Showing posts from November, 2016

This is our King

As we drove down the road to Tonaca, a pick-up truck pulled out in front of us.  "Hey, it's Jesus!" my husband said, as we followed close behind.  The large statue of Jesus stood on a processional platform, with the wooden handles laid across the sides of the bed of the pick-up.  Jesus wore a golden crown and robes of white and crimson red - the traditional colors chosen for Jesus by most Roman Catholic churches for their Christ the King celebrations.  In the back of the truck, a man was practically wrestling with Jesus, as the strong wind tried to lift the statue right out of the truck.  We followed the truck all the way into our sister church community.  They turned off at the Catholic Church, and we climbed up the hill to the Lutheran Church. Christ the King Sunday is a Lutheran tradition too.  The decorations in the Lutheran Church were already blue for the coming season of Advent.  A little Christmas tree stood in the corner with blinking lights.  The pastor we

Off the Beaten Path: A Fiesta to Remember in Tonaca

Siguanaba, Headless Priest and Cipitio The sun fell low in the sky.  At every turn we were confronted by ghosts and ghouls, devils, screaming women , and headless priests.  She was there...the Siguanaba !  Along with her pitiful little son, Cipitio.  The legends of Tonacatepeque had come to life as they do every year for the November 1st Fiesta de la Calabiuza.  (Calabiuza is a word which is like the Spanish word calabaza  which means "pumpkin" - but in the local vernacular means "skull.")  Characters from imagination and legend wandered the cobbled streets and posed for photos.  Some ran up to us, screaming and acting their roles with great enthusiasm. As the evening light grew dim, the characters gathered around their hand-drawn carts - some with metal bases, some constructed of wood and bamboo, most with big wooden wheels. Adorned with skulls, coffins, large paper-maché characters, and carved calabiuza skulls, the carts were designed and decorated by diff

The Legend of La Llorona - The Moaning Woman

"What is the story of the screaming bride who clenches her dead baby?" we asked.  Not too many people could tell us the details about this legend, though some of the most convincingly scary figures in the Celebration of the Calabiuza  in Tonacatepeque this year were dressed as this tale's ghostly brides. This girl was legitimately scary. She ran up behind us screaming at full force! The legend may have originated in Mexico, but it is told throughout El Salvador and other Latin American countries.  Like many Salvadoran tales, this one was probably created, adapted or propagated by missionaries and priests in order to teach the native peoples a moral and societal lesson... There once was a beautiful peasant girl who lived in the countryside near a large hacienda.  When she was old enough, she took a job at the hacienda and attracted the attention of a young man.  He was the son of the owner of the hacienda and was an educated and handsome man.  He and th

Off the Beaten Path: ¿Donde está el Baño?

It's your first time in El Salvador.  You are excited and a little nervous.  You have done your best to memorize a little bit of Spanish, and you have mastered three very helpful phrases: Mucho gusto - pleased to meet you Con permiso - may I come in, or excuse me ¿Donde está el baño? - where is the bathroom. You have been well prepared by your trip leader, and you are confident that you can keep these three important rules: Do not use the water to brush your teeth. Never eat lettuce. Never pass up a flush toilet. Well, first time visitor, have I got great news for you!   Parque Cuscatlán now features brand new bathrooms!   I won't tell you exactly where they are, because, of course, you will want to test out the appropriate Spanish phrase which you worked so hard to memorize.  There are plenty of signs in the park pointing you in the right direction if you can't find anyone on whom to test out your "¿ Donde está el baño?" And you guessed it,

The Day After The Election

November 8, 2016.  We hosted an election-returns  fiesta  in our home in El Salvador for friends from the United States who live here.  We were a like-minded group.  The US Embassy in El Salvador held an online symbolic vote for anyone who wanted to click on the link with results giving 79% of the vote to Secretary Clinton and 21% to Mr. Trump.  That seemed pretty positive.  Our group was 100% for Hillary Clinton. As the map turned red, the positivity waned and our stress increased.  Never had we hosted a party during which no one could sit down, during which inboxes were exploding with texts and messages, from friends both in the States and El Salvador, expressing worry and dismay.  At one point I received a call from our sister church pastor:  "I don't understand what the media is saying," he said.  I tried to explain our system.  It is difficult for Salvadorans to understand how the media is allowed to predict or report results while citizens in parts of our country

Off the Beaten Path: Swim Little Turtles, Swim!

A few days ago, we held tiny sea turtles in our hands.  They were only one hour old.  We were taught how to pick them up, gently grasping them by the shell, between thumb and forefinger so their little flippers were free to wiggle through the air. A few days ago, we gently set little turtles on the sand and watched them scurry, scurry toward the waves. A few days ago, we were part of a movement which has released 46,000 baby sea turtles so far this year in an effort to preserve these beautiful, ancient sea creatures. We found out about this opportunity through a friend who saw it on an ex-pat Facebook page (a page where folks from the US and who live in El Salvador post helpful information).  We got up early and headed toward La Libertad, asking at a few points along the way for directions to the specific beach. Once we arrived, we were greeted by our guide, Francisco, and were seated in plastic chairs under a palm-frond canopy.  First we would receive the charla (educational

Making a Living on the Day of the Dead

In El Salvador, the 2nd of November is not a day to go to work or school.  Known as El Día de los Difuntos  or the Day of the Dead, it is a quiet day.  It is a day on which families go to the cemetery to spend time with their loved ones who have passed on to the next life. In the Roman Catholic tradition, November 2nd is All Souls Day - a day dedicated to praying for the departed loved ones who are passing time in Purgatory.  Masses are said and intercessions are made in the hopes of shortening the time loved ones have before entering heaven.  In El Salvador, whatever their faith tradition, families find comfort in observing the Day of the Dead.  Especially for families whose hearts are broken by the loss of young lives due to violence, this day brings a chance to remember with photos, candles, flowers and time at the grave. On November 1st, we traveled to Tonacatepeque for the Fiesta de Calabiuza .  This is an elaborate celebration of the spooky folk legends of the region, and