Monday, November 19, 2012

El Salvador

Hey, I finally got back onto my blogspot! I have been living on El
Salvador these past three weeks, and today starts my first month volunteering with the Mangrove association.
I spent my first two weeks in the capital San Salvador living with a Salvadorian family attending classes in Spanish . My family consisted of two women who did a great job mothering me and showing me around. They fixed my hair, painted my fingernails, went to the beach with me and Nena took me out Salsa dancing.
Spanish classes were great. The second week I was the only student at my level, so I got some great private lessons. I spent my afternoons in a Cultural and Political program. This turned out to be daily field trips with Don Oscar a great guide, so well versed in history. He was delightful and we went to many  museums, a few cathedrals, the war memorial, the Jardin Botanical, a organic coffee plantation owed by a cooperative, the Devils door, which is a really great formation of rocks that affords a view of half the country. Keep in mind that El Salvador is the size of Virgina and takes about 3 hours to get across the entire country.
The violence and grief from the Civil war is still very present here . Everywhere you go there are paintings and posters of Father Romero. He made a profound statemt shortly before his assisination, he said"If they kill me, I will be resurrected in the actions of my people". I am also in awe of how involved and educated everyone seems to be about matters of Political and Social justice. Americans seem so uninformed and apathetic in comparison .
Let me give some quick background information. At the end of the Civil War, 12 years ago the peace accords broke up the largest land holdings on this country and started a process to give parcels
of land to campesinos. Some of this land has returned to larger holdings, but most of the land here in the Bajo Lempa region is now owned by small land owners and they are building new communities with schools, public water systems and farming.  I am continually impressed by their knowledge of the enviremt, and there willingness to make personal sacrifices for the bigger good. Let me give a specfic example or two. Last week I got to see a Mangrove restoration project. The people in the surrounding pueblos dig out a canal by hand, hauling mud out by hand on canoes. It took them about 3months. The results just 3 months later are astounding , partially because they did not have access to large earth moving equipment and so had a very low impact on the environment as they worked. Mangroves must have a certain mix of salt with fresh water to thrive. Then in this Eco system there is particular type of crab. The emviromental impact studies showed they could sustainably harvest about 2000 a month instead of the 5000 they were harvesting. So the communities came together and agreed to a system of harvesting so that they were harvesting the 2000 crabs instead of the 5000.
I must wrap things up for today, I need to pick up my bike from the repair shop now. I will get back soon and share more about the Agriculture here and get some photos posted .
Ciao Farmer Melinda

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