I finally understand what Rene means by that…
When I told people back home I was coming to El Salvador to study at La Nacional they had a shocked impression on their face…then I told them about the places we would visit while i’m here and then they began the “dangerous” talk. Many people think that we are here to visit different departments touristy places, and while some of our destinations can be considered tourist spots not everywhere we have been to has been that. Yesterday we visited the departamento of Chalatenango. The drive took about an hour and a half. We took a long road up the mountains. We visited three towns, San Antonio Los Ranchos,San Jose de las Flores,and Guarjila.In San Antonio Los Ranchos we visited “El Centro Cultural Jon Cortina.” This community center is dedicated to the arts for children, adolescents, as well as adults. The murals in this building are absolutely beautiful!They have different classes in the arts which promotes creativity as well as consciousness, and the importance of preserving our country’s historic memory. The part I liked best from the center was the small library they had, where they loan books out to the community for ten days. We then got the chance to talk with a veteran of the guerilla. This man got wounded plenty of times,lost an arm in combat, but always kept fighting. He was truly dedicated to the struggle. His whole family had been massacred by the Salvadoran military like millions of other families. His valor was so admiring.
We then went to Guarjila to visit the “Casa Museo Jon Cortina.” Jon Cortina was a priest who absolutely dedicated his life to helping the people of Guarjila. When we got to the museum there was a group of elders in the corridor. They were drawing a map of where they use to live before the war, simply reflecting back on their lives. This group of people is part of an organization called “Pro-Busqueda.” They lost their children during the war, they were literally taken away from them and never heard of them again. The group is dedicated to find their lost children. We heard the story of a man who currently got in touch with his children,whom got adopted and taken to Italy during the war. It was a very emotional setting, it was a humbling experience.
San Jose de Las Flores, beautiful little town that is so community driven!They work together in different projects that will benefit their town and not a private corporation. They have food programs, education programs, even a tourist project that they have completed in order to provide jobs to adolescents. This town has come a long way since the war though. They were forced out of their lands by the military, and so they left their houses seeking refuge in Honduras. As they were crossing the river to get to Honduras the military intervened with their machine guns, killing many of them. Those that made it to Honduras were sent back and killed as well. Finally when the military liberated the town the people that did survive came back to rebuild their town. Since then they have moved forward and have formed a wonderful town with a sense of community that can be felt all around.
So far week one in El Salvador has been a beautiful experience. I’m so happy to be here, listening to everyone’s stories and learning from all of them.