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 nothing.
The room for the baby shower we attended was a bare room when we arrived. Soon I found myself helping transform it into a celebratory oasis. My job was to take a roll of narrow crepe paper and fold it alternately back and forth in such a way that when completed, it became a 3-D streamer we taped across the window and ceiling with colorful balloons hanging from the light fixture in its center. It was a pretty clever idea and cost little.
Most celebrations involving children include at least one piñata. They are for sale at every market or can easily be made by the host. The children love piñatas which are all sizes including life-size! Every Salvadoran child knows the rules and patiently awaits his turns to SLUG the paper maché character to smithereens before scrambling for the candy.
Raffles are a common source of adult entertainment in El Salvador. Salvadorans seem to enjoy the chance of winning and raffles take place everywhere. When we served as international election observers, we found ourselves in a large raffle at an outdoor voting rally. One of the larger prizes was an electric blender. This seemed odd to me when many households don’t even have electricity but the group was really fired up for this blender, let me tell you! The emcee could have hosted “The Price is Right” he was so charismatic and persuasive. I don’t even speak Spanish and am not sure where the proceeds for the raffle were going, but I was ready to buy tickets for it!
Sometimes I think NOT knowing the native language is a positive for me. It forces me to sharpen and hone in on my observation skills. By not being a participant, I can scan the entire scene and “read” the body language of those around me. I enjoy putting my own spin on what I see happening. In all these situations – decorating with little bits of nothing, piñatas, and raffles, the results are the same – finding a way to have fun despite economic hardship. Salvadorans do it so well.