Little Ones Celebrate El Salvador's Bicentennial

On September 15, 2021, El Salvador celebrated the 200th anniversary of Central America's independence from Spain. The day brought fireworks in the early morning and small celebrations in town squares. Due to the continued spread of COVID-19, parades and pomp and pageantry were scaled back. School children did not march through the streets carrying flags or twirling batons to the accompaniment of marching bands.  In defiance of pandemic protocols, large groups of protestors did march in defense of water protection, defense of women's rights and in opposition to Bitcoin (recently made an official currency in El Salvador), but that is another story.

Celebration on September 15, 2021 in Tonacatepeque
Photo credit:  Radio Comunitaria Tonaca

This story about a fiesta with little ones began on September 1st, when the teacher and the parents of the church preschool in Los Héroes got together and decided to plan a small bicentennial celebration.  They wanted to honor the annual traditions with their children. In El Salvador, preschool children typically dress up on September 15th in costumes which reflect their chosen professions for the future, and although there would not be a parade of tiny professionals marching through the streets of Tonaca, the children could still have fun dressing up and dreaming about their futures. Moms and grandmas agreed to make platos típicos (traditional dishes) to share at the party.  Maybe this plan was a little bit outside of the COVID-19 protocols, but the idea of finally being able to do something fun prevailed.

A year ago, preschool families celebrated at home.  Schools were only in session with remote learning.  In fact, most of this year's learning has also been remote.  The Los Héroes Family Circle preschool began meeting in person in July, with some families still preferring to stay home.  For two mornings each week, the children (ages birth to 4) and their grown-ups mostly wear masks and sit at distanced little tables.  Family units and some extended family members sit together.

Preschool in session in August

Usually, school children practice their dances and marches for months in preparation for September 15th.  Two weeks was not much time for moms and a teacher to pull together a celebration, especially since the children have not really learned how to be together in a group, and everyone is still experiencing emotional upheaval due to the pandemic.  

Three small professionals discuss their workday. 

On Wednesday afternoon - Independence Day, mothers and grandmothers arrived carrying warm pots wrapped up in colorful tablecloths.  Little ones scampered up the hill in their costumes, first the soldier, then the firefighter.  A 4-year old doctor danced in circles around a roof pole. The carpenter, the veterinarian, a very serious doctor and the surgeon  sat on their moms' laps.  Blue and white papel picado fluttered in the breeze. Flags made of blue and white tissue paper were taped up near the windows. Older girls sat giggling and fussing with their fancy skirts and shoes.

Blue and white - the colors of El Salvador's flag

The program began with a few speeches and a prayer, then the singing of the national anthem.  The firefighter's dad, standing beside me, sang with all his heart.  

The etiquette during the national hymn is right hand over heart, palm facing down.
In the background, you can see banners featuring photos of preschool students
wearing their professional costumes during previous Independence Day celebrations.

The expectation in the Family Circle preschool is that the
grownups partner with the teacher, setting an example for the children.

The prayer to the Salvadoran flag was led by one of the little one's big sisters.  It is led as a call and response, and begins with these words (translated into English):
            God save you, holy motherland,
            in your bosom we were born and loved.
            You are the air we breathe
            the land that sustains us,
            the family we love,
            the freedom that defends us,
            the religion that comforts us.

            You have our beloved homes,
            fertile fields, majestic rivers,
            superb volcanoes, peaceful lakes,
            skies of purple and gold.

            Golden ears [of corn] wave in your fields,
            engines vibrate in your workshops,
            the anvils sizzle,
            the beauties of art emerge...

Every September 15th, at every Independence Day celebration, from the tiniest school to the garden of the presidential palace, children recite the prayer to the flag.  

At the preschool celebration, the older girls (cousins and big sisters of the little ones), presented the national symbols of El Salvador and a traditional dance.

The maquilishuat is the national tree.

In past years, little students have danced.  This year's preschool students
who are attending classes in person are all boys!
Big sisters and cousins to the rescue!!

This is a big day for these girls!

Some of the girls are graduates of the preschool and
participate in tutoring sessions at the Family Circle one day a week.

The torogoz is El Salvador's national bird.

The national flower is the izote.

Next it was time for the parade of mini-professionals!  It took some work to finally get these little guys to line up, but in the end, the paparazzi parents were not disappointed.

A bicentennial celebration certainly would not be complete without everyone singing El Sombrero Azul. The teacher's sister did a great job singing and dancing with the girls.

El Sombrero Azul - The Blue Hat
The Salvadoran people have the sky for a hat; their dignity is so high;
in search of the time when the earth flourishes; for those who have been falling,
let the joy come to wash away the suffering...

Last, but not least, pupusas!! The women also made roasted corn, atol de elote (warm, thick corn milk), traditional horchata, and empanadas de frijol y crema (fried plantain stuffed with beans or cream).  I didn't get a photo of everything, but I did eat it all!!

Thank you to the Los Héroes Family Circle for inviting us to celebrate the bicentennial of Central America's independence from Spain, to celebrate the beautiful culture of El Salvador, and to have an afternoon of fun with little ones and their families.


Popular posts from this blog

The Plant that Came from Nowhere and Grows Everywhere

The Legend of El Tabudo

The Morro Tree