Two Visitors, Two Views

Two people from the US recently visited El Salvador and wrote reflections about those visits which were published on Internet sites. One is hopeful. One is pessimistic. Both probably capture equally valid aspects of the reality of this tiny Central American country.

Brad Andrews spent 4 weeks living in Ciudad Romero in the Lempa River valley. His article, Living Stories - Life In Ciudad Romero, El Salvador concludes this way:
The community grew to what it is today, a mix of old and new, of hope and careful optimism. Compared to what we know here in the United States, life for them is hard. The work in the fields is hot. There are few comforts. But compared to what the community has lived through, life is good. People have solid homes, running water, adequate food. They work for themselves. The land is their own. There are elders in the community who will pass along the story of their struggle to the new generations. And there are swarms of children, going off to school each morning in their blue and white uniforms, playing stick ball at night beneath the street lights, looking forward to a brighter future and better things to come.

Writer Carol Towarnicky visited the Salvadoran community of El Milagro. The title of her article, Country Without a Future, captures Towarnicky's view of the situation in El Salvador:
The human capital is being depleted and little is being done to conserve natural resources. Soon there will be nothing left to rape.

The children of El Milagro possess a shy innocence. They find pleasure in drawing our portraits in the dirt with sticks, in playing hide-and-seek, in rolling a bicycle tire. But their future is as precarious as the tower they buillt with scraps of cinder block. Most go to school only until sixth grade because further education costs too much in tuition and transportation. Besides, the chances for finding a job don't increase substantially even with a high school diploma.

When we ask some women what they wish for their children, it's heartbreaking to hear them preface their dreams with an acknowledgement that they're unlikely to come true. In El Milagro, there are no miracles, at least in the traditional sense - no divine intervention to suspend the laws of nature or reverse human mistakes.

It's difficult to capture the reality of El Salvador on a visit, or multiple visits to the country. People want to have hope. They also are faced with the harsh realities which make it tough to envision a future.


Anonymous said…
The only dream for those salvadoreans who are not in the inner circle of ARENA, is the road to the north.
Dream that is always a nightmare. Dream that will be beyond a nightmare now that 3,000 million dollars have been aproved for the building of the wall between Mexico en the USA.
Can you imagine how much the COYOTES are going to charge now?
As it is, they already charge between 6 and 7 thousand dollars to bring someone illigally from ES to USA.
Anonymous said…
it sucks and we all know it. things are pretty rough and they will continue to be, but i just can't help to think that slowly, painfully and eventually things will look up a bit, just a bit. my best wishes go for all the good, noble, humble salvadorean families. i just really hope things for them are at least tolerable.
Anonymous said…
It is sad that the only hope for any kind of future for many in ES is to go north. Many young people see it as a way to help their family. Yet they are unaware of the terrible costs to get there and the dangers of being a person without any rights or protection. The war hasn't finished, just changed how it is being fought.
Anonymous said…
Tim, thanks for these two views.

They reflect two different visions of ES's future, not just its present.

Towarnicky visited a community that, for whatever reasons, has given up. Although I haven't visited it, I can imagine that it is also caught in the cycle of dependency: they only see outsiders (government, NGOs, etc) or people with money (family members sending remittances) as able to bring positive change.

Andrews visited a community I know well where, I can tell you, that many young people also leave for the US (this community has quite a colony going in Georgia). While things are far from perfect in Ciudad Romero and the surrounding communities, people haven't given up hope. Above all, they don't expect that outsiders or remittances will help them overcome all their challenges. They have a strong history and culture of being organized, working together, and using whatever resources they have at hand. Though short on cash, they have a wealth of human resources that they use to work small miracles. When international aid comes, they negotiate w/the NGOs to transform handouts into projects that will reduce their dependency. Rather than 2 years of food supplies after Hurricane Mitch (which, yes, many NGOs did provide in many communities), for example, they successfully negotiated w/many NGOs to get seeds and tools to immediately replant, technical assistance to learn how to grow crops that would be less vulnerable to flooding, and just enough food to last until they could harvest the next crop.