent or sift through the rest of your inbox.
Regardless.. I am writing today (briefly because I only have 30 minutes to do so) because I am actually leaving for Lima, Peru tomorrow!!! Can you believe the last five weeks are already over? I cannot. I have a feeling this is going to be the common theme of my fellowship travels--noting how quickly time flies and once I arrive somewhere-it is already time to go. However, that is the purpose of an exploration and also a small "sacrifice" to make when I have been given the opportunity to see various different countries and cultures around the world.
Overall, my trip to El Salvador has been absolutely incredible and 100% different than my experience in Guatemala for so many reasons. Although I did miss the opportunity of living in a more rural area and forming strong relationships with local community members, San Salvador offered me something that Guatemala did not. It offered me the opportunity to really learn about the socio-political-economic "realidad" of a country that only ended a bloodly civil war in 1993. I had the opportunity to look at life in a post conflict country. On one hand, it is absolutely incredible that a country who only 14 years ago was deeply involved in civil war -- now offers some of the modern technologies and opportunities of any developed city as seen in San Salvador. Despite consumerism, one would have to note that it is shocking how life has radically changed here in 10 years, how technology has come, and jobs were offered as a result of US companies coming here. It has also been interesting to hear war time stories (though generally one sided) and I have enjoyed the level of political thought and discourse that takes place here everyday... on the bus, on the news, in a taxi, and at dinner.
I love El Salvador for many of the same reasons I love DC... people are talking about the issues about the their realities, even if its complaing and political bashing of the opponent..at least they are talking and discussing the issues. This is something I completely missed in Guatemala because of the private and reserved nature of Guatemala.
In addition, San Salvador provided me with a different living experience than Guatemala. On one hand, it was great to really get to know a city- I know how to use the public bus and micro bus transportation here better than I do in Chicago! Moreover, despite the daily talk of rampant deliquency and gang issues, I never encountered a problem. That is not to say, that everday when I walked out my door and got on a bus or walked down the street that I did not think something might happen. This fear always exponentially increased on the days I risked taking my camera on the bus. (People talk about gang violence as much as they talk about politics -- 3000 people have been reportedly murdered since January of this year as a result of gang violence.) However, I will recount my only interesting experience which demonstrates politicized nature of Salvadorans.
My friend Meg and I decided to head to the Centro to visit the market and the Cathedral to see Monsenor Romero's Tomb (the first Jesuit martyr and Salvador's personal Saint). For lack of a better word, Centro is sketchy and you never know if something is going to happen. The times I went were only for 30 minutes to look and leave. And of course this day.. I had my camera so of course I was certain that something would happen. Well once we arrived to the church, we noticed a large protest taking place in the square across the street. We did not think anything of it because protests are a daily occurence somewhere in the city. When we walked to the crypt and cathedral entrance, the priest was quickly leaving in a SUV and reporters were surrounding the car and people banging on the doors. The security guard told us the cathedral was closed until tomorrow and to leave. It was then when we realized something was going on! We walked back to the front of the church to check it. I recommended we cross the street and find out what was Article 103 that they were protesting. (First poor judgement call)
We crossed... Right when 100 young guys started to charge the street and run... I have no idea why. We decided to head the other way and go towards the market or go home. However, we needed to use the phone first to call a friend and tell them not to come to the church today. That is when a police officer approached us. In almost perfect English, he asked us what we were doing there? We replied to go to the crypt. He told us it is closed and that he (and his fellow officers) would prefer us and demand us to leave immediately for our own safety and to ease their jobs a little bit. 2 gringa girls would only cause problems. He explained that the young guys (who were the majority of protesters) were gang members and they had taken over the church. And they were armed. To sum... the protest lasted for 4 full days with 30 gang members with guns who took over the church and daily protests out front. Fortunately, the situation was not dangerous and I am glad we left before the protest ended... last thing I wanted was to get on the bus, at the same time as all the protesters were getting on buses to go home.
Despite the protest, El Salvador has been wonderful and my trip continues to be a blessing in regards to safety, security, and memorable experiences. In regards to a comment in my last email, I said that El Salvador lacks culture. There is truth to that statement, however it is ironic to say in retrospect because almost everyweek I have participated in numerous cultural experiences.. more than I did in Guatemala. In the past few weeks, I went to Apopa for a cultural preservation fest, a campo mass to celebrate the martyr anniversary of Padre Nacho, the University of Central America 16th Anniversary of the Jesuit Martyrs death, Day of the Dead, First National Pupusa Day (direct response to El Salvador culture), and many others! They have all been a real treat.
To quickly wrap up... Thanks again for all of your support. Please check my website www.vanderbilt.edu/travelfellowship/hogan for El Salvador Pictures. However, my journals which have details about everything I haven't filled you in on via emails will not be posted until I can find a way to send them. Lastly, I will be going to Peru tomorrow and I am quite excited to meet my mom tomorrow night and travel with her for the next 12 days. That being said my access to internet with be limited.
Happy Thanksgiving... this trip has only begun to show me how much I am truly blessed to have.
PS... I forgot to mention that this weekend I had the opportunity to go back to Suchitoto and stay with another Vanderbilt Senior, Emily Beara who is doing her HOD internship there. IT was fabulous to stay with a family and see and live in a community...just like Guatemala!!!