If you are on social media, the acronym SMH is no doubt familiar to you:  Shake My Head.  It is appropriate to place SMH on a post or in a comment to indicate that the subject matter of the post (be it the situation, the behavior, the conversation) is ridiculous, foolish, and perhaps there are no fit words other than "Huh?" or "Why? (with attitude)" to describe one's reaction to the topic at hand.  I think SMH might also be well used as an acronym for Scratch My Head, at moments when one's reaction is just one of confused curiosity.  Sometimes in El Salvador, I just shake my head (SMH) or maybe SMC (sacudo mi cabeza).

SMH #1:  Women Riding Side-Saddle on Motorcycles which are Careening down a Busy Street
OK, so mounting a motor-cycle while wearing a pencil skirt is definitely not a modest moment for a cyclist's mom or grandmother, but seriously, riding sideways cannot be safe!  Weaving in and out of traffic with Grandma barely hanging on to the driver with one arm while she clutches her bag of market goods with the other arm seems unwisely risky!  As demonstrated in the photo. at least Grandma usually is wearing sensible shoes.  Young female passengers decked out in short skirts, skinny jeans, crop tops and high heels hang on with white knuckles, especially if a child is sandwiched between the adult passengers. Well, at least in El Salvador, they are required to wear helmets.
Do you see her?  SMH
SMH #2:  Cheese-A-What?
Look at the billboard in the photo.  Think about it for a minute. 

Cheese.  SMH
Queso is cheese.  Taco Bell serves quesadilla - which in Mexico or the United States is an appetizer or main dish based on cheese melted between tortillas.  In El Salvador, quesadilla is not this.  It is a  dessert:  a lovely confection with the consistency of pound cake, made with corn masa, oil, grated cheese and topped with sesame seeds.  A warm slice of quesadilla with a cup of coffee is a perfect mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack.  So, in El Salvador, Taco Bell had the choice to advertise its "Quesadilla Mexicana" (long and potentially confusing) or to find a new name all together.  Hence, a new word enters the Salvadoran lexicon:  the Cheesadilla.

SMH #3:  Wiper
On the Calle de Oro at the roundabout with the turn-off to Nejapa, traffic often slows, which makes it an ideal location to sell pineapples, quesadilla (the cake kind), plants for your flower garden, and big bags of something called "wiper."  Clear bags of used clothing (like those in the photo) are commonly sold for $5, which can give a resale entrepreneur the opportunity to sell items individually and make a little profit (especially if the bag contains a name brand item or two).  As I looked at these bags along the road, I thought, "Surely that is not what these bags are, and why are they called wiper?"

Wiper. SMH
When faced with a mystery like this, I usually ask my trusty Salvadoran pastor.  We were driving along one day in Apopa and came upon a bunch of bags with a wiper sign.  "Why are those called wiper?" I asked.

The explanation is simple.  The bags are filled with ends of roles of fabrics from local maquilas (sewing factories or sweat shops) and someone had the idea that this fabric would be good for making towels for wiping down cars at car washes or to make the little towels that are sold by informal vendors on street corners.  So, maybe about a year ago, bags appeared along the side of the road with signs reading "Wiper $5." That is a good explanation, except that WIPE is not a word in Spanish!  I explained the word wipe is a verb in English, and the pastor had no idea about this.  "When I use the word wiper in English, I am talking about those things on the windshield that go back and forth in the rain," I continued.  He told me those are called limpiaparabrisas.  Well that word just trips off the tongue.

Lesson:  English words creeping into Salvadoran Spanish may not be exactly what you expect.

SMH #4: You've come a long way, Martin!

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This simply strikes me as funny.  The Salvadoran Lutheran Church really claims its Lutheran identity both theologically and historically.  For example, the anniversary of the Reformation is celebrated each year with a week of festivities, and year-round, images of the Luther Rose (Luther's theological coat of arms) are proudly worn on t-shirts, polo shirts, clergy stoles, necklaces...well, you get it.  The photo depicts a statue of Martin Luther which has been around for a long while.  As you can see, Luther currently stands on top of a sizable speaker in the Bishop's church.  I think the guy who nailed 95 protest statements to a church door would embrace the idea of standing on top of a big *** speaker in El Salvador (though he doesn't appear very happy about it.)


  1. that speaker is hilarious, I want to give him a microphone so he can drop rhymes


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