Archive for July 2011

Times were Hard, Then   6 comments

Last week I got into a conversation with my neighbor Mary, over the fence.   Since she has a new baby (a surprise) along with her 11 year old daughter, we talked about child-raising.  Oh, it’s old hat for me, she says.  I took care of my brothers since I was very young.  I was 13 years old when my parents both left for the United States.  Mary was left all alone to care for her 6 and 7 yr old brothers.   This sounds unheard of in the U.S., but remember El Salvador was at the tail end of a horrible civil war.   Mary didn’t know how to cook, she had to learn.  They were living in a different neighborhood at the time, and the water only ran once a month.  In between you had to go to a small creek to wash clothes or haul water back home when your water ran out.

Stories like these are often told by our grandparents (or great-grandparents, depending on how old you are).   It sounds like something from 50 or 75 years ago.   But this story comes from a woman who is only 33 years old – it was 20 years back.

Since then, Mary’s parents have been able to send money to help their children move to a better house, and were even able to save for her two younger brothers to attend school at university level in the states on a Visa, a major accomplishment for Salvadorans.

The house she lives in is pretty nice, so before today I figured her parents were U.S. residents, probably with a professional type job.  As Mary’s story unfolded, I learned  it is the opposite.   Her parent’s are ‘mojados’ – they are illegal aliens.   I was very surprised to hear this.  I wonder how hard they have worked these last 20 years to give a better life to Mary and her brothers.

Things are much sunnier for Mary’s family now.  We talked about how maybe one day her mom will come back to live here.  Here in a house she helped build, but has never seen, with her daughter, whom she cannot visit in El Salvador.

Yes, times were hard then, and it wasn’t that long ago.

Religious Quote of the Day*   2 comments

“Only God Can Judge Me” – In English, seen on the back of a Route 12 bus.

* There are numerous religious and biblical quotes on buses and private cars in El Salvador.  Some quotes are seen painted on walls or sides of buildings.  As I see them, I’ll jot new ones down for readers.

Community in Santa Tecla without water for 6 days now   Leave a comment

Colonia Quezaltepeque in Santa Tecla has been without water since the weekend and it’s Thursday now.  A video clip today on Channel 33 (Canal 33) shows people waiting in line with buckets and containers of all sizes to bring home.  Some waited in line for 3 hours.  A woman in line with a small bucket is interviewed:

ORIGINAL Text, in Spanish:

Periodista:  Este poquito de agua para que le va  servir.
Mujer de la colonia Quesaltepeque:  Aunque sea para lavar trastes porqu ni para ir al bano ay.  Todos tenemos sucio, y los trastes anda un gran mosquero alli.   
PARA tomar anda, como estan haciendo?   Comprando bolsitas.  
Es un gasto extra…  Mujer:  Para comprar la garaffa grande

TRANSLATION into English:

Journalist:  So what is this little bit of water for?
Woman from Quezaltepeque neighborhood:  Even if it’s only for washing dishes..because there isn’t even any for the bathroom.  Everything is dirty, and the dishes are full of flies.
Journalist:  What are you doing for drinking water?  Woman:  Buying little bags [of it].      Journalist:  It’s an extra Cost    Woman:   To buy the big water bottle.

Seeing reports like this of citizens suffering from water outages and shortages is disturbing when we are aware of mass corruption within ANDA, the public water company – we’re talking millions of dollars embezzled; its former President did finally serve time after hiding out in France.    Then we hear about a company, ALUVIAH, taking water from a creek illegally in the community of Berlin, and bottling it for sale outside of the country.  The residents of two different communities use this same creek for all of their water needs – drinking, bathing, washing.

WATER IS A SCARCE RESOURCE in EL SALVADOR.   Anything you can do to help citizens of El Salvador have better infrastructure and less corruption is welcomed.

Theft of Water by Aluviah – Ladrones de Agua en Berlin, El Salvador por compania Aluviah – Aviso!   4 comments

This is a repost from a fellow blogger’s site about a current case of water theft in Berlin, El Salvador.   << If anyone reading is able to help or intervene with this in some way, then please do. >>

Water is a very SCARCE resource in El Salvador because of the annual dry season, which lasts 6 months long.  Many communities live with few water resources, and projects to drill new wells often fail because they find no water when drilling.  this has happened in the town of Obrajuelo, in Agua Caliente, Chalatenango, where we have relatives, so we know about this first hand.

I mention this to stress the urgency of this situation to the readers.  Draining the water resources of a local community is not just immoral, but dangerous to everyone who lives there.   It is amazing how they are getting away with this, because based on what’s stated below, one cannot legally own groundwater in El Salvador, so it looks like a problem with the enforcement of local environmental laws.

Original post, below, is from  “Not all who wander are lost” .  I recommend reading an article she cites, which talks about attempts to block Aluviah.

