A vacation from my vacation, that’s one way to look at my past weekend in Perquin, El Salvador. Through a travel group that Nelson’s aunt is a member of, we were given the opportunity to travel to the northwest region of the country that borders Honduras.
Nelson, Gavan and I awoke at 5:30 Saturday morning and made our way to meet our ride outside. Our neighbor, Chico, offered to take us to the bus in San Martin in his 1966 Toyota Special that will probably take its last breath in the near future. It was a fun ride to say the least.
Once on the tour bus, it was four hour drive to Perquin in which time I listened to a lot of music while staring out the window. I was reminded of how much I miss driving and the act of just going with good tunes blasting. It was nice to recapture a bit of that on this trip.
After my ass started to get all sorts of numb, we finally stopped at the hotel Perkin Lenca where we had lunch. When I got off the bus I marveled at the plant life and climate of the area. Perquin is over 1,000 meters (3,000 ft.) above sea level and is unlike anything I’ve seen in El Salvador yet. It almost felt like being in parts of Northern California as I was surrounded by pine trees and cool breezes. I couldn’t believe a place like this existed in tropical regional like Central America.
While eating lunch, Nelson’s aunt, Concepción (Tia Con for short), told me a terrifying and gut-wrenching story about the Civil War here. In 1989, she was sitting in her home in San Salvador when she felt a quick, sharp pain her back. A warmth spread across the area and Con reached her hand back to see if an insect or spider had bit her. When she brought her hand back to her eyes she saw that it was covered in blood.
An aircraft had been firing on the area and a 50mm bullet had pierced through the roof of her house and shot her in the lower back. This happend at 7:30 AM, an ambulance didn’t arrive until 11:30 AM, a telling sign of the limited resources and tumultuous time in the country’s history. In that time, she wrapped herself in a bedsheet to slow the bleeding and applied pressure to the wound.
Once she finally arrived at the hospital, she said the pain had become unbearable, but that the doctors needed to x-ray her first before proceeding with any treatment. According to medical staff, the obscenely large bullet had narrowly missed her spinal column. If it had hit her spine she would’ve had permanent nerve damage and been paralyzed from the waist down. Luckily, the medical staff treated her wound and she suffers no long-term physical damage from the injury.
After a harrowing and perspective building lunch experience, the group travelled into Perquin to visit a museum chronicling the left-wing guerillas of the Civil War. It was in Perquin where the guerillas were stationed and operated a pirate radio station. There were several pieces of military equipment, left-wing propaganda and photos that helped me uncover a little bit more of El Salvador’s traumitizing and generation defining war.
At the museum, an ex-guerilla and veteran of the war showed us around. He obviously had left-leanings, but it was very interesting to hear his perspective, why he fought and its consequences.
Amongst the photos, posters and old weapons, there were a few pieces that stuck out to me. Placed outside the broadcasting room for the pirate radiostation was a photo of the FMLN guerillas who operated it. In the photo was a Mexican immigrant who helped the movement with the last name ‘Maravilla.’ I wonder if there is any family relation.
Another is that there were the large amounts of foreign (German, French) poster ads and propaganda demanding the U.S. cease it’s support of the right-wing militants. Today, the U.S. involvement in the war is still a sensitive subject and views of Reagan and his overall policies in this region are subject to high criticism. I can understand why. This wasn’t the U.S.’s war and it’s interference benefited American enterprise rather than the people and soliders who were actually sacrificing their lives.
After our mini museum tour we walked and wandered the small mountain town of Perquin itself. It reminded me more of the size and style of Cerrito in Mexico, but I could just be getting antsy about wanting to visit there again. Perquin is filled with many vibrant murals that depict farm life and the religious history of the town.
We hopped back onto the bus to head even higher in the mountains and to our final destination of Hotel Arizona in El Bailadero de Diablo. Hotel Arizona is planted in seemingly the middle of nowhere amongst the pines, tall grass and intricate rock formations. Gavan, Nelson and I were given a key to our cabana, a small room made to look like a log cabin that also had a hammock.
After settling in and getting acquainted with the hotel’s resident spider monkey, Pancho, we set out on some exploring of our own.
As we walked amongst the grass, smelled the pines and inhaled the crisp, clean air, we were consistently reiterating our disbelief that a place like this existed in El Salvador, a country the size of Rhode Island. It makes sense that the U.S., Mexico and other, larger countries have such climate and terrain variations, but I never expected that from El Salvador. This country surprises me almost every day.
Following our exploring, we hiked out to a scenic vista with the travel to enjoy the sunset. I found a particular rock the perch myself on and lie as the daily, simply beauty of a sunset unfolded before me.
While laying there I had this feeling in my stomach that I haven’t had for quite sometime. I was at peace with where I was and what I was doing. I wasn’t yearning for anyone or anything, but found satisfaction being purely in that the moment. The only thing floating in the back of the mind was the large list of all the projects I’m eager to get started and working towards. This feeling was one of almost profound contentment and of complete excitement.