Sunday, March 18, 2012

My Last week in El Salvador

During my last few days in El Salvador:

We went to a large park that used to be a coffee plantation.  Because people used to work this land, there's a village smack in the middle of this park.

As you can see from the pictures above and to the right, mango season is beginning.  I hope that means more delicious mangos in our Logan Bountiful Baskets.

They have a saying here.  "Si hay pobres pero no hay hambres."  Translation, "There are poor people but there are no hungry people."  Very appropriate for a place where food literally falls from the sky. My dad's been hit by a falling mango during mango season. Apparently it hurt.

At the coffee plantation park we found our first non-ghetto play ground.  Those are awesome banana trees next to it.

My mother and Kelsey looking cute.

  This is how bananas grow on trees.  The awkward looking dangling participle is the flower.  

The ladies posing in front of banana trees.

The park had a super cool bamboo forest.  It just makes you want to snap a bunch of sticks off and take them home.  Yeah, good luck with that.  Hope you brought your machete.  Bamboo is notorious for its non-snap-off-ability, which I was reminded of as I tried feebly to yank some pieces off.

When the wind blows all the bamboo trees sway and creak and click together.  It sounds really cool.  Therefore, I've posted a video of it, which doesn't do its awesomeness any justice.

My last day there we were able to meet up with our old housekeeper, Loli, who worked for us while we lived in El Sal as a family.  I was in first and second grade when I lived here.  Loli was very excited to see the grown up me and my mini-me.  It was a good visit.

It was interesting to hear about her life.  So different than our pampered American lives.  She was one of 7 children.  Three have died and one has not been heard from since he tried to immigrate to the US (illegally) with the help of a Coyote.  Presumably, he didn't survive the extremely treacherous trip. We were the only family Loli worked as a housekeeper for.  After that, she sold fresh produce door to door to her clients.  She no longer does this because she no longer needs the money to support her children, who have moved out, and her and her husband can live off his pension, which is about 1000 bucks a month.  But most importantly, working her vending business is simply too dangerous.  Anytime anyone runs any kind of a business in the villages they become prey to the gangs.  They will come to you and demand a certain amount of money.  If you can't pay up, they will kill your family.  Simple as that.  The gangs keep everybody down so businesses can't prosper, and people don't work unless they absolutely have to to survive.  And we wonder why people risk their lives to come to the United States illegally.  Loli's family has received a couple gang threats via phone calls.  They call up and say give us your bank account number or we'll kill your family.  Her husband, who answered the call, suspected that it was a false threat because the phone number appeared to be coming from Guatemala.  He cleverly said, oh, I'm not from this village, I'm from such and such village.  The man making the threat said, well, where's that?  It became obvious to Loli's husband that they were not going to be found.  If the man was a local, the threat would have been real.

P.S. I survived the plane rides home.  It was a ridiculously long day but all went well, I didn't kill Kelsey out of tired irritation, and I'm still pregnant.  I thoroughly missed El Salvador for the first couple of days back.  It's all brown and wintery here, and where are the parrots?  Sigh.  I guess geese, magpies and a very low homicide rate will have to suffice.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Mayan Beliefs from the Mouths of Natives

On Saturday we went to a little town called Panchimalco. We were hoping to see something exciting, but there really wasn't much there except a mostly unimpressive church and an art studio/gallery/school.  We did, however stop in to a really unimpressive looking cultural shop which housed two guys who specialized in recovering Salvadoran ancestral history.  First the one guy began talking about cultural stuff and playing an instrument invented in El Salvador that does awesome native bird calls.  He did a lengthy bird call demonstration for us.  Then, I pointed at a souvenir with a vicious snake like creature on it and asked what it was.  As I suspected, it was Quetzalcoatl, depicted as a feathered, fire breathing serpent.  I asked him to tell me what he knew about Quetzalcoatl.  It all occurred in Spanish, but, between my imperfect understanding and what my dad can remember, we got a few interesting things out of it. His buddy was a spiritual mystic who was all over the place, mixing in Nostradomus and typical Native American spiritualism, and seemed to be proselytizing to us, so we took his comments, which were many, with a grain of salt.


The following is a summary of what was explained to me by the bird song man and his mystical buddy about their Native American/Mayan beliefs:

Quetzalcoatl was a God who was a white man with a beard who wore a white robe with a cross on his chest.  He came on some sort of an "embarkation" which usually means ship, but they don't understand what exactly.  (Which is actually contradictory to other accounts which say the Quetzalcoatl came down from the sky.)  He came to teach them new ways to improve their lives, both spiritual and temporal.  He taught them about the most nutritional way to prepare or grow corn or something (can't really remember). The corn we eat today is genetically inferior to the ancient corn and continues to lose its nutritional value.  The modern Mayan elders know this and have hidden up a cache of the ancient corn in accordance with Quetzalcoatl's instruction.

Many Native American peoples, in some form or another, believe in Quetzalcoatl, including Anazazi/Ancetral Hopi, the Hopi, the Aztecs, essentially most tribes from North America all the way to Northern South America, but they all have different names for him, most, however, being quite similar.  It it prophesied that Quetzalcoatl will return but no one knows when. Thus, the Mexican thought that Cortez was Quetzal and so they treated him like a god until they realized that he was nothing more than a man.  The people still anticipate the return of Quetzalcoatl.

According to tradition, with the arrival of the original Quetzalcoatl, most followed him but there was one tribal leader who was angry at the attention given to Quetzalcoatl, which resulted in his loss of power.  He rebelled against him, teaching his people not to believe in him.  He left the area and took other like-minded people with him.

The end of the Mayan calendar does not predict the date when Quetzalcoatl will return (since, as previously stated, no one knows when he'll come again), nor does it predict when the world will end.  It is simply a prediction of a time of great change, or a new epoch of time that will usher in a great positive energy that will have a negative effect on those who are not in synch with nature (or evil, i guess) and apparently make them go crazy (info from the Mystic guy).  So, on December 21, 2012 expect big changes, but not Quetzalcoatl yet.  And he said that we have 20 years after that date before the judgement.  He also said that people continue to harm the earth because they don't understand that it's a living entity.  Eventually, the earth will transform in to a paradisiacal state.

Paintings by one of the most famous artists in El Salvador. Found at the gallery/studio/art school.  It had extensive, beautifully manicured gardens behind it, in which more artwork was displayed. 

Kelsey posing in front of a banana tree.

Kelsey and 4 yr old Jocelyn who was a neighbor to the gallery.