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Day 2 in El Salvador - the Hospitalito

(El Salvador Immersion) Permanent link   All Posts

We leave and stop at a Mister Donut (the El Salvador franchises of Dunkin’ Donuts). I eat a cheese crepe, though I ordered one with chorizo. I am not going to send it back.

After lunch, we go to the hospitalito where Archbishop Oscar Romero lived the last few years of his life and was assassinated by the right wing military and upper class establishment. We are met by Eva, a woman who is a nun and who had known Romero, both when he was a parish priest and the archbishop. She told a story of how the nuns went out into the countryside and brought some education to the people. The people wanted to learn how to read and write, to understand the origins of the Bible. The nuns taught them to read, but also taught them to have skills other than subsistence farming. The women learned to sew and cooperatives were set up where some bought the cloth, others sewed, and still others sold the finished products. The men in the village were a bit jealous and wanted to learn a skill, too. The nun asked what they wanted to do. Well, they said, we see big things called cars. How about learning a skill to work on them? So they taught them welding skills and some mechanic work, so when the men went into the city of San Miguel, they could claim to have a skill and be hired.

After an hour talk we tour the chapel and Romero’s house. The house is simple, just as Romero wanted it. The nuns built it for him but it had to be simple or he would refuse to live in it. Two bedrooms, a sitting room, and a bath. I take pictures as I realize I am the unofficial photographer of the trip. I am the only one with a decent camera (most take pictures with their smart phones) and I will put the pictures onto CDs for the group.

We return to the hotel and listen to a student, Efraim, who has received scholarships from his rural community and the Jesuit foundation at UCA. He tells his story of his family moving from his village in the early days of the civil war to avoid the death squads. Of losing his mother soon after he was born, his father leaving to marry another woman and raise a different family,  and being raised by his grandparents.  He tells of his botched medical procedure when he was two – a doctor severing some nerves in his hip which will ultimately lead to his losing his left leg before he is 30. He puts our parent and grandparents stories to shame (you know, the ones where they had to walk miles through the snow to get to school) as he recounts his 3 ½ hour walks each way to a school in another community. And that is in the dry season. When the rains make the river he needs to cross impassable at the usual place, he must walk an additional ½ hour to a bus which takes another 30 minutes to get to the school. And only if the bus is running and hasn’t broken down. Otherwise, he had to walk the rest of the way himself.

His school only goes to the 9th grade and he stops school for two years. Then a neighboring community opens up a high school and he finishes high school. His community decides to give him a scholarship to go to college – he goes but after two years he realizes that it is too easy and isn’t what he wants. He transfers to UCA and the Jesuits give him a scholarship for room and board. He has struggled with some of his courses, he loses his leg and now has a prosthesis. But now, as he is nearing 30 years old, he will finish college this year.

One of the conditions of getting a scholarship is returning to your community after finishing college. But no one from his community has ever gone back – until now. He is determined to be the first of his community to return and give back. And he has a girlfriend and an 11-month old son waiting for his return. He will be fine…

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