Archive for September 2012

East Boston’s first ambulatory Salvadoran Vendor?   Leave a comment

I was headed towards the subway, and I saw her about 15 feet in front of me.  She appeared to be raising her voice, and was speaking towards someone passing by.    As I approached her, the words became more audible and intelligible.    “Tamales Calientes,” she said.  Or did she say it in English?     So accustomed to hearing Spanish spoken, I often mistake it for English, and vice-versa.    Also so accustomed to seeing and hearing mobile vendors in El Salvador, it took a moment before I did a double-take.   Wait a minute, I said to myself, we’re in BOSTON, what is this woman doing trying to sell her wares informally outside of the subway station?

I don’t know what your city is like, but here in Boston, they are very strict and it takes forever to get a permit to sell anything on a cart in a commercial area, IF you get one.   Knowing this, and seeing her walking and selling her wares in a small metal cart she towed, I felt a little cheerleader inside me, saying, You GO, girl!     You see, after living outside of  the United States for three years, I am now aware of how it has elements of fascism.  Everything is so orderly and structured and defined.  If one veers even a few inches, let alone feet, out of their ‘range,’ it is noted, may be reported, and oftentimes, you will be CORRECTED!    So I wish for ambulatory vendors to descend upon bustling town squares, subway and bus stops all over America.  May informal vendors find profit in their disordering of the orderly as they color our days with a variety of products and fill our tummies with sundry food items.

I did not buy hot tamales from the brave woman selling them in Maverick Square, but next time I will.  I was delighted to see her and hope to again.   I strongly suspect she is Salvadoran, would almost bet on it, though I did not get the chance to ask her.   It was as if she were airlifted from an urban corner in San Salvador, and carefully set down here in America, even donning the infamous “delantal” (waist-apron) that nearly all Salvadoran marketeers wear during their daily activities.

It was a little taste of the El Salvador I miss, brought to me unexpectedly this week.

Posted September 27, 2012 by El Salvador from the Inside in Living in El Salvador

Three Years, Three Suitcases   10 comments

I have some big news to report.   My husband and I are moving back to the United States.   In fact, our move is halfway there,  – I flew back in on September 7, and my other half – husband – arrives late tonight.

Photo by digitallatina, on

Some of you dear readers are new to my blog, thanks to the wonderful and surprising press I got at the Daily Post here at WordPress.   I didn’t have the heart to tell anyone yet, and well heck, though it’s ironic to get the PR just as we were moving back, I sure wasn’t going to turn it down!

For those who did not see it yet – I’ll toot my horn since I never do – I’m about 3/4 down the page:

El Salvador from the Inside makes it on Daily News

Also, as my husband was ready to throw my laptop in the river (a bit too much time on the computer, eh?), I did not keep you up to date during the move.

I am still coming to grips with the return “home” – as my definition of home has changed so much.

It was standard move, as much as you can call a “move” via airplane.   One detail that kept ringing in my head was:     Three Years, Three Suitcases.

Before moving to El Salvador, I was fortunate to know  someone who transported cars and large belongings, and he moved 200 pounds of my stuff on one of his trips for only $2 a pound (he doesn’t do it anymore, bummer).    For  my return, I so smartly (not!) chose Spirit Airlines for the trip back.  Not only did I get to leave at the brisk hour of 1:00 am, but I was contained to 40 pounds per suitcase.  Maybe not the best move to save 150 bucks or so.   My husband chided me as I got on and off the scale, repeatedly, for a week and a half, agonizing about leaving a book behind to bring jewelry, or shoes instead.   I laughed while talking with my husband in these recent days, as he, too, had to make ‘executive decisions’ based on weight – we decided on United for his return flight, giving him 10 more pounds a bag.

How do you move three years of your life back with you in three suitcases?   Easy, most of it is memories!   Though the decisions about what to bring back were painful, what cannot fit into the suitcase is what I will miss the most.

The constant sunshine, pretty much every day.  El Salvador beats the the “Sunshine State” of Florida hands down.  The sound of the river down the hill, and roosters crowing at intervals throughout the day and night.   The never-ending supply of cool and colorful insects and plants.  Our family, so close by, and our neighbors and friends who became family to us.  Greetings given and received by people on the street whether they know you or not – including “Buen Provecho” when someone passes your table in a restaurant as they enter.    The warmth and smiles of vendors we saw daily.   The undying happiness and generosity that lives inside of Salvadorans who have so little, and share so much without a gripe.

