My Fight For El Salvador

Image courtesy of Reporters Without Borders

I found this photo from a site called Reporters Without Borders. Do you see the flowers, the mountains, and the bluest of blue colored water? The site described how many reporters are murdered in El Salvador. I’ve never been. I like to think my spirit has gone to the land my parents call home. Where my dad sold gum on the side of the road for a few cents, and where my mom raced motorbikes down a hill with her siblings. But it is precisely this distance that allows me to romanticize a country that deserves to be viewed as more than just a place with pretty flowers.

I yearn for a home that was never mine because I am oblivious to the horrors that forced my parents to cross the border. They fled and all I can imagine in my head are the flowers and the mountains. There are volcanoes too. Mountains that can erupt and destroy everything surrounding them, but the people who inhabit the land continue to live there. In an article titled, “Climate change is turning dehydration into a deadly disease,” (despite the obvious water crisis) a man is quoted defending the people’s choice to live in a country with volcanoes. His name is Jarquín. He states, “Even taking into account the conditions we live in, we still believe in good things and we are fighters.” He continues, “We always try to do good things, against all odds.” This is what I romanticize. I claim this country as part of me, but I have no idea about its people and their struggles. Can I claim to be Salvadoran-American when I can’t even hold a discussion on the current state of affairs?

All I really know is that my grandma (Mameya) takes a plane from El Salvador every year to visit us. She brings queso fresco and conserva de coco among other things. She brought one of the softest shirts last year. I no longer have it and I joke about accidentally dropping it into a metaphorical volcano. Because it’s funny and silly and my sister laughs when I say this. My volcano is just a metaphor, but for the people in El Salvador, it’s a part of life.

Also quoted in the article was García-Trabanino who shares, “I used to think we were stupid people when I was younger, to build under the volcanoes. But then I realized they were everywhere.” I don’t live under a mountain of explosive lave. I have buildings meant to withstand earthquakes and hills covered by roads. And yet, I still hold on to this idea that El Salvador is a part of me. I’ve never been, but when García-Trabanino said, “We have survived the civil war, earthquakes, and volcanoes, but El Salvadoran fight, and they will fight again,” my heart prepares itself for battle.

I don’t know if I can claim El Salvador, especially when I’ve never stepped foot on the land of volcanoes, but I remember my father’s stories. I have felt what it is to grow up with the mountains (vicariously and from a distance) but experienced all the same. Although some may be right in arguing that I can’t claim a country I have failed to extensively learn about for the past 19 years, I cannot deny the emotions I feel when I repeat García-Trabanino’s words. We have survived the civil war, earthquakes, and volcanoes, but El Salvadorans fight, and they will fight again.