A week across El Salvador

April 7th, 2006 by David
El Salvador

   Crossing the border from Honduras, I could immediately tell El Salvador is far less poor than Honduras (see comparison). I could buy any food that I wanted at the store (muffins and chocolate milk, in this case), and the pavement on the roads was well maintained.

   I spent two days in the small town of Guarjila, were I learned of the civil war. Between 1980 and 1992, the El Salvador government fought a violent war against a large part of the population that demanded more rights, particularly the right to own land. The U.S. government, fearing a ‘socialist takeover,’ spent billions of dollars supporting the El Salvadorian government, whose war tactics included the massacre of entire mountain villages. At least 75,000 people died. You can read more here.

Delmy talks about her experience during the war

   The town of Guarjila was in the resistance during the war, and I heard a woman talk about her experience as a young medical assistant. She talked about performing amputations at the age of 16, as well as losing many of her family members. Her talk was for a group of visiting U.S. high school students, and it was translated to English as she spoke (photo left). Delmy, the woman, who had only finished 4th grade before the war began, returned to school at the war’s end and is now a doctor working in Guarjila.

The Multiplaza - San Salvador's newest mall!
Billboard advertising best way to get money sent from family working abroad (the U.S.)

   Since the war, the El Salvadorian economy has grown quickly, strangely fuelled by large amounts of money sent back from El Salvadorians working abroad, mostly in the U.S. Billboards along the road advertised the best way to send your ‘remesa’ money back to the country. In San Salvador, the capital, I biked to the Multiplaza, a lavish mall serving the country’s wealthy. To be sure, most people in El Salvador are still poor, and somehow, the mall made me feel very uncomfortable.

Environmental club at the American School of San Salvador
Students at Co Escolar Caserio near Perquin

   I talked at two schools in El Salvador. I talked to the environmental club at the American School, a private school in San Salvador, and also at Centro Escolar Caserio, a public school in the mountains.

   I left the country through the mountain town of Perquin, which saw some of the heaviest fighting of the war. I visited the civil war museum, which was in town, and saw large craters that were left from where 500 lb bombs had been dropped. My guide, who fought in the war, described what it was like when the bomb fell and everything within 150 meters was blown away.

A 500lb bomb (not used), and a crater left by a 500lb bomb during the war, Perquin
Crater from 500lb bomb at Perquin Mountain - site of some of the heaviest fighting of the war.
'Short cut'

   A special thanks to John Guiliano, the students of Brebeuf, and the Tamarindos for making me welcome in the country of El Salvador. I spent two and a half days with this group in Guarjila (where the video of Demly was taken), and greatly enjoyed myself. And yes, here are the obligatory pictures of firemen – thanks to the firemen of Chalantenango and San Francisco Gotera for letting me stay with them.

John, Brebeuf, and the Tamerindos
Bomberos of Chalatenango
Sleeping Bomberos of San Francisco Gotera - it is hot

8 Responses to “A week across El Salvador”

  1. Kate and Amy says:

    Hey Dave! I am at Amy’s house and we all are checking out your website. We miss you. -Kate T.

    Hey Dave- we were just telling stories about Kate’s wedding and surprise, surprise…your name came up. :) I’m impressed with your journey! -Amy

  2. Ben Bush says:

    Hey Dave!

    It was great meeting you while we were in Guarjila together. I truly admire what you are doing, and wish you the best of luck.

    I’ve decided on Princeton for school. Maybe I can still make it to Stanford for graduate school. How’s the weather in Honduras?

    Talk to you later,


  3. Tamsin Kearns says:

    My best friend was born in San Salvador. I want go there some day so I would love to hear want you think of it

  4. Pierre says:

    I am really impresed by your trip.
    I spend one year living in a small comunity en El Salvaador.. Little farmers were saying that the climate was changing.. moas lluvia, mas sol, the weather became crazy last year …
    You do a great job, good luck…

    Watch here a little pressent for you..


  5. me gusta mucho lo que tu estas realizando es por eso que me alegra que llegues muy lejos suerte

  6. Tamsin says:

    How did you like El Salvador?

  7. Gilberto Linares says:

    Hello, David.
    Good job done in Guarjila with my friend John and Luis.
    I live in Virginia Beach, VA. But originally i’m from El Salvador.
    Known as El Bike Doctor.

    Best regards.

  8. vicky perez says:

    Hello Dave ,
    Great to hear young people travelling in style apart from carbon spewing monsters. Yes we are all in this together from the richest nations to the tiny impoverized islands almost sinking in the next 20 years as climate change inevitably punishes those who barely make it in the universe, Yes we can do our grassroots campaigns but in the end Government has to step in .Simple things like mandating energy efficiency for cars .Unfortunately the most powerful government in the world opted out of the Kyoto protocol. So there we are.
    By the way any interesting non touristy stops in El Salvador ?

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