Tuesday, February 7, 2017

San Salvador, El Salvador, el siete de Febrero, 2017

Time is absolutely flying by!  I can't believe it's already the second week of Febrero!

So my day didn't start out so well.  First off, I had a poor sleep.  I slept on the top bunk in a room with 4 other people and the first girl started packing up at 2:30 am!  The guy below me left at 4:30 and wiggled a lot during the night.  I cheaped out on staying in a dorm, something I haven't done all trip so it's my own fault- maybe tonight will be better.

My first stop was to the Harley Davidson shop, only to be told that it closed last year.  Hmmm  I thought, too bad it's still showing up on the map!

From there it was a very short walk to the Museo Nacional Dr David J. Guzman which is the anthropology museum.  It was very interesting.  I've decided that I'm sort of a museum geek which isn't a bad thing.  Maybe that comes with getting older??

Guess who met me at the entrance?  None other than Le Petit Prince and to think I had just been thinking about him a few days ago-


Don't ask me what he's doing there.  No one seemed to know!

So anthropology is the study of human societies and cultures and how they develop.  I like this quote:  "Nobody recognizes its national identity until confronted with another" Velasco, 2009  That becomes very obvious when travelling.

Human occupation of El Salvador began in El Carmen in 1,400 BC by indigenous people working their way south from the north- Canada and the US.  When the Spanish showed up, they created 200 towns in 100 years!  April 1,1528, San Salvador was built by Diego de Alvarado and was the first European city in the territory.  It was moved in 1545 to where it is today and the first Catholic church was also built.  

In 1550, the Spanish formed "Indian towns" where indigenous people were forced to live so they could be controlled, exploited and Christianized.  Once the Spanish Conquest was concluded, segregation continued based on ethnic criteria.  The Spanish themselves had social classes that were determined by the color of the skin.  Peninsular Spaniards, those born in Spain, held positions in the government and church.  Creolos were Spaniards born in the Americas and they were businessmen.  Indians were the labourers for agriculture and blacks worked in mines and on haciendas.  

Indigo was the largest export from the beginning of the 1600s to the end of the 1800s when coffee took over.  It comes from the jiquilite plant and was used to dye textiles a dark blue.

Society started to change with the Age of Enlightenment in Europe.  This prompted the Independence of the US in 1776 and the French Revolution in 1779.  1811 was El Salvador's first attempt towards independence.  Other influences included the Americans and British who wanted to build a canal between 1850-1900 and the Gold Rush which introduced El Salvador to world trade.  Taxes on imported goods and coffee exports drove the economy.  In the 1880s, communal land became privatized so there became a divide between the rich and poor and a loss of jobs.

Since this land redistribution, there's been a lot of migration - in and out: to Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.  People are looking for work and escaping violence.  Today there are over 136,000 Salvadorians living in Canada!  

Those working in different countries look after those left behind.  Between January and October 2013, more than 3,263.6 million US dollars were sent back to San Salvador.  This is 16.4% of the national income.

I was disappointed that there wasn't much explaining the civil war, however, there was a bit about gang activity.  It has driven people from their homes especially in the suburbs of the Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18. ( I didn't go there!)  Many abandoned homes have been taken over by the gangs.  1063 houses were abandonned in 2009, 1620 Salvadorans asked for asylum in other countries in 2012, 8153 Salvadorans were granted refugee status in 2012 and 3880 cases of robbery, kidnapping and extortion were reported in 2011.  I guess this is why the country gets a bad rap!

Religion has played a huge part in this country's history and cultural makeup.  Before Christianity was introduced, the people were Pagans.  One of the gods was Tlaloce, the god of water, springs and rivers.  During December and January, he was offered sacrifices of children, men and dogs-


Some interesting objects found in tombs include skulls with cranial deformation-


Smashed jaws were also found in burial sites-


There was a huge explanation of how the Salvadorians view death.  It's very similar to what I saw in Guatemala.  The people seem to be very devout Christians.

Other interesting objects include this very large stirup-


And spurs-


After the anthropology museum, I went to the Museo Del Arte de San Salvador.  The artists are all from El Salvador and there were some funky paintings-


And sculptures-


Kitchen utensils were covered in polyester fuzz-


Recycled wood, cement and diapers - of all things-


My next stop was downtown at La Palacio National which was built in 1905.  It's neo classic style with ionic and Corinthian columns, using ideas from the French and Italian Renaissance.  There are 105 rooms and four main rooms- red, blue, yellow and pink-




The Red Room was used for the presentation of important documents and the reception of important people-


I like the variety of tiles on the floor-


The rooms are slowly being restored-


It reminds me a lot of Versaille but it's missing the restoration and furniture-


The Blue Room was the seat of congress until 1974-


My next stop was the Biblioteca National.  It's an "old school" library where you have to ask for a book and an employee gets it for you.  There is no browsing of shelves-



The Metropolitan Cathedral of the Holy Savior-





Romero was murdered in 1980 during the civil war.  He was the protector, the brother, the friend and the sheppard of the people.  Not for all of them I guess!!  He gave his life for the oppressed and voiceless-


His tomb is in the basement of the cathedral-


Teatro National was unfortunately closed-


Centro Comercial Libertad is a shopping 'mall' with all sorts of shops-


There are many restaurants: San Salvador's version of a food court-


You can get clothing repaired-


and electronics repaired: old computers, turntables, radios, cassette recorders... All our old stuff is here-


The Iglesia El Rosario might be my most favorite church ever-


Inside it's like the Rainbow Hallway at the Comp-


The windows are beautiful and this statue of Jesus carrying his cross is ultra modern-


There are cement and metal stations of the cross. Here, Jesus falls for the third time-


I was a bit tricked into thinking San Salvador was a modern city.  Where I stayed, it was like any Canadian city, but downtown still has a long way to go to be considered modern.  

There are all sorts of stalls and carts selling everything imaginable-



Need a new battery for your watch?


How about your glasses repaired?


I had a big day and saw everything I had hoped to see.  As usual, I met some interesting people.  When I was leaving the art museum, I was asking where to catch the bus to go downtown.  A man asked where I wanted to go and when I told him, he said he and his wife were heading that way and would gladly give me a ride.  I jumped at the chance!  He used to live in the US but has been home for 2 years.  He works in a call center but doesn't really like it.  He's back because he has a wife and child here but he'd love to go back to L.A.  His wife doesn't speak English and he doesn't know his way around, so I talked to him in English, to her in Spanish and she told him how to get downtown in Spanish.  
Later on riding the bus back to my hostel, I visited with a 20 year old man who was on his way to English school.  He studies 2 hours a week with the hope of getting a job in a call center.  He spoke to me in English and I spoke to him in Spanish.  It certainly helped to pass the time!

Tomorrow, Alamo is coming to the hostel to pick me up and take me to my car.  That is so sweet!  Otherwise, I was going to have to pay $30 US to take a taxi to the airport!  This works out perfect!


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