Off the Beaten Path: Juayua is Worth More than Just a Click

Entrance to Santa Lucia Church, located in the
center of Juayua

After lunch in Santa Ana, our little group of sister church friends headed out on a beautiful mountain highway to the small town of Juayua, a place about which I wrote briefly in a Just Click story once before. Juayua seems like such a little town, sort of off of the beaten path, but it's a place that has a reputation as a tourist destination for Salvadorans and foreigners alike. I have been there a number of times.  

Juayua is a destination point on the Ruta de las Flores (the Route of the Flowers). When we planned this joint "tourist experience" for our US delegation and Salvadoran church friends, the a lovely scenic drive was something everyone wanted to experience.  Pausing in Juayua seemed like a perfect opportunity to rest, grab a snack, and spend a little time soaking in the local culture. 

Just one example of the colorful flowers in the central square

We parked the bus along the town square, and set a return time so that everyone could wander about at their leisure. Most of the women in the group walked straight to the church. Several parishioners were kneeling as the priest was saying the Mass, and the women in our group knelt in the back rows, instructing their children to kneel quietly beside them. After spending some time in prayer, our group emerged from the church to admire the facade and the nearby flowers. Then we scattered, this way and that, into the shops and under the trees in the central plaza. 

Facade of Santa Lucia parish church

I wandered over to a woman who was selling one of my all-time favorite street foods: green mango with chili! The mangoes are peeled and sliced into small plastic bags. Then, per the customer's desire, a couple of spoonfuls of different ground-up spices and a few squirts of red chili sauce are added. Delicious! Next it was into the corner bakery where I bought a sweet piece of tamarind cake to share on the bus. 

Time for a little treat!

It was a beautiful cloudy afternoon, and most of our group had gathered beneath the trees which surround a circular fountain in the center of the square. We shared our treats with one another, which ended up producing a lot more business for the green-mango-with-chili lady. As we were relaxing and sharing stories, I recalled one of my favorite visits to Juayua...back in 2005. 

For that visit, we were a pretty large group of families and college youth from my home church, and we were taking a day to relax and see some of the countryside after running a big Vacation Bible School event with leaders from the Salvadoran Lutheran Church. It was December, and the flowers along the Ruta de las Flores were abundant and amazing. We drove the route and stopped in Juayua. We had to park outside of town and walk in because the Feria Gastronomica or Food Festival was in full swing. Vendors were selling all kinds of artisan crafts and textiles from throughout El Salvador, many of which had unique Guatemalan influences. The highlight of that day was when our teenage son was invited to play the marimba with a local street band. 

Not so easy to play when the notes on the marimba are not the same
as the notes to which you are accustomed!! (picture from 2005)

Before we knew it, it was time to get on the bus and head out onto the Route of the Flowers. It's never easy to get everyone back onto a bus after a leisurely break when all are scattered about. First we were missing two, then two more.  It's really pretty funny how the "someone is missing from the bus" experience is the same no matter where you are, and you can almost always guess who the missing persons will be. We laughed and joked around about this once we were on our way. Unfortunately, along the Ruta de las Flores the flowers were just starting to bloom so there were not too many to see. Yet, flowers or no flowers, a beautiful drive through the countryside, with the almost-cool breeze blowing in through open bus windows, with musica romantica playing in the background off of someone's phone and bright conversation humming along in the foreground, with treats and cake passing from friend to friend, it's is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. 

Better together! as we like to say.

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