It’s been awhile since I’ve posted – my apologies. The last month was crazy busy with final projects, exams, packing, moving, unpacking and packing again for El Salvador – which is what this post is going to center around: My trip to El Salvador and how it changed my views and even my life.
Let me start off by saying this:
We have NO idea just how privileged and fortunate we are. In El Salvador, families will sometimes set up little stands selling beverages and snacks just to make some extra money or will walk the streets trying to sell food or jewelry so they can feed their family. One monthly minimum wage in El Salvador is $144 US dollars and two-person families, it’s $288. (source: http://www.habitat.org/where-we-build/el-salvador) For one person working a minimum job in Michigan 40 hours a week, it’s $296. (Source: http://www.minimum-wage.org/states.asp?state=Michigan)
One person working a minimum wage job in the U.S. will make $152 more than a person working a minimum wage job in El Salvador would. While I feel the minimum wage should be raised in both the U.S. and El Salvador, my point is that workers in El Salvador make less than a worker in the U.S. does.
That’s not even one of the many issues El Salvador has faced that I became aware of – El Salvador suffered through a terrible, horrific civil war between the years of 1981 (1979 for some) until 1992 when the Peace Accords were signed. El Salvador was under an awful military style dictatorship government and the United States Government under Former President Ronald Reagan sent around $6 billion worth of weapons to the El Salvadoran government within a three year period to annihilate the FMLN (the left wing party of El Salvador) because of communism and Reagan wanted the El Salvadoran government to kill anyone (men, women, children) who were suspected of being “communist” or associated with the Guerillas (The people fighting for human rights and social justice) – I heard testimonies from individuals who witnessed family members being tortured and shot to death that made me sick to my stomach and brought tears to my eyes.
I heard things that I could never imagine or fathom. The military tortured and killed so many innocent men, women and children in a course a 12+ year civil war. Children were kidnapped, families separated, people fleeing to neighboring country Honduras after their villages (one in particular called Santa Marta that our group visited) were destroyed by the military dropping bombs and ripping away the lives of innocent people & taking away everything from them.
However, the strength and courage of those affected by the horrors of the civil war showed me just how strong and resilient the people of El Salvador are. They care so deeply about their community, their family and welcoming complete strangers from another (very privileged) country with open arms and always willing to share their culture, stories and history.
I also enjoyed seeing a place called Ciudad Mujer – which is a center for women only that offers services for employment, gender violence, care for children and infants, and sexual/reproductive services. It’s a wonderful agency of women helping women- other countries, including the U.S., are looking to model agencies after them. Ciudad Mujer was created by the first lady of El Salvador and it was wonderful to see the facility and learn about their mission.
I could type on and on about what I experienced and heard, but I’ll save that for another piece I’m going to be working on.
The bottom line: Be grateful for what you have. Some of the people in El Salvador have so little, but they seem so fulfilled and happy. Also, take the time to learn about another country, its culture and its history. If you get the chance, go to that country and learn and experience all of that firsthand. It’s worth it.