• Journal de bord

    Julio 2011 : El Salvador, un pais dolido

    Let’s say that generally speaking, the vast majority of travelers purely and simply skip El Salvador on their way to central America. They usually pop out of Guatemala to get to Honduras.

    Well, El Salvador has a very poor reputation as far as safety is concerned. It’s certainly due to the civil war that was ignited out of here in the seventies and really began in the early eighties to end up in 1992, so it lasted 12 long and awful years more or less.

    So during the course of 12 years, an estimated 75,000 people were killed. The war roots were mostly economic and social. The vast majority of mineral resources (sugar cane and coffee plantations) belong to a few families. It’s though that 80 % of the national mineral resources belong to 20 % of its people.

    Those farms (“Fincas”) used to exploit a very poor and harmless work force – “Los Mayas” who used to work very hard and got very low wages.

    For ages and despite, that huge social left-wing work force, El Salvador used to be run by right-wing governments so it was supposed that there used to have lots of corruption in the polls!

    Over the course of the seventies, landlessness, poverty and unemployment became serious problems and in government, the polarized left and right tangled up through coups and electoral fraud. Some electoral results were denied amid allegations of fraud and protests were getting on the rise on the left wings rows.

    Slowly there were several left wing peasant uprisings that were reduced to silence by bloody government’s squads and thousands of Salvadorans were kidnapped, tortured and murdered.

    The successful revolution in Nicaragua in 1979 encouraged many Salvadorans to demand – require – reforms. That situation began to worry the US Government who always supported the right wing government and the right wing companies by pumping up loads of money to help the right wing parties’ public campaigns.

    It’s reported that the US Government gave a staggering US $ 6 billion to the Salvadoran government’s war effort. In 1981 the newly elected Reagan administration gave over $ 500 million in 1985 alone! In 1981 the US trained battalions exterminated 757 men, women, and children in the village of El Mozote while as many as 300,000 citizens fled the country.

    So El Salvador got a recent long story of violence and trust me on that it’s not always easy to look as a “Gringo” out there. The violence does occur nowadays. It’s reported that El Salvador is amidst the most dangerous country in the world. El Salvador has still a high murder rate : about 10 violent deaths occur daily (the country is as big as Belgium) and don’t ask if the bodies (police and justice) are able to find the murderers. The papers have field days daily about crimes but amazingly there are very few lines about finding any murderers or gang members.  Of course, it’s said that the vast majority of perpetrators and crimes are gang –affiliated and that attacks on tourists are rare.

    I would say that it’s only partly true. We read the papers daily (in Spanish) and I can tell you that on “La Routa de Flores” (a very scenic route liking several touristic draws) not less than 17 attacks on tourists were recorded in only 3 weeks. We crossed that area and stayed there 3 days.

    Of course, the vast majority of attacks on tourists are robberies BUT crimes occur from time to time on tourists too.

    I can tell you that we were up to our necks to see gun-armed police men everywhere and each men alongside the roads were walking with their “machetes” (really funny …).

    I wouldn’t say that every Salvadorans were friendly.  Being a foreigner means being from North America here unfortunately. Those Salvadorans really couldn’t picture that you could come from another place than the US. We were hopeless at speaking Spanish because they immediately answered in English (lots of them fled out of their country to live in the US so they can speak English). I wouldn’t say that I have seen much love in their eyes as soon as you look apparently like a goddam North American.

    I think that we could understand their feeling deeply.

    Finally, this poor feeling is very very bad for the vast majority of people working in the tourist industry who do all they can reasonably to restore a good image of their country and we met fantastic and very friendly and helpful people from time to time and because of what we just explained we feel very sorry for them for all efforts they really do daily.

    Visiting or not El Salvador: that’s the question. We did it and we don’t regret it at all.

    We saw very beautiful things there (we stayed 12 days).

    Definitively, we’d recommend the region of Santa Anna (and we have a very very good address there - la Casa Frolaz – perhaps the best guesthouse we had ever till now! Waive Bruno for us – a so gentle guy working there)).

    There we spend a day crossing around the lake Coatepeque (6 hours walking) – an amazingly lovely lake – the views were lovely and the people harmless and friendly. We have never seen so many wonderful butterflies – a butterfly’s heaven! Really fantastic.

    Another day, we climbed (we joined an organized tour) the Volcano Santa Anna: 5 hours of an exhausting but rewarding walk. It was the first time that Nath could see a Volcano and she really loved the view. It’s was lovely too.

    We hanged around the “Routa de Flores” and saw a lovely cascade and walked through some coffee plantations. We visited some nice villages despite the fact that it’s reported tricky. Take care if you go this way. It worth visiting the area but take the usual precautions which means to make it short: go out without your valuables. Take only a few bucks to buy a bottle of water and don’t bring any bags even a small because robbers could easely picture that it filled with valuable things so go out almost naked guys and don’t go out the beaten tracks – take it easy and come back at your guest home gently around 4 PM and enjoy a beer (you’re still alive).

    We visited the lovely town of Suchitoto. It’s a wonderful and peaceful village surrounded by a beautiful valley and an amazing lake. It’s really wonderful and that visit justifies our trip in El Salvador on its own. We saw another enchanting cascade.

    Afterwards, we went to La palma, without any interest – and get to the Honduran Border.

    Que tal de la comida local ?

    La especialidad del pais es la « Pupusa » la que es como una tortilla con diferentes tipos de comida adentra : queso, pollo, ect…

    No voy a decir que la comida local es muy variada. Creo que fui cuasi enformo tan hemos comido « Pupusas ».  A mi es seguro, no puedo ver otra pupusa por unos años ! Los primeros dias fueron divertidos de comer « pupusas » pero despues fue como una pecadilla.

    Al fin, estamos muy allegros de estar venido a Al Salvador por que creo realmente que poco de viajeros pueden decir que ellos conocen el pais un poco. Es un pais con una naturaleza magnifica y con una gente que podria ser muy afable

    El problema es la lucha contra los narco-traficantes y tambien la corrupcion de las instituciones.

    Aqui como en otro pais del centro America, parece que los dineros de la droga va a afectar a las institiciones del pais. No es facil de decir que pense aqui si solamente le quiere quedarse en vida.

    Al final, deseamos buena suerte a este pais por que los derechos de los que son los mas pobres podrian ser reconocidos un dia y que el pais podria vivir en securidad y tranquilidad.

    Cuidado compañeros !


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