Water thieves

A company named Aluviah is illegally taking water from a water source in the communities of Río de los Bueyes and Talpetates in the municipality of Berlín. Though the communities still have water (in the form of water pumps from the rivers to their communities) they are in danger of losing water in the future. There are several other communities in the lower zone that could also potentially lose water. Unfortunately, even though the company is stealing the water there’s not a lot that the community can do about it. There have been inplications of people being paid under the table to look the other way. To make matters worse, the company has armed guards patrolling the outskirts of the communities. These men randomly shoot off bullets into the air in order to frighten the people of the communities.
We received the information below on a flyer at the end of church on Sunday; I translated it to English. Someone from the Pastoral Team also talked to someone in the community of Río de los Bueyes about what was happening there:
Organizations of the municipalities of Alegría, Berlin, Usulután, Mercedes Umaña are denouncing before the city, national and international organizations, government, church, pastors from different churches, and to whom it may concern:
A PRIVATE COMPANY has emerged named ALUVIAH S.A. DE C.V. that aims to EXTRACT AND SELL water from a water source in the lower area of Berlin, between CANTON TALPETATES and THE CASERÍO RÍO LOS BUEYES of this municipality.
The head of the company is Mrs. JUANA FRANCISCA SERRANO supported [by] VIRGINIA MORATAYA, alternate deputy for the department of Usulután, who are powerfully trying to establish the company in this community.
It should be noted that one can own property but not the groundwater. The company cannot operate without the permission of City Hall. We have the support of the municipality to protect resources. In this case it is the water of our people since the LOWER SAN SIMON RIVER BASIN supplies water to an average of 7 municipalities. Therefore they do not have nor ever will obtain permission.

In face of opposition from communities and organizations, there have been threats against community leaders in the community of Río de los Bueyes and members of our organizations. In the area where the company is working, there are armed men who shoot in the direction of the community of Río de los Bueyes trying to scare people. These actions are directed by Ramón Serrano, brother of the owner of the company.

Mrs. JUANA FRANCISCA SERRANO with the support of VIRGINIA MORATAYA have filed suit in the courts of Berlin against the community of Río de los Bueyes, accusing them of actions that have never been committed at any time. WE ARE THE COMMUNITIES THAT ARE BEING ASSAULTED AND THREATENED BY UNSCRUPULOUS PEOPLE.


Berlín, July 2011
Related links:
YouTube: The company Aluviah
YouTube: Threat of water privitazation in Berlín
New Millenium article

A Typical Morning: 6am   Leave a comment

These photos were taken shortly after 6am on July 13, 2011 in Los Planes de Renderos, San Salvador, El Salvador.  The fog  is typical during rainy season and appears early morning and late afternoon.

CLICK on a pic to enlarge:

street in front of the church/school

Fog blankets bamboo, guarumo, other trees

Veranera (bougainvilla) in front of backyard trees and fog

bamboo fence inside the school children's play area for the church school

ferocious dog guarding the house

looking out over back fence into the fog

One normally sees clouds flowing over them where they live.  Because we are so high up here in Los Planes de Renderos, the clouds flow ON us.  They get ‘caught’ by the mountain and scrape over the top, giving us fog, rain, and lots of humidity.  It’s like living in a giant terrarium.

Due to the tropical weather, numerous mountain ranges, and often close proximity to the coastline, Central America has a wide variety of regional micro climates like the one here.

Fresh Cream from the Farmer’s Dairy   2 comments

Until coming here, my idea of cream was the kind you find in the mini-size milk carton in the dairy section of the supermarket.  One of three varieties:  regular, cream, and ‘half and half’ which people use for coffee.  The color of all those creams is a presentable off-white.

Many creams in the supers here are also that same color.  Like the ‘Salud’ brand I use as sour cream because it ‘turns’ quick and tastes exactly like sour cream back home.

This is the good stuff.

One great thing about being in El Salvador is that you are often within a 10 minute walk or drive from a dairy that sells fresh cream and Salvadoran style cheeses from local farms. People eat cream here with fried plantains (platanos), and with beans.

Now, I want you all to take a look at fresh cream as it comes from a dairy, or Lacteo, as we call it here.  The bag of cream to the right was liquid when we bought it, and after a few days it began to slowly solidify, while still keeping its fresh taste.  Can you see how yellow and buttery the color is?  This is what REAL cream looks like.

Below is a video showing how thick the cream is.  (apologies for sideways, can’t get ‘rotate’ in YouTube working…)

Visitors   2 comments

It’s that time of year again…now that rainy season is in full swing, signs of life begin to emerge.   We inaugurate the  new “winter” season in El Salvador – which compares more to spring in temperate climates, with plants bursting green everywhere  – with a visit from some friends who emerged from the foliage.

I was literally sitting on the toilet the other day, when in marched Mr. Walking Stick, not in the least concerned I was already in the bathroom.   Unable to move, I was grateful to see him on the other side of the bathroom, heading for refuge behind the trash can.

A day later, shortly after blowing my hair out, I spied a strange object on the corner of the dresser mirror.

Was he there the whole time or did he just wiggle his way up there?

What's that on the mirror?

Hey, weren't you in the bathroom the other day?

Yep - it's Mr. Walking Stick again

CLICK to enlarge Green visitor

Either coming as a voyeur or looking a makeover, I didn’t mind visits from Mr. Stick.

