Yesterday we left the city of San Salvador and moved to the smaller town of Suchitoto. This is where I will be staying while Paul returns alone to Mexico for a week. We are staying in the home of Maria Teresa, who runs a small B&B here in Suchitoto. Her interest is to provide safe accommodation for women who are travelling alone. In the meantime Landy feels perfectly safe where he is parked, right outside the police station.
The police in El Salvador really have been amazing. When we arrived yesterday Miguel took us to the police station to introduce us so they would know there are visitors in town and to ask if we could park our car outside their station. Just as we have seen in other towns, the police station is on a corner (wonder if they have the monopoly on corner, like Burtons used to have the English High Streets?) There was much discussion as to which would be the safest corner to park the car, where it would be most visible to them, etc. We also learned that if any tourists who are visiting El Salvador want a police escort in order to visit various places and feel safe, this will be happily done.
Aside from the gun toting image the police are friendly and smile a lot and generally appear to have good relations with the people, although I guess some gang members and criminals might be less enthusiastic.
Generally speaking the main crimes in El Salvador are rape and petty theft. However in some parts of the country there are organised gangs. We have learned that this is one of the results of the civil war: many people fled the country to North America, where the poorer El Salvadorans encountered and were put down of the Mexicans and blacks. To protect themselves the El Salvadorans grouped together in gangs to protect themselves. Later, when North America deported El Salvadorans back to El Salvador, they were young people who had grown up in North America and only known the North American gang culture. Consequently they imported that culture into El Salvador, where before gangs had not existed.
Today we went to visit one of the projects in this area that help to keep young people from being attracted to gang lifestyles. A school for Artisans, it takes young people aged between 16 and 25 and teaches them trade skills, particularly in renovating the traditional adobe properties found in El Salvador, and includes building skills, electrical skills, welding, carpentry, plumbing, and, most recently, sewing. The project is largely funded by the Spanish but, as it seems to be with all these things, renewed funding is uncertain every year and there have been times in the school’s history when it has had to close for a while. All in all it costs about $80,000 a year to keep the school open – a fortune in El Salvador, but a small price to pay for the skills and personal achievement this gives the next generation.
On the way to the Artisan school, which is on the edge of town, we stopped with Maria Teresa to ask the police for directions, they said to jump in their truck and they would give us a lift, but we had to walk back, which gave Maria Teresa the chance to show us more of the town and places of interest on the way. This included the mural on the wall in one hotel, which depicts children dressed as angels walking through the town behind a mule carrying someone dressed as Jesus. The mule lived in the town for years, was fed and cared for by the people of the town, and was only asked to work one day a year in return, the day of the annual festival. When the donkey died the whole town mourned their loss and although there is another donkey, everyone agrees it’s not the same, hence the mural.
The town also has many social projects supporting women and families, including a campaign to end violence towards women.
After a couple of days of suffering the after effects of something I ate I was glad to rest for the remainder of the day, while Paul went out and found the internet café to check communications and get an evening meal.
Paul has made a comment today. He’s realised that actually he’s been missing rain. Well, we certainly are getting enough here. It falls by the bucket load, accompanied by amazing lightning and thunder. But I’ve said that a few times now, so I guess you know.