I am currently staying with Mil and his girlfriend, Maureen, in their beautiful house (a little paradise) in a small village in the mountains called San Augustin. A dusty dirt road leads to the village, built by donations from the Luxembourgish government under the supervision of Mil. This was due to an earthquake that destroyed all of the village. The locals here are mostly farmers and do not own a lot. Due to the donations all basic needs are fulfilled; ranging from a school to a police station and hospital. At every corner there are small tiendas selling basic goods, as well as candy for the children. Also present are ‘huts’ that sell vodka, or ‘Toika’ as they call it. Seeing men lying on the sidewalks around these huts is not an uncommon picture.
I haven’t even been in El Salvador for a week, but I have already seen a lot of the country. With Mill, his girlfriend and two friends, I have spent time in San Martin, Sushitoto, Berlin, La Libertad, Alegria, San Salvador and many more cities! We passed even more on out way to these specific locations. Do to lack of space I have the privilege to sit on the back of the pickup truck. A perfect location for taking pictures with a great view and enjoying the fresh air.
To me, the ‘gringo’, they are very friendly with a degree of respect. There are not many tourists, for which I can thank this special treatment. So far I have made only one negative encounter. It was tonight, when we stopped at a local market to buy some bread. Guys came up to me begging for money, and as I didn’t have any with me and so couldn’t give them anything, they first got unfriendly and then a bit aggressive. But this was quickly resolved with a few strong words. My only encounters with gangs so far has been seeing their marks sprayed on walls. MS13 and 18 are the big, as well as dangerous gangs around here. Luckily this does not affect foreigners very much as they focus on terrorizing cities and local businesses. But still, seeing their marks gives me the shivers!
Here my opinion of what I have seen so far: The people do not have a lot, just enough to survive in many cases. But they make the most of it and emotionally they do not, openly, let this bring them down. It is the younger ones where there is a small lack in motivation to work; a very dangerous scenario that often leads them to join gangs. The Salvadorians mostly live in small, self constructed huts, or in old colonial buildings. These succumb to the lack of care that the people (can afford to) give them. Businesses are widely present but farming is still the biggest industry. It seems that the country could be doing much better if it weren’t for the political chaos; where money goes into the pockets of the ones with power. As mentioned before, there is a very good road system that connects cities and villages. If this was used more efficiently, businesses could thrive, helping the local economy to grow and mature. But as not enough efforts are being made by the government to support such projects, the economy stays weak, and money comes short. There are only small local economies that seem to work well. These are in the villages and cities themselves, where people sell their goods amongst themselves in small markets on on street stands. An aspect I see as very negative is the westernization of this place; the USA&co influence. The people get an ideal inserted into their head that is not real, for one. On the other side, people buy coca-cola and similar brands as they are present everywhere, and marketed well; but most of this money flows back to the mother company and not to the local economy. This money could be better invested elsewhere! There is a lot of potential in this country; it just has to be picked up by the right people! The right education and political restructuration are the main parts needed.
But now it is getting late and I have to be fit tomorrow. It will be my last day as a tourist, before I begin my work in Santa Ana.
Day 6 – San Augustin