The Washington Post has an excellent article today about the impact of emigration on small rural towns in El Salvador. The exodus to "el norte" to find jobs has left towns filled only with the elderly and children:
PIEDRAS BLANCAS, El Salvador -- It was just past noon, yet the only sign of life in the main square of this remote eastern village was an elderly man swinging in a hammock on his porch.
There was a time, Jose Nieve-Reyes Rubio, 70, explained in a gravelly voice, when the plaza would have been packed with vendors and customers by this hour, their shouts ringing through the air as they bought and sold food, clothing and every imaginable kind of trinket.
"But that was more than 10 years ago," he said as he settled back into his hammock. "Before everyone left for the States."
Today, like villages across El Salvador, Piedras Blancas has been nearly emptied of its working-age inhabitants. Left behind are children and grandparents who live on money that relatives send from such previously unheard of places as "Manassas, Virginia," "Houston, Texas," and simply "Maryland" -- the catchall term by which people here refer to a host of Washington area suburbs.
Although exact figures are difficult to determine, the director of the village school, who has tracked the student population for two decades, estimates that more than 3,500 Piedras Blancas natives, or about 40 percent of the population, live in the United States. (more).