A dedicated professor is overjoyed in receiving financial assistance in our scholarship to enhance his teaching skills.

“Our Efforts Are A Light in the Darkness . . . Will Remain For All Humanity For All Time.” STORY OF ALICI EMELINA PANAMENO DE GARCIA Click here for the article in Spanish [Editor’s Preface: Alicia (anglicized) apologizes for her tardiness to today’s interview while her secretary has been occupying us by allowing us to […]

    CELIA MARINA VASQUEZ LUNA (nicknamed :MARINITA”) “Being here (at the finca) is my FAVORITE part of my day!”   To the Reader: Although I choose to tell Marinita’s story in first person, I gleaned much information from her grandmother who is raising    her. Due to her age and the graphic content surrounding her mother’s death, […]

      From the MUNA Museum in San Salvador       Attached you will discover twenty mural photos that captured our attention while visiting El Salvador.  The themes vary: some depict wildlife typical of the area – tropical birds and fish; many illustrate valued community themes such as worship, education, work, and relaxation; at least one […]

        This month instead of beginning with a personal bio, we will begin with a Wandering and Pondering instead.  This is to celebrate what we North Americans refer to as “All Saints Day.     Innocence abruptly halted.  The little girl wore a blue frilly dress in her photo, one that should have been hanging on […]

          “When you get involved in the process of struggle, you need to have a sense of dream.  Later you see realities as you put your feet on the ground and see what is achievable.”   Francisco Emilio Mena Sandoval en español   Editor’s Note:  We are double blessed:  first to be personal friends of Mena’s […]

          CLEANLINESS AMONG THE IMPOVERISHED HOW DO THEY MANAGE IT? Here I am, the American with a suitcase filled with a variety of clothes for any occasion. I have my capris and short sleeved and 3/4 sleeved tops for casual travel; my sundresses for formal interviews or dinners; my raincoat, etc. I’m at a loss if […]

            The Story of Jose Santiago Munguia     Joe Santiago Mumguia en español       Spanish Translation available here.   “Someone needs to look out for those without a voice; my dream is for them – those without.”   Editor’s Note:  This very slightly built, immaculately dressed, accommodating man who goes by the name […]

              The Story of Lucia Artega   “I wanted to help people, and it made sense to design a job where I could do that on a daily basis.” Editor’s Note:  While this story is true in all respects, the name has been changed and the picture withheld by request for security reasons.  This energetic, diminutive, […]

                  “I still thank God because we have closure.”    Editor’s Note:  The outcome of Lucy’s brother’s story is in direct contrast to Anna Diaz’s son’s story.  Yet they are both active in Cofamide, [Committee of Relatives of Dead and Missing Migrants], the organization committed to support the families of migrants across Central America.  That […]

                 “Dios, tuya es y a ti te la encomiendo.”   Nota del editor: esta dulce niñita nos ha robado el corazón desde antes de que pudiera andar. Nos enteramos de que la habían diagnosticado con un neuroblastoma el día de su segundo cumpleaños. Hemos rezado constantemente por su recuperación y por la fortaleza de su […]

                  “I feel embraced on the inside having shared my story because I have carried around all this heaviness for years, and now I feel free in telling it.” Editor’s Note:  Marina is a hard-working, brave, and determined woman.  She does not let a lack of education or limited financial resources hinder her from doing what […]

                        Its lazily-flowing, murky, pea-green water has a strong organic smell to it as fallen tropical vegetation floats along its surface.  Fish jump in one’s peripheral vision.  Circular ripples near the shore signal the presence of small insects to the birds perched directly overhead, ready to dive and devour.  Clumps of dead wood have […]

                      STORY OF MARIO ROBERTO VASQUEZ LOPEZ   With enriching contributions by Michael Lysek and Cory Bronenkamp, Former students at Spring Hill College, Mobile, Alabama   And a special thanks to Lindsay Hughes, the college’s Associate Director of Communications and Marketing, who facilitated these contacts and shared photos   Editor’s Note:  The executive director of CRISPAZ, […]

                          “In 2000 I was part of the team that helped get electricity into our community.  All of a sudden when the lights went on, I teared up witnessing it.” La historia de Orlando Girón en español   Editor’s Note:  If you are doing a double take of the year above thinking it is a […]

                        (Amoebas – part 1) Five years ago if someone had told me I would be sitting in front of a Salvadoran doctor today waiting for a diagnosis and treatment, I would have said they were crazy; I would NEVER go to a Salvadoran doctor. But as the adage goes, “Desperate times call for desperate measures.” […]

                          Esta historia se escribe en Español = This story is also written in Spanish here “ I have an open mind about other possibilities that may appear.  I hope things improve.  I want to help my family.” Editor’s Note:  It defies my imagination how deep the tyranny of the Salvadoran gangs can infest certain neighborhoods […]

                          Alfredo Chavarria “Cuando has visto la injusticia y la represión con tus propios ojos and has escuchado las homilías de Romero…” (Alfredo utiliza el nombre Erick tanto como su hombre verdadero porque Erick   era su nombre de guerra tomado a la edad de 13 años cuando se unió al movimiento guerrero de la guerra civil.) […]

                              Editor’s Note: At least three times during our interview other members of Koji’s Peace Corps team interrupt him reminding him the ride is waiting to take them elsewhere. He is unconcerned committed to our interview. He knows they will wait for him. We are privileged to have spent time with this motivated young […]

                            Am I Going to Hide or Stand Up for What I Believe?   [Editor’s Note: Alma’s story revolves around the San Francisco parish, a large Roman Catholic community deeply involved in serving the population of over 400,000 persons in the Mejicanos area within San Salvador. She makes many references to the numerous Salvadoran martyrs who […]

