Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Easter in El Salvador

A new mural in Santa Marta that commemorates all the people who were killed in the Civil War.  
Holy Week and Easter have come and gone for another year.   Easter was difficult for me this year for a number of reasons.  I have always been very uncomfortable with Good Friday.  While I understand the importance of Christ's torture and death to my faith, I'd really rather not think about it.  When I was in Mexico it seemed that crucifixes were literally everywhere.  I find the image very disturbing. Perhaps that is its purpose.

This year I am in this beautiful land, with lovely people.  The older people here have survived a brutal war where torture and death were common place.  Its memories are everywhere - in the art of people, in the scars on the bodies and the land and in the way life is lived.  I am living among people for whom Good Friday is a not just a part of a faith, but rather was a part of their lives.  When I think too much about all of this I become overwhelmed by the pain and misery of it all.

I am also living among a people who live out the hope and beauty of the Resurrection.  The people of Santa Marta who rebuilt their community from literally dirt are a testament to the belief that life can start again after death and that even in the most terrible circumstances there is hope for better futures.  The people that I work with at ADES, who despite lack of resources, huge systemic challenges and overwhelming poverty come to work every day with a smile on their faces ready to do their part to make the world just a little bit better.

Holy Week and Easter are religious holidays here.  They are not cultural holidays, as it is Canada.  I was a bit surprised when I realized that even at the "big mall"  there were no Easter decorations.  There were no displays of chocolate, Easter stuffed animals or Easter decor.  Partly I imagine that this is because it is not Spring here, it is in fact Summer so the images of new life and fertility do not resonate here.  A friend from Canada sent me Easter pencils to distribute as is  my personal custom at my office in Kitchener.  While people here gracious accepted the gift they did not understand what a pencil with cute bunnies in pastel colours had to do with Easter.  However, my friends and colleagues here did warm up to the idea of receiving gifts of chocolate at Easter.  Chocolate is not common here and is relatively expensive.  I found some "Hersey's" products in one store and stocked up.

This was my first "holiday" away and I have to admit to periods of homesickness.  I was also really missing my Mom and thinking about last Easter which was just a few weeks after her death.  I read a lot of my "special book" and I have to say it helped a lot.  What an amazing, funny, inspirational group of friends and family I have.  Thank you.  I also went to the local grocery store and bought some food I could use to make "Canadian food".  It is amazing how much a tuna salad sandwich (with Hellman's mayonaise) and a grilled cheese sandwich with ketchup can do to perk me up!  I was missing the dill pickles with the grilled cheese and have since learned that pickles are available in El Salvador, so I have a new quest!  I also went to my first movie here, a funny comedy with Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler, where she plays his fake wife.

On Easter Sunday afternoon Jenny's cousin Marie Angeles and her fiance Oscar came by.  Jenny made an incredibly tasty lunch of beef with stir fried onions, green peppers and tomatoes and rice.  Later while Oscar and Jonathan did stuff with Oscar's car, Jenny, Marie and I played cards and then watched a movie.  For dinner we had Pollo Campero (the Salvadoreno equivalent of Kentucky Fried Chicken).   I have come to agree with the Salvadorenos/as that Pollo Campero is better than KFC (less grease, more flavour).  In many ways Sunday was not unlike my tradition in Canada - pleasant time spent with family and friend, eating good food and hanging out.

It was also nice to get back to my "ADES" community.  In general people are looking refreshed, although just like at home, everyone was tired after their "first day" back.  As my friend Lynn says, holidays are nice, but really my soul craves the structure of routine living.  I think that is true for me too.

The Spanish reads "People who forget their history are doomed to repeat it."  This panel commemorates the crossing of the Rio Lempa, as the people were chased out of the village of Santa Marta during the war.  Soldiers followed on foot and in helicopters and shot at people as they were fleeing.  The whole community vacated and lived in a refugee camp in Honduras before returning to rebuild in the area leveled by the Army.

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