© 2013 Brent Hassebrock


You may know that while visiting El Salvador, you might be lacking some amenities that would have made you feel more at home. Well, what you may not have known is that many amenities exist in El Salvador that I much prefer instead.

First, our shower at our host family’s house was outside and surrounded by banana trees, palm trees, and mango trees. I have to say that that was quite an enjoyable and peaceful experience. I much prefer it to the mundane ceramic walls in showers that don’t come with tropical fruit trees. Additionally, cold showers in tropical climates are the best, especially if when you come in from your shower it’s then time to watch your favorite telenovela.

Second, hammocks are something that I think America lacks. They are these wonderful devices that support you and inhibit both naps in the shade on a hot day after lunch and meaningful conversation with a host-family and passers-by. They are extremely valuable but their type of capital does not seem to show up in the American metric of capital- which is the almighty GDP. They can usually be found in twos wherever buildings or people are in the country.

The communities of the Bajo Lempa and Jiquilisco Bay have some other not so great amenities, like sugar cane burning.  Sugar cane burning can cause respiratory diseases from the ashes basically just being inhaled by the local inhabitants almost constantly. Luckily, as my host-dad Osvaldo tells me, the legislative body in the country is trying to push through a law that would ban burning sugar cane country-wide. The country also recently kicked out Monsanto and is trying to get farmers to build up seed biodiversity on their own. We have so many lessons to learn from this country, and still some things that we can do to help. Many of our personal actions influence policy that ultimately can influence the poor communities in the region. Here is a shot I took the other day at the La Coordinadora community center near our host-family’s house.

Sugar Cane Field Burning near Ciudad Romero

Sugar Cane Field Burning near Ciudad Romero

I was worried to learn from a Peace Corps volunteer serving in the country that the people of the Bajo Lempa rely upon food aid to be able to live after devastating tropical storms ravage their fields and destroy their crops and flood their communities. Something I will have to grapple with is how to support a community that just seems to be in the wrong place. Maybe instead I should be more worried about why our country subsidizes food and exports it, floods foreign markets and cripples them, and then sends food aid, which acts as a disincentive to work, to the very communities the subsidy attempts to destroy.

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