                              “I knew I wanted to do something related to my faith, but not alone — with a community. “ Esta historia se escribe en Español = This story is also written in Spanish here Editor’s Note:  Ana is part of the Salvadoran landscape in the San Ramon neighborhood where she was a founder of the […]

                                          Ana Beatriz Landaverde Esta historia se escribe en Español = This story is also written in Spanish here.     “I hope that the truth will be clear for all.  Only then will we have reconciliation and harmony.” Editor’s Note:  Without a bit of background on another person, Sister Silvia Maribel Arriola, one cannot […]

                              Approaching the elderly woman standing in her doorway, I asked permission to take her picture. She nodded approval but reached behind her back to tug her apron strings loose.  “NO, NO,” I quickly responded, shaking my head vigorously in protest.  The whole purpose of the photo op was my latest harebrained idea for a story: […]

                                “I feel when God gives us gifts, we need to put them to his service and not squander them.” Editor’s Note: Christian is a talented young man with a boundless, unrestricted reservoir of gifts. If he hasn’t yet discovered a talent lying dormant within himself, he will when someone needs that skill.  The fact that […]

                                  SALVADORAN BABY SHOWER It is looking as if we might totally miss the event altogether. The plane de-icing in Harrisburg makes our departure very late; by the time we arrive in Atlanta, our plane for San Salvador is already boarding, and we still need to RUN, RUN, RUN, to catch the train to another terminal […]

                                    El Salvador is a place where flamboyantly dressed beauty queens and Jesus Christ ride together in the same flotilla on the parade routes.     Salvadorans of all walks of life love to celebrate. Most towns having a patron saint who is honored on a specific day of the year, provides a natural reason to […]

                                      “Todo lo que hago en mi vida se remonta a esa experiencia que tuve como misionero”. Nota del editor: me ví envuelta en conversaciones de e-mail con BenJoe después de que él pidiera copias de nuestros libros desde su direccion en San Salvador. A través de los retazos de información que él compartía, pensamos en […]

                                      BEYOND CARING “The generosity of the campesinos who gave a banana, some beans or a tortilla, a couple of mangos or a slice of melon, was something that impressed them.”  (p. 19 Paying the Price, Teresa Whitfield.)  This was written about the early Jesuits’ experience who first came to the country in 1949 and remains […]

                                        A PERSPECTIVE ON “KIDS AT THE BORDER” SITUATION   Intentionally my partner and I have chosen to wait a couple of months after the initial “crisis” to write about this issue in order to read, process, and digest as much information as possible before reacting and sharing our thoughts. NOTE: Many of the facts listed […]

                                          UPDATE ON BRENDA – July 26, 2012 – International AIDS Conference, Washington, D.C. Featured speakers: Bill and Hillary Clinton, Elton John, Bill Gates, Whoopi Goldberg, Debra Messing, and Brenda Hubbard!     There may have been 22,000 participants at this event, but believe it or not, Brenda was NOT hard to spot among them.  She […]

                                          “My Passion is to Accompany the Outcast, the Marginalized, Those Squeezed to the Edges.” STORY OF BRIAN RUDE Editor’s Note: Imagine trading your Gore-Tex winter parka and fur-lined boots for a breathable cotton short-sleeved shirt and walking barefoot. Imagine leaving a traditional, mainline (German/Norwegian) Lutheran church in order to devote your life to the most […]

                                            CAMERON VASQUEZ    “I belong to a world of loneliness . . . Where loneliness is my best friend and my worst enemy.” (adapted from “I Belong to a World of Loneliness” by Cameron)      Editor’s Note: I typically jump to conclusions and make accusations about the guiltiness of someone who is accused of […]

                                              CARLOS MENDOZA MENENDEZ “Ser pobre no significa necesariamente no ser exitoso.” Nota de la redacción: Pasar tiempo con Carlos elevó y renovó mi espíritu en la humanidad. Por la situación trágica de su familia, Carlos tenía que mantener a la familia desde una edad joven. Casi 80 años después y todavía él no tiene el […]

                                              CARLOS MOLINA “Everything in life has a purpose even though you don’t see it at the time; it’s not a coincidence.”     Editor’s Note:  “WHEW!” I sigh and take a huge breath when Carlos completes reflecting on his life’s story.  In only his mid-40s he has already lived four separate lives: a brief childhood, […]

                                                ROSA “CAROLINA” VASQUEZ DE RIVERA ALEGRIA     [Editor’s Note: Many of our readers personally know Carolina as the charming guesthouse hostess of The Oasis in San Salvador, which she and her husband, Damian, own and operate. When Carolina smiles, her entire body smiles, and she lights up a room. When we interviewed Damian several […]

                                                  Esta historia se escribe en Español = This story is also written in Spanish here. Editor’s Note:  This is the third or fourth draft of a piece I began writing several years ago.  After each draft I sought feedback from others including the family involved, my partner, and my writing group.  The overwhelming response was, […]

                                                  PLANT – PRODUCE—COLLECT—SHARE Seeds that go into the ground?  No. If you would think that this catchy slogan is an agricultural promo, you would be wrong.  It was one of the many slogans used at our Lutheran church-wide event held in El Salvador.  Clergy and lay members from Europe, North America, and South America gathered […]

                                                    We can overcome anything with God’s help     Claudia Geraldina Aguirre Rivas   Editor’s Note: Imagine a celebratory uncorked bottle of clear bubbly champagne. Its effervescent action captivates everyone watching and cannot be contained. It is that same high-spirited vivacity and energy that begins to describe our delightful, engaging friend, Claudia.  My use of […]

                                                      “I see myself as a Pipil indigenous person and try to carry on those traditions  through weaving.” Esta historia se escribe en Español = This story is also written in Spanish here Editor’s Note:  To rewind the tape over 80 years, let’s recall a gruesome part of El Salvador’s history referred to as matanza (killing.)  […]