Returning home late evening this same day, what do I find on the pot we use to heat water every day, but a bright, green…

This visitor was a bit more intrusive.  Luckily I found it before my husband, as I have learned over the past year or more that Salvadorans are DEATHLY afraid of caterpillars.   Who knew?  And us Americans, we think they are soooooo cute.

Almost everyone I know from El Salvador says ‘eek’ when seeing a ‘gusano’ or even mentioning one.  On a walk with a friend the other day, we passed a small tree / bush that had been cut or fallen partially into the street.  She screamed, hopping over the branches, and dashing ahead. “Ewwww, gusanos!” she said.   I took a look.  In fact, there was a gathering.  And they were gorgeous, with bright colors like yellow, black and red.  Their fear is not irrational:  caterpillars here can give a smart sting, so they learn quick as children ‘Don’t Touch!’

Escape from the flies   2 comments

A plague of flies has fallen upon us.  I wonder if it was like this for the Egyptians during Biblical times.  I blamed the food remains at the front of the house in the AM, but still they kept coming.  As clean as our back patio/kitchen area is kept, there had to be at least 30, 40, 50 flies.  Hanging out on the hammock, resting on the chair, dancing on the countertop, and tap dancing on the bathroom floor.  Arrrg!  DISGUSTING!

I did what I could:   alternate attacks with the flyswatter or the Baygon (like Raid), but my cockroach Baygon did nothing more than make the bastards dizzy for a few moments and off again they buzzed.  By late afternoon, flight was a better choice than fight, and I went where the car could take me – FAR away.


I always make friends at the gas station in Amayo (pronounce “uh-mai-oh”).  Vendors approach me every time (gringa face), selling their wares.  I kick in a few coins or bucks if I can use what they sell, as their lives are a scrape-by existence relying on people like me more fortunate than them.

Today the hammock people and the boy with nuts were there.  The nut boy remembered me from last time.  He was there when the cookie ladies were, on my last visit; I’ve known them for a few months now.   They take Sundays off, I was glad to hear that.   They are a mother and daughter pair, with a huge age spread between them.  The mother is somewhere in her 50’s although she looks like 60+ from all the weathering her skin has gotten from walking everywhere in the sun.  Her daughter is 15, and her mother and I always joke about how you ‘have to keep an eye on them’ with the boys.  Of course, I helped her daughter be all the more devilish one day myself when I let her take a couple slugs off my Smirnoff ice.  It was in a can, and as her mother can’t read, we told her it was a power drink, like red bull.  We weren’t very convincing.  The mom asked me for $5 once for something urgent, which I gave her, but when she asked for $10 the next time I was at the station, I felt that was going too far.  But I will buy their cookies loyally each time I see them.

I’ve urged  the nut boy more than once never to quit going to school.  He is in “Quinto” or 5th grade.   This sounds about right for his age, so hopefully he keeps up without being held back or dropping out.   Many, many, many kids in rural areas drop out in grade school as early as the 5th grade.  A lot of kids make it to say, 7th grade, but if they’re held back once or twice they give up out of shame, not wanting to sit in class with kids 2 or 3 years younger.

I will remind you that today is Sunday, and the boy with nuts, 11 or 12 years old, is working.  I will buy nuts from him every time I see him.

Diary entry, April 25, 2010

Rain or Drought   Leave a comment

This photo called 'Dry Season' by Cordelia Mclellan, is a perfect depiction of how it looks in El Salvador during dry season - yellow, brown, dry and cracking except for a few trees and plants in between like the bougainvilleas. CLICK to see more photos by this photographer

The rain finally came.  We were off on a day trip to Citala, El Salvador, a town near the border of Honduras, when it happened.

The last time it rained anywhere near us was in the middle of November, a short storm, while we slept.  For 5 months now, it’s been ‘dry dry dry’.    Not a single drop of rain.

Moments before the shower the air was pregnant with moisture.  Thick and heavy, it felt like a giant had crouched down, breathing on us in the little tourist town.  The sky finally broken open and bled out is long awaited rain.   The bursting, breaking, cracking open, wonderful release was felt by everyone.  We walked in it, on our way back to the bus, at the end of our day trip, to return home.

From diary entry – April 3, 2010

Fishing Salvadoran style with a Nasa   6 comments

In parts of El Salvador, a tradition from Indigenous times is fishing with a “Nasa”, or trap.   The Spanish word nasa is used for many types of fish traps.  The one we refer to is made of bamboo, and incorporates rocks and the current as part of the design.

A small nasa in a creek.  CLICK a pic to enlarge…

see the basket-style shape of the "Nasa"

note the 'V" shape of the Nasa

hubby with some of the 'catch'

closeup of fish - and from a small creek!

Now let’s move onto the big time Nasa.  Much bigger, it needs 2-3 people to carry it.   Note how the trap is set up in the river.   Two lines of large rocks are set up in the water, in the shape of a “V”, wide at the upstream end, and narrowing to the point where the nasa is placed.   Once fish swim between the rock lines, the current helps guide them into the trap / nasa.   Water is always running through the trap, so the fish stay alive until you come get them for dinner.

CLICK a pic to enlarge..

walking the nasa into the river

placing the nasa in brackets in between the rocks

“Pescando con una nasa en el salvador”

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