“My mission is to connect worlds. I do this in many ways, through face-to-face volunteer and group work, through my photography, and through my writing.”
Esta historia se escribe en Español = This story is also written in Spanish. Click here.
Editor’s Note: Marvin is a multi-talented young manhttp://connecting-worlds-through-creativity-spanish who has high aspirations. His idyllic childhood grounded him and constantly reminds him of what life can be. He yearns for others to experience that 7 he rated his early life on a scale of 1-10 which he now ranks as a 5 as an adult. As an artist, Marvin sees life in colors and expresses himself primarily through his photography which he calls “colors of my life.” Marvin has no samples with him today, but we already plan to meet him on our next trip and hope to see some of his work. He is translating for us today, and for that we give thanks. As I said, Marvin is multi-talented.
My early formative years began in July of 1960, when I was born in the village of Llano Largo (outside Ilobasco) in the Cabanas department of El Salvador. Its nickname is aptly called “secret paradise” which it was for me in this lovely countryside filled with moonlit starry nights. Simplicity describes the lifestyle for my parents, brother, grandparents, uncles, and other family members, and for that I am grateful. I would rate my loving childhood as a 7 on a scale of 1-10 growing up in the middle of those rural hills. My dad was a trained engineer, but living in the country, he worked in agriculture. I would call him a cowboy. He and my mom were not formally married.
I emulated my grandma, who shared whatever she had with whomever appeared despite living a hard life. My grandma viewed most people she met as part of her family, including her hired workers as well as people who traveled through the area and decided to stay with us for a time. She always had something to share even if it was as simple as a tortilla; she didn’t even have to know them. This model of accepting those outside the family constellation into our midst helped me learn the meaning of community. Her name was Esperanza, the Spanish word for “hope.” She also was strong physically, which she demonstrated by riding horses her only means of transportation for many hours at a time.
One story I like to share about my grandma is that at age seven when she was playing in her backyard, she looked up in the sky and saw an airplane. “One day I’ll be in one of those,” she vowed with determination. That dream came true for her at age 92 when she flew to Las Vegas and then on to California for a family celebration. She taught me that it is never too late to fulfill a dream. I will never see age as a detriment. She died two years ago.
During the country’s civil war we were unable to go outside casually. Everything was insecure. I had cousins and friends who were killed. I was not directly recruited by the military. I tried to live as normal a life as possible by detaching myself from what was happening around me, but we were all certainly exposed. Families were constantly worried of the uncertainty we all lived with on a daily basis.
Although as a child I was raised in the Roman Catholic faith, I didn’t practice it much. In my adult life the more I began to travel through places such as the U.S. and Canada, the more I became exposed to different philosophies and religions. The Lutheran movement very much appeals to me at this point in my life. What appeals to me about the Lutheran faith are the positive practices in living they follow. I am not a conformist. I like action. I just returned from spending four months in a Lutheran culture around the time of Christmas. Sharing with others was a large focus of that season.
My education began in a rural school in my village through the sixth grade. The school was literally surrounded by animals. I studied in Ilobasco until it was time to go to university. Then I studied law in San Salvador and had a short career related to tourism.
With the help from families in Tijuana, I moved through the. U.S. (where my brother currently lives) to Canada. My first attempt was unsuccessful because the family I stayed with took advantage of my situation. The second time I tried worked out much better, and I lived and worked in Montreal, Quebec, for fifteen years. One of my several jobs was working with refugees from countries all over the world in an effort to help them be comfortable enough to remain in Canada. I also solicited funds for Greenpeace.
I was happy in Canada and my jobs were fulfilling but still I yearned to return to El Salvador. I missed the tastes of the foods I was accustomed to enjoying, such as the fried plantains. I longed for the familiar smells I grew up with that gave me comfort. Of course, I missed my family.
I knew returning to this country meant returning to face some uncomfortable social issues that were rearing their ugly heads. There was news of the cruelty by the gangs and racial discrimination. I was returning to the news of discrimination against any minority, including aboriginal people as well as those whose bias is different than the norm including gay and trans-gender-oriented folks. I returned to live here full-time in 2000.
Still this is my country, and I feel responsible to help fix these issues. I plan to remain here long-term to be part of the solution. If we the people don’t take responsibility, who will? I am not a political person. I sometimes serve as an impartial observer for the elections. I support groups I carefully select, and volunteer in many capacities. I have been critical of some of the NGOs that operate in this country in terms of how they spend their money. I believe the best weapons exist through the social media. My goal is that society will organize through the small communities in which we live.
The weight of the 2009 election in which I served as an observer was one of the stressors that took a toll on me emotionally. During that process I came to the grim realization of the ignorance that exists here at all levels. It made me so very sad to discover how resources were being spent. In 2010 I suffered a huge depression and nearly died.
After seeking treatment, I am now functional again. I am searching for a way to make a living. I have a small grant from an organization. I enjoy translating and guiding groups. I teach private English to individuals. All my life I’ve been connecting people; I think I am good at that. My mission is to connect worlds. I do this in many ways, through face–to-face volunteer and group work, through my photography, and through my writing.
Another passion I have is photography. I don’t travel often, but when I do, I enjoy snapping photos with the ongoing theme “colors of my life.” It is a way to express myself by taking photos of my country. Originally my photography was strictly for my own pleasure. Recently I took twenty of my pieces to the U.S. for an expo, and they all sold in one night in one small location. My photography has saved my life. It is a dream of mine to become a well-known photographer.
Writing is also a hobby I very much enjoy. I discovered it requires a great deal of discipline and energy when I wrote the small book I call The Watermelons of the Lempa Valley, which I publish through Lu Lu Co. Its theme is a memoir of the time I spent growing up in my childhood house with my grandma. I would like to get to the point where I could combine my photography and writing.
A long-term goal related to writing is to write stories about people who have survived incredible challenges. I became inspired from rescuing a little dog dying of a skin disease that I found in Llano Largo. He miraculously survived and grew to become a beautiful dog. A Japanese Peace Corps worker helped me restore his health. When she left, I had to leave him behind in the village, and the woman I left him with later told me the dog “is gay” because of the way he was acting toward other dogs. I told her she was crazy; he was only playing with other dogs. The next time I saw the woman she announced that my little dog had been bitten by a scorpion and died. I was devastated because I knew she had killed it. In this country there is a great deal of homophobia which we need to address and deal with as a society. You aren’t going to believe me, but this is true: there are people living in El Salvador today who have never seen a foreigner. (When I look aghast and disbelieving, Marvin insists his information is accurate.) I don’t mean just people in the communities either; I’m talking people in the cities.
My dog’s name was “Survival,” and there is a Facebook group of about 600 people dedicated to sharing stories of those people who have survived terrible circumstances, including many Afghans. In the movie City of Joy there is a quote to the effect “Everything that is not given is lost,” which is my mantra. I find I need to take risks in order to make a difference in my world.
A dream for my country is that it becomes economically independent by creating more jobs. I dream that we can build a peace together. I plan to die here and hope that my blood as well as all blood shed here is transformed flourishing corn and become the country I knew as a child when I felt secure and innocent, looking up into the starry, moonlit sky over a peaceful village with no threats or fears, no nightmares, and when everyone supported one another. That would make my grandma happy.