                                                                                     Clearing Up Perceptions of Guerrillas Heavily camouflaged, wearing a headband, face covered in black – he stealthily crawls through the brush carrying a shiny knife in his mouth with countless rounds of ammo slung across his chest and a formidable gun on his muscled shoulder. He is ready to ambush the enemy. RAMBO. Isn’t […]

                                                        COCOA – The Sweet and Bittersweet   “I never met a chocolate I didn’t like” reads one of the magnets on my file cabinet.  It is part of the collection of t-shirts, mugs, and other “kitschy” items friends gift chocoholics like me with.  Living near Hershey, PA, I can’t tell you the number of times […]

                                                          In past years we spent up to several weeks in El Salvador monitoring many projects and interviewing people but also to be in solidarity with our friends there.   They lead difficult and challenging lives; it is important to support and validate their lives, their work, their dreams.     It is hard to explain to […]

                                                            “But damn it!  They’re taking my work away from me!  And no matter what they say, they’re invaders.  They’re not from here!  They’re itty bitty things made of plaster, baked and finished with enamel.  They bring them by boat, so they probably turn pale from being seasick.”  These are the words of an artisan, whose […]

                                                                  Watching the local fishermen along El Salvador’s Pacific coast, one soon realizes the many uncertainties they live with on a daily basis.  They must be attentive to tides, weather conditions, boat/motor/net repairs, marketing their catch, as well as sustaining their families during periods when the fish don’t bite. Recently a new concern joins […]

                                                                DAILY CHOICES My partner and I spend a considerable amount of time each year in El Salvador establishing relationships and renewing friendships.  As with any friendships, the more time we spend with our friends, the more comfortable we are in sharing with one another, and the more we learn about each other.  This takes place […]

                                                                  “I Was Involved in Working to Change the Story of My People and My Country.”       You will not find the name Damian Alegria on my birth certificate. I have been known by numerous names–even at the same time. During the war when I worked in the mountains as an FLMN guerilla, it […]

                                                                    FATHER DAVID BLANCHARD   “There is a mystique here that keeps people like myself here and keeps people like you coming back. . . . It’s hard to put your finger on it . . . There is something that rises above it all, and it is just the mystique of the people.”     […]

                                                                      The forlorn little rag dolls are so dejected-looking, so pitiful, they beg for love and ownership.  Their embroidery eyes are sewn on crooked and other facial features are expressionless.  Their limbs are misshapen and disproportionate.  One can only guess what stuffing is inside.  Their clothes are made from scraps of tattered materials.  You aren’t drawn […]

                                                                        NOEL HUMBERTO GUERRERO/DON FITO «La enseñanza es la profesión que está más conectada a los intereses de la humanidad y los intereses de la gente que cualquier otra.»   Nota del editor:  Esta lluviosa mañana lúgubre, 570 estudiantes sonrientes y curiosos se arremolinan alrededor en este parque de la comunidad vistiendo sus uniformes limpios y […]

                                                                            Wanderings and Ponderings:
                                                                        • -  Don Fito

                                                                        Eileen Batres Giron en español      “I get upset when religious people see the disability is like a pain.  I see it as a condition.  I never saw it as a burden.  It is a lack of accessibility; lack of consciousness.” Editor’s Note:  For anyone living in an impoverished country, finding gainful employment to […]

                                                                                                  “ELECTION EXUBERANCE”   An American stumbling upon the scene unaware of the significance of the day may mistake this enthusiastic crowd’s appearance as college or professional football fans.  They come wearing their party’s colors: red/white/blue for the ARENA party; red for the FMLN; white and blue for the Unidad/Gana party.  A more eccentric […]

                                                                          Updated information for our readers – If you have not yet read our stories of Mirna Perla or Rosa Anaya, you will want to reference them for this surprising news this week from El Salvador. Mirna- http://www.embracingelsalvador.org/mirna-perla/ ‎ Rosa – http://www.embracingelsalvador.org/category/rosa-anaya-perla/ Herbert Ernesto Anaya Sanabria, a human rights leader in the country was assassinated in […]

                                                                          What are some things that make a tree impressive to you? Here are some of my criteria: 1) One that makes my eyeballs jump out of their sockets and gives me goosebumps; 2) One that I cannot get the entire tree into the frame of a photograph; 3) When stretching arms around the base of […]

                                                                            I am not an expatriate; however, my frequent extended stays in El Salvador provide me with a taste of what an expat likely experiences when resettling in this small Central American country.  I have found Salvadorans warm, welcoming, and generous in both cities and the rural communities.  It is a pleasure to be with these […]

                                                                              SALVADORAN CHURCHES – EXTERIOR   Anyone considering a visit to El Salvador should not leave without visiting the dramatic Iglesia El Rosario (Church of the Rosary) located in Centro, San Salvador. Built in 1971, it is a contemporary style church with architecture in a league of its own. From the outside it is unimpressive, appearing […]

                                                                                I am often asked by those who do not understand the concept of accompaniment, “Why do you go to El Salvador every year? Wouldn’t it be easier to just send a check? It is hard to answer that question in 10 words or less. The minute we arrived one of our scholarship girls asked, “When […]

                                                                                  Nota del editor: La historia de esta muchacha parece la historia de muchos jóvenes en su país. Desde chiquita, le falló su familia. Fabiola fue despreciada, abusada, y decepcionada por su familia. Luego le falló el sistema de protección de menores del estado. Buscó una familia nueva en la pandilla y le llevó a la […]

                                                                                  FARMING HOPE Who in their wildest fancies would have imagined finding a makeshift above –the- ground pool filled with a school of small tilapia swimming around on the top of a Salvadoran mountain?     Who would have pictured finding neat rows of peppers, tomatoes, herbs, papaya, beans, and corn planted in neat rows in […]

