Valley of the Angel

This very morning, church leaders, water protection advocates, citizens and journalists are gathering in the Valley of the Angel.  This is the valley to the north of San Salvador, to the south of Apopa, and from which, on a clear day, one can see the surrounding circle of volcanoes, from El Boquerón (San Salvador), to the hills of Nejapa, to the ancient volcano of Guazapa, to the hills of Chalatenango, to the twin peaks of San Vicente.  At one time, this was forest.  Long ago, people recognized that this large inland plain with rich water resources was suitable for agriculture.  For a long, long time, sugar cane has grown in the valley.

With the construction of the San Salvador bypass, the valley opened up to traffic, especially truck traffic.  Small roadside stands popped up, as did gas stations.  A large customs depot for land transport and unsightly truck corral followed.  Nearby businesses, especially the famous Coca Cola, began extracting huge quantities of water from the aquifer.  Industrial waste dumps into the river valley.

A new proposal calls for the construction of about 8000 new residential units in the valley.  The effort is bordered at the north by a Roman Catholic Church construction project at a relatively newly installed shrine to the Virgin of Fatima.  At the southern end, the Elim Church is also engaging in the construction of a sizable compound.

I am not an expert on any of this.  What I know is that the Salvadoran Lutheran Church and many other faith leaders and humanitarian organization leaders who I know and trust are fighting to limit this project.  Our sister church pastor in El Salvador is a member of the Water Forum and works day and night as a community organizer, waking people up to the reality of contamination and misuse of water in El Salvador.  El Salvador has LOTS of water.  ALL of the surface water is contaminated.  The aquifers, which contain potable water, are being depleted so rapidly, that within just a few years, El Salvador will have a water crisis. 

Here are a few photos of the Valley of the Angel which I took between January and March of 2019.  Today, a human chain is blocking the construction equipment which has begun work in the valley.  Today, neighbors and leaders are taking a stand.  The project surely will go forward.  The hope is that it can be done in a way which responsibly manages waste water, responsibly uses and replenishes the aquifer, and maintains a measure of green space, perhaps replenishing a bit of the forest which once stood in this beautiful valley.

Top soil blows from a harvested field blows in the wind.  Sugar
cane grows in a field near the road.

The San Salvador volcano looks down over the Valley of the Angel.

Years of growing cane in this valley have depleted nutrients from the soil
and have left the soil and groundwater contaminated with chemicals.

A sugar cane refinery puffs out smoke on the left.  A diesel power plant
puts out smoke on the right.  It seems like solar power would be
an excellent choice for developments in this sunny valley.

Cane is planted, grown and harvested 3 times before it is cleared
and replanted. 

On a clear day, the views in this valley are extraordinary.  The green
space in this photo is destined to become a residential development.
Without the trees, the heat index in this valley will soar.

The Valley of the Angel welcomes the sunrise.

It is not difficult to see why the valley was sought out as a place
to grow crops.  In ancient times, I imagine the valley was filled
with corn.  Sugar cane is a cash crop.

During March 2019, construction began at the site of the shrine
to the Virgin of Fatima.

On Sundays, when traffic is less and there are fewer construction vehicles
producing dust, it is easier to take photos.

This is the site of the future Catholic Church, which will
include a large parking lot.

Water trucks are sometimes brought in to sprinkle the dry soil
to prevent large clouds of dust from consuming the roadway.   The
small structure in the center is the shrine to the Virgin of Fatima.

The commute time from north of Apopa into the city of San Salvador
on a week day is about 2 hours.  8000 new residences
will add an estimated 10,000 to 12,000 cars to this traffic route during
morning and evening rush hours.


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