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
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.
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