“We could only be wishful that this child’s life be spared. “
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 because some days that is all he has.
Salvadorans who live with physical, emotional, or mental challenges suffer greatly. A system does not seem to be in place within El Salvador to consistently allow for their financial support or provide them with dignity. Juan became visually impaired as a result of an accident; his wife became blind as a result of an assault. They can no longer provide for the basic needs of their family.
This man has every possible reason to live in fear, despair, revenge, and hate. Instead he celebrates life by getting up each day to give thanks to God. He is an inspiration to all who know and have the privilege to meet him. He lives his life as a great statement of his faith.
My parents and grandparents were influential in my early life by teaching me the value of hard work. Depending on the season, my dad worked in the sugar cane fields or picked coffee in or near our village of San Juan Opico in La Libertad. Dad also planted a portion of our land in corn in order to provide sustenance to our family in the form of daily tortillas. My mom’s role was cook and caregiver to us children, and housekeeper in our home. I feel work is one of the most important things you can learn in life. It was a wonderful heritage that both my parents passed down to me.
My dad and uncles were heavy drinkers, however, and I would try to escape from the house to avoid them sometimes. Once I remember I got in trouble when they found me in the middle of a group of men betting. Apparently, it was quite dangerous for a child to be in their midst.
Social life was never very wide ranging for me, but I had a good relationship with my teachers. They were excellent role models and often invited me to their homes for lunch.
When I was 14 my foot accidentally flipped up a stick hitting me on the head and damaged one of my eyes. The other eye never functioned well as a child. Doctors were unable to help and cataracts formed. I ended up blind. This was in 1963.
At that point my education came to an abrupt ending.
My common law wife, Milagro and I have no biological children but do have a stepdaughter and a stepson. In 2006 my wife and I were sleeping when men came at gunpoint to rob us. We are poor and had nothing of value for them to take. They told us to get out of the house. They injured my arm, and sexually violated Milagro who later also became blind as a result of an infection resulting from that attack.
The robbers then said they planned to sexually assault our five-year old stepdaughter. We begged them not to hurt her. At that moment although I felt like killing those men, my reaction was to kneel down at the side of the bed and pray to the Lord that the robbers respect our lives. My wife’s reaction was nearly identical to mine. We could not be angry or show anger. We could only be wishful that this child’s life be spared. This was the toughest moment in my life. Fortunately, they did not harm our little girl.
We knew the men and they warned us if we reported them to the police or went to court, they would return and kill us. They took a pair of boots and left.
Neither Milagro nor I have received any mobility training or Braille training for our blindness.
As a result of the aftermath of this event, we needed to sell a portion of our land in order to survive. We owned a half-acre which we sold very cheap, for 30,000 colones ($3300). The reason we needed to sell the land was to pay a 2003 bank loan. This was hard for us to do because the land was a source of food/ a source of life, but it was necessary to do in order to re-pay the bank.
The only remaining portion of land we own is the area on which the house is located. My physically and mentally challenged brother, Alfredo, lives with us. Some of our relatives help provide us with a little money from time to time and this is a big relief.
Survival is the greatest miracle from God in my life. I believe God was testing my faith. Each day I wake up by giving thanks to God for another day and ask Him to bless our family. There are days when the only food at the table is a tortilla with salt. But I always give thanks to God for this daily bread.
When I get up each morning around 7 AM we eat breakfast if there is food. Then I take water from the 5-meter deep well using a string and cube system. If there are church activities during the day, I try to attend them. I enjoy listening to news or religious programs on the radio. Someday I would like to have a spoken Bible to listen to since I am unable to read it. I go to bed around 9 PM.
I become frustrated at times due to my limitations in being unable to support my family. I want to be able to remain healthy and have a source of income to be able to afford basics including medicines when family members need them.
My dream for the country is for social change that we can all live in peace. We need violence to cease and for El Salvador to be a secure nation for everyone.
Currently I am 65 years old and live by the mercy of God.