                                                                                     “ If there is a problem and I think of a solution, it is not uncommon for me to get up in the middle of the night to handle it. “ Esta historia se escribe en Español = This story is also written in Spanish here. Editor’s Note:  To fully understand Fatima’s story it will […]

                                                                                      It is with great sadness that we announce the death of one of El Salvador’s treasures. Fernando Llort who died on Friday, August 10, 2018, was an accomplished artist who we had the privilege to interview in his home in 2014. His life is a legacy to his love for his God, his country, […]

                                                                                    “I don’t focus on the EXistence of God; rather, about the INsistence of God” Editor’s Note:  It is difficult to separate Francisco, the person, from Francisco, the CRISPAZ employee.  That is a compliment.  Francisco, the employee, is totally immersed in his job of sharing the Salvadoran experience with visiting delegations with honesty and integrity.  In […]

                                                                                      FRANCISCO ENRIQUE VIERA RAMOS (NICKNAMED “KIKI”)  “We just [feed the homeless] because we see it as a ministry of helping people in need.”   Esta historia se escribe en Español = This story is also written in Spanish here. ‎ Editor’s Note: Some of our other friends invited us to join them in Kiki’s ministry […]

                                                                                      El cuento de Francisco Rivas Marroquín   <<Estos dos propietarios han dado a mi hijo lo que yo no he sido capaz de darle. >> Nota del editor: Esta era una parte de una entrevista combinación de un padre y su hijo a una finca de café donde ambos trabajan, pero  el hijo de Francisco, […]

                                                                                      Fun Prevails! Salvadorans find creative ways to be festive and have fun.  They decorate homes, churches, and villages with colorful scraps of paper they fashion into streamers.  The occasion may be a simple worship service, birthday party, anniversary of a village’s founding, or its saint day.  Basically, they find ways to make something out of […]

                                                                                        Story of  Guillermo Joaquin Cuellar Barandiaran     “When reviewing all the country’s history as a social science over the last 500 years, it has been full of lies. That is a big disappointment to me.” Editor’s Note: Even though we’ve heard him in concert many times and he immediately agreed to participate in our […]

                                                                                          NORMAN (“GUS”) NEWPORT Esta historia se escribe en Español = This story is also written in Spanish here. “ The peace movement was much the same struggle as the civil rights movement. You cannot separate the two. We were looking at the role the U.S. was playing in places like Korea, Viet Nam, and Nicaragua. […]

                                                                                              HAND “WROUGHT” IRON – TREASURE AND APPRECIATE IT It was when riding through the cobblestoned streets of the enchanting colonial city of Suchitoto in Cuscatlan that I first became interested in Salvadoran wrought iron.  Our delegation leader pointed out some of the original handmade wrought iron still encasing the windows.  In fact this city […]

                                                                                            Move over, mangroves.  You have mosquitoes.  Get outta the way, little flapping sea turtles.  Jet skis will mow you down.  Here come the tourists. We knew it was only a matter of time, didn’t we?  Any place with a coastline is prime property for development.  If it’s located in a tropical climate, so much the […]

                                                                                              HOLY WIND! Little did we know our trip would coincide with El Nino winds this year.  We were only inconvenienced a bit; however marginalized families living in palm frond huts a few yards from the ocean can lose their lives, or the few possessions they own in minutes when high winds result in mega-waves washing […]

                                                                                                HOPE SPRINGS   Hurricane Mitch, a Category 5 hurricane, whose origin is believed to be traced to a tropical wave off the coast of Africa, stalled over El Salvador from October 29 – November 3, 1998.   It was the deadliest hurricane to hit the Western Hemisphere in more than 200 years since the Great […]

                                                                                                  “There was a tragedy at every little house, and in the midst of all that confusion, I still remember a campesina woman who invited us to eat in her little hut, surrounded by water.  The children were covered with mosquitoes, and she was fighting back her tears, but she drew what she could out of […]

                                                                                                    It is not uncommon to see individuals in wheelchairs out on busy highways in major traffic in San Salvador.  Why?  Curb cuts are few and far between, and it’s simply easier (but oh so dangerous) for those in wheelchairs to navigate the level streets.  In the busier metropolitan areas of multi-lane traffic, the “bridge-like” structures […]

                                                                                                          INTERIOR OF CHURCHES   The interior of some Salvadoran iglesias (churches) can be very formal with rich décor.  Cathedrals may be a lavish Baroque style or include Gothic vaulting.  Some have as many as nine altars and/or include side chapels off the nave for quiet meditations or separate services. Artwork within the larger churches […]

                                                                                                        ITEMS SALVADORAN TRUCKS CARRY Trucks overloaded with scrap metal, bouncy balls, gigantic baskets, mattresses, people, even mattresses AND people in the same load . . . .     Napping in the car between locations is not an option when traveling throughout El Salvador. It’s just too fascinating to watch the sights on the highways […]

                                                                                                              From a purely tourist standpoint it is fascinating to try to identify what some of the street vendors in the cities are selling as we whip past them in traffic.  Many hold long cardboard sheets of stacked sunglasses, which I have yet to see a Salvadoran wear, mobile phone cases, car parts, CDs, […]

                                                                                                            “We could only be wishful that this child’s life be spared. “ Esta historia se escribe en Español = This story is also written in Spanish here Editor’s Note: “Give us this day our daily bread” takes on a very literal meaning in this story of a humble man who gives thanks for exactly that […]

                                                                                                                Esta historia se escribe en Español = This story is also written in Spanish here.  Editor’s Note: War does not end when the conflict ends.  Its victims go beyond those bodies lying on the battlefield we see splashed across the news and on the cover of Time Magazine, beyond the leaders and soldiers […]

