13 September, San Salvador, El Salvador
The next morning had breakfast and coffee. Feeling really tired but I am fine. The people here are giving me extra time here thank goodness. The bus to Costa Rica leaves at 3am and I just can’t do another 24 hour stint on a bus so will leave in a few days. The fare is US$65 which is expensive but they will provide food. So given airlines are more expensive I have to go with it.
I have made contact with a friend in Australia, his sister Rosa. She will meet me at 7.30pm and I will stay with her for a few days. I am keen on staying as she is a local and I can learn more about the situation here.
In the meantime I met up with RU my Japanese friend who was planning to find the Puerto bus. I felt she is very brave given her English is not so good and it is a dangerous city. I decided to go with her to make sure she is safe.
Whilst we were outside of the hotel I met with a security guard who turns out to be a former special services officer during the time of the El Salvador conflict 1981-1992. I had mentioned to him how I felt the US had taken over El Salvador as there were so many US factories (cheap labour) and fast food places. It felt like a part of the United States. He said that he felt that the US intervention was a positive thing. I was curious to learn about that. He said that they stopped communism here. He pointed out that Reagan gave a commitment that there will be no communism in El Salvador. He explained to me how the conflict started. He said the peasants did not like the way they were treated by the government and started to rise up against the government. He explained there was no human rights here and that there refusal to comply with the government was met with brutal force. Many were shot on the spot or they were picked up tortured and killed. The more people the government killed the more resistance occurred in the population as stories circulated. He said the Nicaraguans and Cubans gave the people weapons. The US came in on the side of the government as they feared the rise of communism on their backdoor. So more weapons and soldiers poured in. He said he remembers seeing the marines and they were big and intimidating. He said as a special forces officer he was sent to the US for training and Nicaragua. He said it was very violent. I wondered if the gang violence had any connection to the war. He said the young people are seeking power here. They are forming gangs and are armed. There is a lot of violence in this city. He said in the last few days the city was shut down by gangs for 3 days as they were shooting the bus drivers and ticket collectors. They wanted to have access to power (and money). What has happened is a crackdown on the gangs and legislation was passed to stop them from gathering and that it is illegal to be part of a gang. There is shootings every day. As we stood there a policia car and ambulance went past and he said ‘another shooting’. I told him about my work in nonviolence and explained that my work was around real power that is developing values. That respect isn’t about generating fear in the other not to harm you but in integrity. It is not respectful to force another to respect you. I also explained that the youth need to be empowered. That is to find their self esteem. The issue of parenting is central to this with fathers teaching their boys integrity and not having to defend themselves with violence to survive in this world. The father’s teaching them to negotiate to resolve conflict and find peaceful solutions. I went into the psychology of bulling and explained that powerless people seek to gain power.
I should be able to find out more about the real El Salvador when I meet with Rosa and then will meet with the couch surfing guy Rene. I am keen to learn about countries. I am moving fast but feel to not stay long. I think Costa Rica is probably where I need to go. I am hopeful about the University of Peace. Cross fingers my work has a home. If it doesn’t I may go bush. Tikal rises up in my mind as each step on the journey is like the steps rising up the pyramid. They call them temples of the gods, each step takes us closer to heaven. Indeed, life is a stairway to heaven. We can never fail we just gain more awareness that this life is indeed an amazing journey through both the dark and the light, but eventually we see our own rainbow.