It was Rosa’s birthday, and the highlight of her day was driving to Nueva Concepcion with me and her daughters to get her “DUI”.
First, I’ll explain birthdays. Apparently no one here makes a hoot or holler when an adult makes it through another year of life. Children get parties, with cake, friends, and usually a piñata; mothers get cake and often flowers on Mothers Day. But birthdays, forget it. No cake, no happy birthday song, usually not even a card. I felt sad for Rosa and wanted to do something special; my husband said don’t make a big tah-doo so I left it be.
We renewed Rosa’s DUI, the National ID card of El Salvador (Documento Unico de Identidad) on her birthday because she thought it would cost less to renew, or maybe even be free. We learned later this was not the case, but we enjoyed our trip to Nueva Concepcion anyway.
The Infamous DUI renewal Campaign
Tremendous confusion and misinformation has been circulating about the DUI, as a result of the massive government campaign to renew, with numerous radio and television Ads.
El Salvador basically set a policy of forced renewal of the DUI card, which many are opposed to, including the ARENA political party, who wanted the DUI to never expire. Banks and other agencies who provide services like bill payment and remittances ($ sent from the States by relatives) now REQUIRE Salvadorans to provide an active, unexpired DUI. Big money must have been spent on the ads, as they are well put together; even I started mimicking the comical horror movie refrain played repeatedly in the Ads when someone presents an expired DUI. Money well spent for the government, I’m sure, with $10 collected for every Salvadoran that renews their DUI. To give some perspective: that’s like shelling out $50 or more in the United States.
Here’s a Thought: If the government spent just 10% of the budget for the infamous DUI Campaign on Educational Ads to PREVENT GRADE SCHOOL DROP OUTS and PROMOTE ATTENDING the 10th-12th GRADE SCHOOLS, you could see a decent increase in matriculation country-wide. To date, in the over one year I have been here (updated as of October 2010) I have ONLY SEEN TWO ADS PROMOTING EDUCATION IN EL SALVADOR. Do they reeaally want to help their poor?
PREFERENTIAL Treatment for Americans
While in Nueva Concepcion I drove the wrong way up a one-way street upon my niece’s directing me where to go (thank you!). Only a few month’s back it was a two way, it seems they rearranged directions on a few streets there. A policeman stopped me, and I had a sinking feeling in my stomach. Uh-ohhhh. He asked for my ID and I gave him my passport, apologizing in Spanish. After seeing I was an American, all was forgiven! In fact, I wasn’t just pardoned, I was treated like royalty. He halted traffic, and forced a car to move out of the way to give me clearance so I could drive the wrong way up the street, to our intended intersection a half block up. I was relieved and red face embarrassed all in the same breath.