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 protection are the reasons we see all of the above. It should not be any surprise that when we ask a guy there what he does for a living, the answer is so often, “I do welding part-time.”
Formidable, thick steel gates surround entire properties; in fact, for as far as one can see up and down entire city blocks one huge metal gate lines up beside another. Peepholes at each gate allow the owner to decide whether to allow entrance to the person ringing the bell on the outside. Property owners fortunate enough to own a vehicle either call someone inside their home to quickly slide open the gate as they approach their houses and then just as quickly slide it shut, or else they get out of the vehicle and do it themselves pulling into a carport area inside “the compound.”
Some small enclaves within a neighborhood which may comprise a dozen or more houses are gated and heavily guarded by armed security. They unlock the gate only when they recognize the driver or passenger within the vehicle. When we first began coming to San Salvador, the majority of these gated communities existed in the wealthier sections in the hills above the city. Now they are common everywhere we go, including some of the poor sections.
We even notice more and more side streets off the main avenues blocked off by huge gates also guarded by armed protectors. It must be difficult to get service providers in to do even required maintenance or deliveries into homes.
Walking armed guards in our non-gated guesthouse neighborhood appear from sunset until the early morning hours. The residents of the block collectively pay for protection. And yes, their individual homes also are located behind the metal gates.
These are not wealthy people. I guess they are maybe lower middle class citizens struggling to pay rent, taxes, and make a basic living but seeking safety by hiring private protection.
Living this way is simply an accepted part of life here now.