                                                                                                            She strives to bring forth the best in people; to walk by the side of the downtrodden; to hear their inner voice telling him/her that “HE DOES COUNT.”     [Editor’s Note:  Jeanne has traversed the globe from her original roots in the Twin Cities of Minnesota; then east to a college campus in Michigan; […]

                                                                                                              JOE HASTINGS Esta historia se escribe en Español = This story is also written in Spanish here.   “I wanted to be involved in people’s lives and involved in an empowered laity.” Editor’s Note:  Time flew by quickly as we interviewed this light-hearted yet serious Joe.  Or was he interviewing us?  With Joe it’s hard […]

                                                                                                              Jonathan Oswaldo Tobar Hernández “Proceres Hernández” “Ahora cuando le paso a alguien pienso, tal vez esa es una persona que ayudé, y no tal vez es una persona que dañé.” Nota del editor: En Enero 2015 Jenna Knapp (una gran amiga de Jonathan que laboró muchos años en El Salvador) nos presentó a Jonathan para […]

                                                                                                              ADDENDUM TO STORY OF NACERE JOSE ARTIGA ESCOBAR   Esta historia se escribe en Español = This story is also written in Spanish here. Editor’s Note: We ran Jose’s full story in June, 2015. If you are new to our website and did not read it, you can access it by typing in “Jose Artiga” […]

                                                                                                              Esta historia se escribe en Español = This story is also written in Spanish here “Despite working long hours, the salaries do not increase; they remain minimal” Editor’s Note:  Interviewing a sugarcane worker has been on our “bucket list” for some time now.  It is impossible to spend any time in the rural areas of […]

                                                                                                              “Almost all my work [art] is focused on Mayan culture and preserving our history and ancestry.”   Esta historia se escribe en Español = This story is also written in Spanish here. ‎ Editor’s Note:  On the wall of my study is a photo of a painting.  Its theme is a flower vendor and her family […]

                                                                                                               “Sometimes you have to suffer in life to know the value of life.” Esta historia se escribe en Español = This story is also written in Spanish here. Editor’s Note:  Tito’s engaging smile punctuates his charming personality.  He is a successful businessman who never forgets his humble roots.  He has experienced his fair share of […]

                                                                                                              “LIFE WITHOUT SOCIAL SECURITY”   One of the many questions we often ask Salvadorans we engage in conversation is the question, “Will you receive Social Security?” More often than not the answer is an unconcerned “no” with the emphasis on unconcerned. I haven’t reconciled in my own mind if the people we typically meet simply […]

                                                                                                                The Conundrum of the Maquiladora “Caroline, look; this year’s festival t-shirts are made in El Salvador!” our chairperson proudly and enthusiastically announced, assuming I would be overjoyed. It was an attractive jerzees t-shirt. I feigned delight. My head was spinning. Certainly on the surface it appears we are supporting the economy of our Salvadoran friends. Yet, […]

                                                                                                                  The Story of Maria Dolores Dubon Alfaro   “All I could do was to thank God that we had survived.  I realized that if we had taken a different way, we would have been massacred.”     Editor’s Note:  To those who are familiar with the history of the Salvadoran civil war, the massacre at […]

                                                                                                                    MARIA OFELIA NAVARRETE/MARIA SERRANO (MARIA CHICHILCO) “I saw my rights in the rights of others” Esta historia se escribe en Español = This story is also written in Spanish here. Editor’s Note:  Since I had read much about her life before meeting her, I knew Maria has held responsible post-war government positions, including vice minister […]

                                                                                                                    MARIA JULIA GARCIA “ I wanted to help people in El Salvador because I knew we could not avoid a civil war here.  I stayed impartial politically in order to treat the sick.”  Esta historia se escribe en Español = This story is also written in Spanish here.   Editor’s Note:  Our friend in CRISPAZ, […]

                                                                                                                    LA HISTORIA DE MARIA MORENA PALMA PALMA “Si hubiera estado en aquel primer grupo, no estaría hoy aquí compartiendo mi historia” Nota del editor: En los últimos años he estado extrañamente fascinada por el síndrome de “culpa del superviviente”. Pedimos a nuestro coordinador de CRISPAZ si podría concertar una entrevista con alguien que hubiera sobrevivido […]

                                                                                                                    This nearly 100-year old woman cared for Oscar Romero’s family AND had 19 of her own children AND is still going strong!     Esta historia se escribe en Español = This story is also written in Spanish here.  Editor’s Note: Ciudad Barrios (formerly known as Cacahuatique) is a municipality in the rural area in […]

                                                                                                                    MARINA DOLORES ORTIZ  “ I had 1,000 questions which no one had answers to because no one knew my story.”   Esta historia se escribe en Español = This story is also written in Spanish here. Editor’s Note:  Kidnapped as a baby.  No identity.  No family.  Robbed of a normal childhood.  Growing up in a […]

                                                                                                                    MARIO MANCIA   (Storyteller’s name is a pseudonym for protection purposes) “It was more painful for me to be without my son than to be locked up in prison.” Esta historia se escribe en Español = This story is also written in Spanish here. ‎  Editor’s Note:  Choices  Others who grow up living in a situation […]

                                                                                                                    MARISOL ESCOBAR DE MOLINA “Mi familia es sagrada para mi” Nota del editor: He estado escuchando maravillas a cerca de esta “leyenda” llamada Marisol a traves de varias personas durante años y estaba deseando encontrarme con ella. Después de una llamada telefónica ella apareció mágicamente en el plazo de una hora e ilumino la habitación […]

