El Salvador Day 03: Homemade Soup, Marching for Romero, and El Presidente

Today began for me with a little adventure wandering the streets of El Salvador. Internet access has been spotty at the guest house, which I mention not to complain but rather to give better context for you, dear reader, in those “creature comforts” we find so easily at home only to find them missing abroad. Most of our phones don’t work, either, which is different for me because every time something funny, emotionally compelling, or even annoying, I want to reach for my phone and text my wife, just like at home. It’s a bummer to not have that way of communicating but then I think of how $5 of the average Salvadorian’s $15 is spent on precious cell phone minutes to talk with family members in the US about their remittance and I don’t miss it much anymore.

Adventures in Internet-Seeking

Kathryn and I set out to find internet access and had quite the quest as pedestrians in El Salvador with no Spanish skills whatsoever. First we went to Mister Donut and figured out through broken conversation and hand gestures (the international hand gesture for wifi is pointing to a sensor in the corner of the restaurant’s ceiling and push your hand out several times, opening and closing yoru hand to make “five, five, five” or “wifi waves, wifi waves, wifi waves”) that they indeed had wifi. We logged on… but it didn’t work. And we’d already bought coffee and a donut and everything (Good donut, by the way. An aptly-named restaurant.).

Next we went to Burger King. Nope. But they did have Bart Simpson and Indiana Jones kids’ meal toys. I may have to go back and buy some junk I don’t need.

Our final stop was a coffee house that had wifi and we logged in… but their system was down. Hence, the post about 03.19.2010 showed up halfway through 03.20.2010 as the guest house computer was up and running again. But the internet access was only the McGuffin for Kathryn and me. The true tale lies in our travels. We loved the independence and the chance for surprise. We really didn’t know what would happen. Everyone was so friendly and accommodating to us, too. Salvadorians are a friendly people and they tell us over and over how much they appreciate our coming to learn about their history and issues.

Well, they’re almost all friendly. A guy almost ran us over on our way back to the guest house (I am absolutely not exaggerating, it was mere inches) and then a bicyclist almost clipped Kathryn later in the afternoon so she came close to vehicular injury twice.

Here Romero Lived, Here Romero Died

As if seeing where the Jesuits were slain yesterday wasn’t emotional enough, today we went to the chapel where Romero was assassinated. First we were taken to Romero’s home, a modest one-bedroom apartment-style house which the sisters built for him after they’d said enough is enough, you cannot live in that little room behind the chapel chancel anymore. Everything is as Romero left it, from his book cases (I saw at least one book by Jimmy Carter, mom) to his old school metal desk to his clothes closet. Even his toiletries were on display. Also on display were photos taken immediately after his assassination. Because he was shot in the heart, his valves burst open and blood immediately gushed from all orifices. The pictures were hard to look at, though maybe they felt like a softer blow than the Jesuit photos for two simple reasons: they were in black and white instead of color and there were only three of them and not two albums. I won’t post the photo in the gallery at the end of this post and yet if you truly want to see one of the photos, I took a picture and you can click the link here to see what we saw. Continue reading

El Salvador Day 02: Two Red Books on Holy Ground, the High Price of Immigration, and Meeting Jon Sobrino

We thank you so much for all of your comments, please keep them coming!

Today was a full day, an emotional day. Here’s the scoop, dear reader…

You know what’s weird? Hearing someone proclaim your native country to be an “imperial nation” to your face.

That’s what happened yesterday during our history of El Salvador presentation yesterday as Carlos explained how the US government has been culpable in Salvadorian oppression for decades and we heard a similar thought, in different words, today during our presentation from another man named Carlos who explained the two major problems in El Salvador, economics and violence. But let me step back for a moment because we witnessed profound images before we listened to this story.

The Red Books

Our first stop was at the University of Central America where we traveled through a museum dedicated to the martyrdom of six Jesuit priests and two women who were executed in 1989. I encourage you to read about the full story on another website, as in the meantime I want to talk about the emotions involved in seeing this museum. First, the museum was located in the offices of the Jesuit priests, meaning we learned of their lives in what was once the space where they worked their message. There were photos on the wall showing the firebombing the soldiers did to the offices, bringing home what this space once was. We saw clothing and items belonging to Rutullio Grande and Romero, plus the actual clothing the Jesuits wore as they were executed. Bullet holes were like  pockmarks across the fabrics and stains of blood and other bodily fluids from the assassination that night are still clearly visible in each garment. Combined with bullet-riddled Bibles, torched paintings of Romero, and photos of the two women who were also killed, the museum was a haunting tribute to their lives. Continue reading

Pre-Trip Reading: Witnesses to the Kingdom

Students going to El Salvador have been assigned a handful of books to read before the trip and after the trip, each requiring a brief written reaction piece. Here’s one of mine:

Witnesses to the Kingdom: Martyrs of El Salvador and the Crucified Peoples by Jon Sobrino

A figurehead of liberation theology, Jon Sobrino is a respected theologian who’s writing about those who have gone before him who engendered both his respect and represented something profound in their theology or what they represent theologically. He’s writing about martyrs.

Rather than tour through all of the stories Sobrino tells of martyrs, I want to address his writing style and philosophy because that is what intrigues me most as a writer. With all due respect to those who have died for a cause, all I can say about reading these stories is I was struck by how I’ve never even contemplated this sort of thing to be a part of my life. I don’t know anyone who has died for a cause and I don’t know what cause I believe strongly enough in to offer my life. I’ve heard it said many parents would die for their children though perhaps I need children in order to truly understand this idea. I’m still wrapping my head around the concept of martyrdom, even after reading the stories in Sobrino’s book, though something tells me it’s going to come up more than once on the trip. With that said, exploring why Sobrino’s writing style is so powerful definitely intrigues me and is inspirational in terms of my own desire to produce better writing. Continue reading