¡Hola! It has been more than a few days since my last post! We spent the weekend in Santa Marta and I was too tired Sunday night to write and have been having issues with the internet the past few days. Alas, let's begin!
Day 7: Friday, May 2nd
On our way to Santa Marta we stopped at Ciudad Mujer, which is an AMAZING facility for women. It provides women with resources in health, jobs, child care, and so much more. I was so impressed with it's programs and buildings. It is a wonderful project and I wished we had one in the United States. We were not allowed to take pictures inside, but I do have one of the outside, which doesn't even show half of it!
Upon arriving in Santa Marta, we arrived at Aida's house, which was our base camp for the weekend. After eating dinner at her house, we met with our host families. I stayed with Esmeralda and her son Ranaldo. They were very nice and hospitable to me and their kindness was greatly appreciated.
Day 8: Saturday, May 3rd
After eating breakfast with our host families, we met up at Aida's house. She gave us her testimony on the history of Santa Marta and her experiences during the war. She talked to us about having to relocate and about the community came together and rebuilt. Her testimony was very emotional and inspiring. She also told us about her trip to Italy, where she also gave her testimony. We then took a walk around the community with Walter, who gave us not only his testimony, but historical information about the war. We visited his house and talked to his wife has well. They both had very emotional testimonies and had witnessed very traumatic events. Despite their immense hardships, they are dedicated to educating others about what happened. Walter dreams of having a museum dedicated to Santa Marta's history and has collected different objects. Below is a picture of half of a bomb that dropped but luckily hadn't detonated.
We next talked to Reginita, who works at the local bakery. She told us about the history of the bakery and how it started from nothing and has become successful. She also told us about how the bakery has helped empower women and her history of hard work and dedication as an entrepreneur. She also baked us a lovely cake.
Day 9: Sunday, May 4th
After our last breakfast with our host families, we said good-bye and headed toward the town of Victoria. Along the way we stopped at a wood-working shop. In Victoria, we went to Radio Victoria, which is a radio station run in part by our leader and is dedicated to promoting social justice and truth. We talked with members of the station and they enlightened us to their history and to some of the challenges they have faced and continue to face. Their testimonies were powerful and inspiring and I have immense respect for what they do. We got to talk live on-air and we all thanked our host families (it was translated for us), as we knew that they would be listening.
On our way back to San Salvador we went on a crafts tour and went shopping. We arrived in time for dinner and it was wonderful to be back at the Oasis!
Day 10: Monday, May 5th (Cinco de Mayo!)
We spent the morning at the University of Central America, or the UCA, which is home to the Mons. Romero Pastoral Center and has a museum dedicated to the massacre that took place there during the war. This location was home to six Jesuit priests who were assassinated along with the gardner's wife and daughter by soldiers in the eighties. This experience was very emotional and some of the images we saw were graphic and horrific. Incidents like this in history remind me of the importance of protecting human rights so heinous acts of violence and destruction do not occur ever again.
We ate lunch at Beatriz's house, who is a friend of our leaders. During lunch Carlos talked to us about gold mining and about how it heavily impacts the environment and humanity not only in El Salvador, but in other countries as well. Carlos is an environmental activist and he shared his vast knowledge and passion on this topic with us. I sometimes forget about how the environment plays a role in social injustice and how issues in one country impact people outside that country as well. Carlos' testimony was a good reminder for me. After our talk we went to Fernando Llort's gallery. Llort is a famous artist in Central America. I was not allowed to take pictures inside the gallery but I took the one below of the artwork outside his gallery that resembles his style.
We ended our day by talking to Kay about the issues of immigration and youth. She informed us about the history between the United States and El Salvador and about how this history has led to a complicated and frustrating relationship when it comes to immigration. I learned a lot from this talk and it made me reflect on the issue in ways that I have not thought about before.
Day 11: Tuesday, May 6th
Today was the first day of our service site placements. Mario, Chris and I were placed at ANADES Nuevo Amanecer, which is focused on schools and community. After talking to the directors about the program, we each were assigned to different rooms for an hour and got to spend time with the kids. I was assigned to the room of four-year olds and it was very interesting. The kids were fascinated by me and it was a bit challenging to understand their Spanish. I enjoyed playing with them nonetheless. We went to their clinic next, which promotes natural medicines and we talked to a gentleman there for a while learning more about what they do. We ate lunch at a nutrition organization that is soy-based and talked to the woman that runs it. After lunch we accompanied a staff member on two home visits and met with the parents of two of the students.
I didn't take many pictures today because I am not allowed to take pictures of the children and post them online and because we were busy learning about the facility that I wasn't able to take touristy pictures. I was able to snap the picture above of the front part of the facility at the end of our visit. We return tomorrow to this site and I will try to take more pictures.