                                                                                                                    MELTDOWN OF 3’S – AT 3 AM, AFTER 3 WEEKS, POST 3RD TRIP MELTDOWN!  Fatigue may have played a part in it because it was 3 AM when I walked in the door from the airport.  After spending three weeks in El Salvador, something overcame me as I collapsed onto the living room couch, looking […]

                                                                                                                      “I want the kids here to express their ideas creatively and not think of themselves as being part of a third world country.”   Esta historia se escribe en Español = This story is also written in Spanish here.   Editor’s Note:  This is our second visit to Miguel’s enchanting art gallery/studio.  Last year we […]

                                                                                                                      Updated information for our readers – If you have not yet read our stories of Mirna Perla or Rosa Anaya, you will want to reference them for this surprising news this week from El Salvador. Mirna- http://www.embracingelsalvador.org/mirna-perla/ ‎ Rosa – http://www.embracingelsalvador.org/category/rosa-anaya-perla/ Herbert Ernesto Anaya Sanabria, a human rights leader in the country was assassinated in […]

                                                                                                                      “I only wanted to help campesinos read and write.  I still can’t accept that I was tortured for this reason.  I wasn’t armed.”   Esta historia se escribe en Español = This story is also written in Spanish here.   Editor’s Note:  After our interview I read Neris’ 157-page testimony in the transcript of the […]

                                                                                                                      NICOLE SANTAMARIA Translated by Profesora Español Jeannette Fogart <<Yo nunca le echo la culpa a la gente.>> Una nota del editor:  Las injusticias y las violaciones de los derechos humanos toman muchas formas diferentes oscilando de la discriminación, negando el acceso a los derechos humanos incluyendo la educación, el empleo, y el derecho para votar, […]

                                                                                                                      NOT AGAIN! NOT BOTH OF US! After last year’s fiasco with the amoebas illness, I wasn’t sure I wanted to return to El Salvador this year.  I spent two thirds of that trip miserable and out of commission and required multiple trips to two doctors on two totally different medication regimens.  I chalked it up […]

                                                                                                                          Surrounded by IVs and railed hospital beds on this 8th floor pediatric oncology ward of the Hospital Nacional De Ninos Benjamin Bloom (Benjamin Bloom National Children’s Hospital) in downtown San Salvador is a tiny, colorful room.  Nearly camouflaged behind the nurses’ station, its shelves are not overflowing, but the books, toys, and materials are […]

                                                                                                                          Storytellers do not always come alone to our interviews.  Often friends or family members accompany them for support.  Besides my asking questions and taking notes, I find myself gleaning helpful information from those “sidekicks.” It may be the revealing body language of the companion.  It may be expressive eyes.  It may be a comforting touch […]

                                                                                                                                Note: I said court; not jail. Now you can relax and enjoy this true account of the day. “It’s a marvelous thing to be on a journey, not knowing where you are going, especially if you trust the cabbie!” according to Sister Carla in Vessel of Clay. In El Salvador we mostly use […]

                                                                                                                              “I felt I had a commitment to the community.” Esta historia se escribe en Español = This story is also written in Spanish here Editor’s Note:  The term community as it is used in El Salvador goes far beyond any casual English definition.  We Americans tend to be fluid in terms of moving from one […]

                                                                                                                                                                    PATTY CORDERO DE ARCIA  “I was embracing situations and families around me and it hit me that I was doing something bigger than myself. . . . . .  I wondered how to make a bigger impact in the world. Editor’s Note:  How does one complete writing Patty’s story, I ask myself?  Just when […]

                                                                                                                                  “Solo espero que realmente aprovechemos todo lo que tenemos aquí, en medio de la creación de Dios, con el asombro, respeto, amor y cuidado debidos.” LA HISTORIA DE PAUL DARILEK Nota del editor. Paul continúa inspirando a miles de personas de todas las edades a que se den cuenta del impacto que produce disponer […]

                                                                                                                                Philip Anderson Editors’ Notes:  Today we pause from the normal rhythm of our blog to share the news of Philip Anderson’s death on August 15, 2016.  On our first trips to El Salvador the Salvadorans would ask if we knew Phil.  As we became more deeply entrenched in giving voice to the people of El […]

                                                                                                                                  THE EVER-PRESENT PLASTIC CHAIR We are barely off the plane until our first stop at our sister community to check in with our scholarship recipients. After the smiles and warm embraces, what is the first thing their moms and abuelas do for us? Bring the plastic chairs from their very humble homes to the outdoors […]

                                                                                                                                    Rows of corrugated metal roofs. Forbidding cinder-block walls painted in assorted colors. Thick, locked double garage doors. All houses are camouflaged; hidden from view. This is the scene from the guesthouse window here in San Salvador. The street in front of me is now fortified by a heavy metal gate opened to its residents by […]

                                                                                                                                      QUINCEANERA            from a teenage daughter’s point of view Dad left my mom and us kids several years ago to find work out of the country – we guess he is in the U.S.  We aren’t allowed to know exactly where he is, but we talk to him on the phone regularly.  It has been […]

                                                                                                                                          The processed white granulated sugar in the canister in my kitchen is one of the many products I use without a thought of the all steps in its manufacture much less the hardships its workers endure in getting it to me.  I learned a tiny bit about it by listening to Salvadorans, observing the […]

                                                                                                                                          RICARDO ADALBERTO BARRERA CAMPOS   “He hecho un esfuerzo consciente para dedicarme a trabajar como voluntario en proyectos para mejorar e incrementar el nivel de vida de las comunidades marginadas.” Nota del Editor: Entrevistar a Ricardo en persona fue como entrevistar al hombre detrás de la leyenda. Yo había oído muchos comentarios positivos acerca de […]