Is the move back to the States Permanent?

We certainly hope not.   Our plan was always to return to the States within a few years, my husband especially, for better prospects in the construction industry.   Had we set up a business, we may have stayed longer, perhaps permanently.  Retiring in El Salvador is a dream of ours.  I kept telling my neighbors in Agua Caliente (Chalatenango) that I’m going to come back and buy a cattle ranch – and “Primero Dios” (God Willing, as they say there), it will happen.   Not a bad segue down the road between life in full time employment and complete do-nothing retirement in ones late 70’s.   Why not run a farm with employees happy to help and work for you, that gives you a small income and something to do?   You can grow it as large or small as you like.

What about El Salvador from the Inside?

Well, for starters, if I pull out and tackle my backlog of diary entries starting with the “early days” when we first lived with the outlaws (err, I mean in-laws) , I’d have a good 50 entries.  So don’t worry, I still have lot’s of material to share with you.

Secondly, life in El Salvador continues, and as our family and friends there share their experiences with us, which we will share with you.  Our visits (with hopefully some extended stays!) to El Salvador will continue.  I have to go back at least once a year to maintain and renew my residency (Definitiva).

I joked many times with my husband that he can stay in the U.S. while I go back to El Salvador, and  send me remesas (remittances)!   That’s a reverse on common reality – the Salvadoran sending remittances to the gring@ in El Salvador.

So stay tuned, for more, dear readers, we’re not shutting our doors.   El Salvador from the Inside will continue, and we will keep you up to date, and may even start a series on Salvadorans who live on the Outside here in Boston and elsewhere in the U.S.

Los aviadores por my Pila   2 comments

Spanish FridayHoy es Viernes “Español”.   Que disfrutan los hispano-hablantes!

Spanish Friday today.   Post in Spanish, English version at the bottom.

Nunca es aburrido lavando por mi Pila.  Muchas personas podría pensar que es solamente otro tarea doméstica.  De hecho, para mi es una terapia; el movimiento, estando afuera en el aire fresco, y algo mas – cada dia algunos aviadores pasan por la Pila.

Cuando nos mudamos hasta el caserío por las acercas de Agua Caliente, pensé  que el nuevo mundo nuestro sería mas aburrido que el mundo de maravillas en lo cual habíamos vivido en Los Planes de Renderos, con sus lluvias constantes y aire fresco.    Pero me equivoqué.    Les muestro, queridos lectores, que hay tanto maravilla en el occidental de Chalate como la montaña donde vivíamos.

Aquí vea el colibrí, picaflor, o como dice mi vecino, el gorrión.  él  nos visita a diario.

Aun era oscura cuando el colibrí apareció. Haz clic para agrandar.

Después del amanecer, lo veo mejor. Esta foto captura el movimiento de sus alas.

Y mas luego, cuando ya calienta el aire y mas de las criaturas despiertan, veamos la mariposa.  Sus colores de negro y naranja combina perfectamente con el charral (matorrales) de chichipince nativa de El Salvador:

Si les muestro todas de las fotos de palomillas hemos encontrado aqui, no las van a creer.    Pues, las guardo para otro dia.

Que tengan un Buen Dia.


It’s never boring by my washing sink.  Many people might think it’s just another housework task.  In fact, for me it’s therapy; the movement, being outside in the fresh air – and what’s more – each day various aviators pass by.

When we moved to the neighborhood on the outskirts of Agua Caliente, I thought our new world woudl be more boring than the world of wonder in which we lived in Los Planes de Renderos, with its contant rains andf resh air.  But I was wrong.  I show you, dear readers, that there is as much wonder in the West of Chalate (Chalatenango) as the mountain where we lived.

Here see the hummingbird (and a couple other names for it in Spanish), he visits us daily.

