Two people from the US recently visited El Salvador and wrote reflections about those visits which were published on Internet sites. One is hopeful. One is pessimistic. Both probably capture equally valid aspects of the reality of this tiny Central American country.
Brad Andrews spent 4 weeks living in Ciudad Romero in the Lempa River valley. His article, Living Stories - Life In Ciudad Romero, El Salvador concludes this way:
The community grew to what it is today, a mix of old and new, of hope and careful optimism. Compared to what we know here in the United States, life for them is hard. The work in the fields is hot. There are few comforts. But compared to what the community has lived through, life is good. People have solid homes, running water, adequate food. They work for themselves. The land is their own. There are elders in the community who will pass along the story of their struggle to the new generations. And there are swarms of children, going off to school each morning in their blue and white uniforms, playing stick ball at night beneath the street lights, looking forward to a brighter future and better things to come.
Writer Carol Towarnicky visited the Salvadoran community of El Milagro. The title of her article, Country Without a Future, captures Towarnicky's view of the situation in El Salvador:
The human capital is being depleted and little is being done to conserve natural resources. Soon there will be nothing left to rape.
The children of El Milagro possess a shy innocence. They find pleasure in drawing our portraits in the dirt with sticks, in playing hide-and-seek, in rolling a bicycle tire. But their future is as precarious as the tower they buillt with scraps of cinder block. Most go to school only until sixth grade because further education costs too much in tuition and transportation. Besides, the chances for finding a job don't increase substantially even with a high school diploma.
When we ask some women what they wish for their children, it's heartbreaking to hear them preface their dreams with an acknowledgement that they're unlikely to come true. In El Milagro, there are no miracles, at least in the traditional sense - no divine intervention to suspend the laws of nature or reverse human mistakes.
It's difficult to capture the reality of El Salvador on a visit, or multiple visits to the country. People want to have hope. They also are faced with the harsh realities which make it tough to envision a future.