                                                                                                                                            “The best decision of my life was joining the guerrilla movement . .  .” Esta historia se escribe en Español = This story is also written in Spanish here. Editor’s Note:  The “radistas” or radio operators were hidden in the mountains during El Salvador’s war.  These men and women worked in uncomfortable conditions underground […]

                                                                                                                                          “If we listen to one another’s stories,  we may have common ground to bring down the borders.” Esta historia se escribe en Español = This story is also written in Spanish here. Editor’s Note:  Rosa has been in the public eye since age 10 when she witnessed the assassination of her father, Herbert, famous human […]

                                                                                                                                          RUBEN VASQUEZ ALFARO   «Da oportunidades a los niños y a las mujeres; la inclusión no la marginación.»   Nota del editor:  Los ojos de Rubén todavía se ponen brumosos cuando comparte la experiencia de la infancia que le sigue atormentando y motivando.  Es el recuerdo de no tener suficiente comida y cuando su padre […]

                                                                                                                                          JOSÉ SALVADOR JIMENÉZ GONZÁLEZ “Me di cuenta de un trozo de la camisa de mi esposa llevaba envuelta del mismo cable que me estaba tirando a la seguridad.” Nota del editor: ¿Cómo puede un hombre comenzar a reconstruir una vida cuando lo ve repentinamente arrastrado delante de sus ojos en un camino de destrucción?  Su […]

                                                                                                                                          “ I never hold grudges; I always look to the future, never back at the past.” Esta historia se escribe en Español = This story is also written in Spanish here Editor’s Note:  It is rare to see Salvador alone.  He generally has a grandchild in his arms or is engaged in conversation with someone.  […]

                                                                                                                                          El Salvador remains a country where the Roman Catholic Church and its legal system have one united voice – NO ABORTION – period!  No exemptions and no debate.  Birth control is not widely accepted or practiced in all areas of the country. Latin American machismo attitude often prevails and although efforts are made, women have […]

                                                                                                                                            SALVADORAN WEDDINGS   Weddings and wedding traditions in El Salvador vary widely based on the socio-economic level and desire of the couple.  El Salvador recognizes marriage in three ways:  informal, civil, and religious. Many of the country’s poor cannot afford a formal wedding at all and simply live in the informal, common-law relationship.  The couple […]

                                                                                                                                              SALVADORAN NAMES AND BIRTHDAYS   We TRY to remember before interviewing a candidate for our story project two questions: Can you spell your full name for us; and what is your date of birth?   Can you spell your full name for us?  This may seem silly but understand that in El Salvador as in […]

                                                                                                                                                The Lord said, ‘This is where you’re going to be’   Esta historia se escribe en Español = This story is also written in Spanish here.     Editor’s Note:  Sam doesn’t have to tell us he is from Fort Worth, Texas.  His snakeskin cowboy boots betray those roots as he strides across his office […]

                                                                                                                                                Several people can travel on the same trip and be on separate journeys.  Today’s full day ride from San Salvador to northern Chalatenango department is a good example. Knowing ahead of time this will be an all-day adventure I have my pillow laid out to take along.  I’m only just recovering from an illness that […]

                                                                                                                                                                                                       TRIBUTE TO SAMUEL CARBAJAL   Editor’s Note: The following is based on my journal notes from short conversations we had with Samuel while riding in his taxi. I regret that I didn’t get a full interview with him as I had hoped before he passed; but here is a thumbnail sketch of a very […]

                                                                                                                                                        “It’s interesting how God keeps putting El Salvador into my path.” Editor’s Note: Meeting Sarah was one of those unintended rich encounters on the trip that I’ve come to treasure. She was sitting alone and engrossed at her laptop when we befriended her. We immediately became pulled into the theme of her university […]

                                                                                                                                                      SERENDIPITY Tear up that color-coded itinerary! Put away your electronic devices! It’s time to engage in your surroundings and go with the moment! Trip planning is necessary to a certain extent. We need to maximize our time at our destination. It’s pretty important to make advance reservations for lodging. It’s nice to have a general […]

                                                                                                                                                        SHARING THE NITTY GRITTY PROCESS WITH YOU, OUR READERS   “What is involved in the steps of your story project before it gets to the website?” “How do you select whom you interview?” “How do you find these people?” “How does the translation take place?” These are a few of the sincere questions a friend […]

                                                                                                                                                           SPONTANEOUS GENEROSITY   My comment to our hostess was meant as a simple, innocent compliment. “I like your earrings; they match your blue shirt perfectly.” The next thing I knew she pulled the fused glass blue and gold earrings out of her ear lobes and tucked them in my hands, closing my fingers around them […]

                                                                                                                                                            The Story of Survivor’s Guilt “God must have made a mistake and left me alive.” (Syrian survivor via NPR interview.) In a second interview by an Iraq war veteran who was ordered out of the Jeep right before his entire platoon was bombed in it, his response was, “It would have been easier to die.  […]

                                                                                                                                                              Confessions of a fruit junkie:  I LOVE tropical fruits. They are all so enticing, piled in the baskets on every street corner and mounded high in the huge elongated baskets attached to the front of bikes the vendors drive.  Too bad we foreigners are discouraged from trying the fresh fruits from street vendors.  I find […]

                                                                                                                                                                Yesterday, Oct. 14, beloved priest of the Salvadoran people, martyred Archbishop Oscar Romero, was canonized in Rome.  The people have waited 38 years for this honor.  We celebrate with them.  He is considered the “saint of the Americas.” THE BROKEN RADIATOR (and more!) POP! SZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ Clouds of steam begin seeping from under the hood of […]

                                                                                                                                                                  THE DEAL A Fanta and a handshake = a deal Gray-suited executives sign multi-million dollar deals while wiring electronic transfers from their financial accounts across continents in seconds.  This is the reality of the corporate world of business deals in developed countries.  It is a high pressure, cutthroat world with an emphasis on how MY […]