<< Pictures of the hummingbird >>

And later, when the air warms up and more creatures awaken, we see the butterfly.  It’s black and orange colors combine perfectly with the chichipince bush native to El Salvador:

<< Pictures of the butterfly >>



A Trip to the Molienda – see how Panela is made   Leave a comment

We stopped in at the Molienda on a  trip to San Vicente one day.   I was working at Habitat, and driving with Don Nico.  We arrived before the regional office was ready, so we had a few moments to kill and this was right on the road there.  Don Nico was a fantastic guide, explaining how everything works, because when he was a boy, his family had a small Molienda of their own.

It all starts with actual sugar cane, about the thickness of a large broomstick, harvested locally. The cane branches are fed into a machine that squeezes out their juice.

(Click to Enlarge) – Check out the machinery. (Click to Enlarge) –  This is a tough job.  This guy must be hot with all that steam coming up. (Click to enlarge) – cane juice flowin’


In Agua Caliente, in Chalatenango, we often see a vendor with a small hand-crank squeezer sell cane juice in bags as a “fresco” drink.

After the cane juice is squeezed out, it flows into one or more large vats – see the pipe above where it comes right out of the can press.  Then it is boiled down in the vats, for several hours, to evaporate:

(Click to Enlarge) Here is the skimmer. (Click to Enlarge) Another steamy job.

From the start, Don Nico was telling me how we were going to “chupar la espuma,”
or drink the foam from the cane juice.   He was very enthusiastic about this, and
I definitely had to partake in the drinking. 

I didn’t care for the espuma as much as he does, but I never let on.

Here is Don Nico, chupando la espuma.  He must have loved this when he was a little kid, just look at him here with his little kid face, drinking the foam.

As usual in El Salvador, almost nothing is wasted.

After squeezing out the juice, the remaining parts of the cane have multiple uses.   The cane is given to cows to eat, like hay, and guess what fuels the fire to boil the vats of cane juice?    The post-squeezed sugar cane.

(Click to enlarge)
Here, gathered in bundles for the fire
Fuel for the fire – from the actual cane sticks. (Click to enlarge)
The cane is spread out to dry


Once the cane juice is thick enough, it is poured into molds, and left to dry:


Here is a nice group of ladies wrapping the panela in corn husks, ready to be sold:

Finished product!  Panela wrapped in corn husks. Another product from the Molienda is Batido. My mother in law loves it.  Much softer than panela, it’s eaten as a candy/dessert.


Making panela at the Moliendas is a colonial tradition that nearly died off in El Salvador after the invention of granulated sugar in the mid 20th century.   But panela and other products of the Molienda are very distinct and more healthy than processed sugar, so the tradition lives on today.  In fact, they have even formed associations, such as ACOPANELA (la Asociación de Productores de Panela), established by panela producers in San Vicente.

Here are a couple of articles, in Spanish, about the tradition of producing panela in El Salvador:       Moliendas: a sweet tradition of Verapaz    –    La Molienda – San Vicente

Posted September 20, 2012 by El Salvador from the Inside in Living in El Salvador

Jugo de piña – BEST cumbia song ever   Leave a comment

Jugo de Piña is a CLASSIC cumbia song.  It is a latino parallel to famous rock songs like Stairway to Heaven, and also one of the BEST pieces of Clarinet music you will ever hear.   Check it out with Youtube videos below.   The group is called “Los Vaskez,” their full name, “El Super Show de Los Vaskez”   Did they deliberately misspelled the last name for fun?   They were big in the 1980s.   Though it’s a Mexican group and not Salvadoran, I must pay tribute to them as they are listened to throughout El Salvador and played on the radio a lot.

Jugo de piña  as recorded on the LP /vinyl:  
( especially check it out starting from 1:40   )

A very good live version:  

This guy is phenomenal.    When I first heard this song, I couldn’t help but think of Jewish songs with clarinets in them.    Did Rafa ever get to meet great Jewish Clarinet players (and vice-versa)?

Here is a young aspiring group called the Aten Boys doing their version of the song  – look how YOUNG that kid playing is! 

For a look at famous Salvadoran Cumbia artists, go no further than Aniceto Molina, whose famous songs like El Peluquero have been resounding in El Salvador for decades:

Some of my other favorite Salvadoran Cumbia groups are Orquestra San Vicente, and Los Hermanos Flores.     Here’s a mosaic of Orquestra San Vicente songs and with photos of El Salvador:

Posted September 13, 2012 by El Salvador from the Inside in Living in El Salvador

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