$6,500 dollars. That is how much Salvadoran laborers each pay to be transported in covert trucks to be an illegal immigrant in the United States. $4500 to $5000 for Guatemalans. And $2000 to $2500 for Mexicans. The sum is inequivocally high, especially to end up working as a gardener or farm hand. At the moment more than a third of Salvadorans are found outside of the country, the hardest working Central Americans sending remesas (remittances) from abroad to rebuild families that suffer from repercussions of a savage bloodbath.

—-

I felt so much heartbreak today. A dreadful sense of lamenting and empathy, and I am at a loss for words from the sorrow.

It didn’t occur to me what I knew about El Salvador, until a series of occurrences happened me. Salvadorans (even in the chaotic capital) were unanimously cordial, helpful, and respectful, contrasting with their ugly past and the innumerous semi-automatics and AK-47s carried in hands. Evidence of war-related violence pass me by in the streets or sit next to me on the bus: fine human beings saying “good morning” and “how are you” who had lost an arm, or a leg, or had gory burn scars across their bodies, or a machete cuts over their skull, the brutally blinded… stories of relatives who had died, the consequence of a government and army that crushed its own people and massacred entire towns. But they don’t even feel pity for themselves, they keep working. Salvadorans are so resilient! And even though people are vague about what happened, they are surprised (and so am I) when I fill in the details.

You mean the football wars?” I added when a young Salvadoran waiter was recounting the conflict between this place and Honduras, and its uncensored brutality.

And somehow out of the recesses of my memory from some long-forgotten history class sitting in a lecture hall, ( in a detail that I am surprised to recall,) I blurt out El Mozote in conversation. El Mozote! El Mozote was in El Salvador! The tranquil little town nearby FMLN headquarters where the military came in and massacred everyone indiscriminately, senseless killing, total annihilation of a town. In fact, didn’t I read about survivor accounts of those who came home only to find their mother, father, and siblings all cut up and…riddled with bullets. El Mozote was in El Salvador… just over there.

So I took the bus to Morozán, and the people are unreasonably nice and accomodating, even while I am hating my own government. The guide, frankly describing what happened to her family and the US involvement in supplying arms and training soldiers to be unmoved by slaughtering innocent people. I felt so sick, so harrowed, so disturbed, but mostly so empty and sad and grateful for the anguish. I even wished that Salvadorans were more bitter about the past, more angry, they had every reason to despise Americans, but instead, they accorded hospitality. I remember my insides felt like trembling, moved and yet unable to comment on it, but afterwards, just devastating grief and sorrow.

And the crisp light of dawn that shone upon the cliffs and lush palm trees was so triumphant that several hundred birds flew overhead. This, too, is El Salvador.

(Excerpt from Inevitable Revolutions, The United States in Central America.)

Turning a country into a cemetery: “I wish the Americans would just leave us alone. If we want to kill each other off, it’s our business. The United States has no right to interfere.” …US trained and equipped army personnel carried out most of the killings…throughout these bloody, bleak years, they tried to resolve the unresolvable: extend US military and economic aid so the army could fight the growing revolution, but threaten to cut off aid if the “rival mafias” did not stop murdering Indians, labor leades, educators, lawyer, and each other…Most North Americans, ignorant of a sense of the past, solved the problem by looking the other way.”

Travel note to self: Enter Guatemala… while there are decent people, immediately I am being ripped off and lied to and a lot of people are flagrantly corrupt and unabashedly not good people. Not so much as a matter of money, but as ethics and principles, I really despise people who feel no remorse for their wrongdoings and will go out of my way to ensure they don’t get my business. As a society, they’ve got mafia and criminals and druglords running the place. Honestly I don’t know how foreigners get by without street smarts and Spanish around here, they must be victims all the time. I’ve already gotten into three arguments and had to circle around finding my way outside the establishment. I am staying in a hostel to meet new people, (the hippy crowd today) and many seem kind of dumb and naive about navigating through Guatemala.

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