                                                                                                                                                                    Concertina wire surrounds her house like all the other houses in her area.  A series of locked gates envelops the property.  One cannot see outside the metal wall of gates because the fortification is intended to keep outsiders from seeing inside the premises.  From the inside the owner checks ringing doorbells through a tiny slat. […]

                                                                                                                                                                      Traveling the road back is an annual journey for us.   Even finding the road back to our scholarship students is difficult because it bears little resemblance to the one we traveled last year.  The main road is being widened and is filled with all the earth moving equipment necessary for that project.  Even our driver […]

                                                                                                                                                                        When we first inquired about serving as election observers, we were unsure whether we would be accepted because we do not speak Spanish.  We were told this would not be a problem.  Certainly being a native speaker might have enhanced the experience; however, the way we non-Spanish speakers were paired with Spanish speakers for the […]

                                                                                                                                                                          TOWERS OF TORTILLAS As we drive along the highway, we notice piles of corn lying along the roadsides. Once the sun dries them, the workers shovel the white kernels into buckets and take them to be processed.  Who would think these piles would turn into Salvadorans’ sustenance of life?     I watch the abuela […]

                                                                                                                                                                              Oh, the people you meet! And they all are willing to talk about why they are in El Salvador. T-shirt logos can reveal much about the wearers. One caught my attention recently in El Salvador and provided an opener.   NOT PERFECT FORGIVEN   “Are you SURE about that?” began the long conversation with […]

                                                                                                                                                                              Signs for the Ruta de las Flores (Route of the Flowers) become prominent on the highway from the time you leave San Salvador’s airport.  This 36 km route between Sonsonate and Ahuachapan winds through the mountains and small villages.  Varied flowers grow wild along the road and paths to the waterfalls.  The village of Ataco […]

                                                                                                                                                                                PARTICIPATING IN A TURTLE RELEASE “. . .We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.” John Steinbeck This marvelous adventure was a chance encounter we literally stumbled upon–a totally unplanned departure from the itinerary. But when it was posted and offered, we jumped on the bandwagon, […]

                                                                                                                                                                                  Driving past the simple facade of this art studio along the main street of Panchimalco, one would never guess what treasures lie behind its doors.  The owner and genius behind this amazing oasis for creativity leads us on a personal tour.   In short, his focus is to provide an inspirational space for community youth […]

                                                                                                                                                                                    Under the Bridges Darkness had already moved in during the three -hour meal preparation at Kiki’s house where we had been cutting onions, green peppers, herbs and spices to add to his main dish.  This was taking much longer than I expected.  As the main dish simmered, we waited for Nelson and Monica to return […]

                                                                                                                                                                                      VENTURING INTO A NEW PROJECT     The seven-mile hairpin-twisted road climbing uphill and deep off the main road into the isolated community seems to take forever to reach. Dirt road quickly turns to gravel; gravel turns to small stones; small stones turn to large rocks; large rocks turn to large chunks missing from the […]

                                                                                                                                                                                        El Cuento de Victoria Lauren Cavanaugh <<Hay tal potencial cuando se trabaja con los jóvenes que no se ve en el resto de la población…      Simplemente no hay ninguna fragilidad atenuante a la juventud. >>   La nota del editor: ¿Cuyo corazón NO está capturado por una foto de un huérfano? El visitar a los […]

                                                                                                                                                                                        Esta historia se escribe en Español = This story is also written in Spanish here “When someone listens to the youth and can offer alternatives they can be part of the solution and they can change.” Editor’s Note: For over a year we have heard about an insightful person named Vladimir with a stellar reputation […]

                                                                                                                                                                                        As told by his daughter There is a temporary lull in our conversation when I sneak in a question to our friend, “Was your dad in the war?” Little did I know that this simple question, a typical one we ask nearly everyone we interview because there is virtually no family in El Salvador who […]

                                                                                                                                                                                          Waterfall A mystery trip, the second one of the day.  We don’t ask; we don’t want to know.  Our only request is that our local friend choose some places we may find of interest as well as provide photographic opportunities. On the trek towns have long since given way to villages that have given way […]

                                                                                                                                                                                            “We’re here for the people”   Be sure to click on the powerful video at the end Periodically when I get weary, my partner reminds me of our purpose in visiting El Salvador. Yes, I admit I do need the occasional reminder.     The first time I hear his words is several weeks into […]

                                                                                                                                                                                              The tedious arrangements of our scheduled interviews for this trip to El Salvador had been painstakingly made months in advance as well as securing plane tickets using frequent flyer points. What are the chances of a major storm hitting our area on the day of departure? As it turned out, pretty darned good. Hyped as […]

                                                                                                                                                                                                 Underground America, narratives of Undocumented Lives, edited by Peter Orner, is a collection of first person accounts of individuals who have migrated to the U.S. seeking a better life.  They come from places like Mexico, Iran, Bolivia, Guatamala, Colombia, South Africa, and Peru where they were persecuted unmercifully.  Their tales are gut-wrenching.  They have traded […]

                                                                                                                                                                                                  WHERE ARE THE HOUSES? It is getting tougher and tougher to get a photo of a single family dwelling in the neighborhoods we visit in downtown San Salvador. The city seems to be composed of massive amounts of metal gates, keys, and armed guards.  Houses are located somewhere behind all of this.  Safety, security, and […]

                                                                                                                                                                                                    I ask our guest house owner if she would take me to the nearby market to experience something new and truly local.  Outdoor markets are scattered throughout the city.  This one is open daily.     I’d like to stop and take pictures and ask our friend to identify some of the unfamiliar items for […]


                                                                                                                                                                                                        Afflicted with Hope / embracingelsalvador.org is one of many outreach ministries at
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