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Published: August 30th 2008
The decision to get up at 3:30 in the morning to jump on a bus for four hours is a decision you can only make the night before.
So, that´s what I did--waiting in the muddy street at 4 a.m. listening to frogs and hearing the first chirps of birds while watching the stars slowly rotate their way across the sky and hearing the honking of the bread sellers as they started their daily rounds balancing the oversized baskets on their bicycles...waking up this early isn´t that rare in the campo.
I joined up with Nohé and Leo and we waited for the bus to lumber over, filled with excited music and dance groups from Nueva Esperanza and La Canoa, and blasting reggaeton already--at 5:30 in the morning. All I wanted to do was sleep, but the pounding beats kindly forced me to keep my eyes open and watch the first colors of dawn paint the sky.
As we wound up through the mountains on the "Ruta de la Paz," all of us were in awe of the beauty and majesty of the mountains around us--and wait, wait---was that cool air filtering through the windows?!? YESSSSS!!!!
reached the small mountain pueblo of Perquín at around 10 a.m., and waited some more for the acts to start (we had to wait until mass was over, of course). Perquín seems to be balanced among the mountains, fresh air flowing around its cobbled streets and squat, colorful stuccoed buildings, with pine trees and green peeking in around the corners. I loved this place immediately.
I ran into Addiel (one of my theatre "students") and his brother, and we wandered through the feria, browsing the stands overstuffed with jewelry, magnets, pictures of la virgen, and various other knick knacks.
I spent the majority of the day watching the various musical acts and dance groups, from communities in Morazán and Bajo Lempa (William, a musician from Nueva Esperanza, is now working in Morazán and has begun to make these "intercambios" a reality).
In the afternoon, I went with three muchachas from Nueva Esperanza to explore the famous museum that Perquín boasts, featuring photos, testimonies, and artifacts from the Guerra. For the past half year, I have listened to stories and even directed plays that are centered around the war, but seeing the the pictures of young women and
men my age in regular clothes, strapping M-16s on their backs and smiles on their faces made these stories more real. Seeing the motley mish mash of guns and rifles stacked around each other, and the descriptions of individual leaders who were "disappeared" during the war caused me to feel the admiration and--near disbelief--that people could feel so passionately about something that they would pick up one of these arms and be willing to die for it. Taking note of the notebooks with notes on geography and technology scrawled within the margins, I thought again about how the war was a rare opportunity for campesinos (peasants) and women to get a higher education and to organize. While leaning up against the wall in the Radio Venceremos (We Will Triumph) studio, I realized that the walls were covered with used egg cartons. And, staring at the salon-sized crater outside the museum, reading the short description that it was created by a bomb identified as being manufactured in the U.S., I felt that strange pang of ironic responsibility that surges up every once in a while.
The museum is modest, with an entry fee of 60 cents, and short labels in
Spanish and English. I need to go back again. There is also an area where you can visit the tunnels that the guerrilleros used to hide in during the war, and an example of what a guerrilla camp looked like. If you´re visiting El Salvador, this museum is a must.
We clumped back in the bus and watched merengue videos (probably just about as cheesy as you can get), gazing longingly at the mountains (a lot of the people who were refugees during the war and placed in Bajo Lempa after the peace accords are originally from Morazán) and laughing our way back to hot, flat Bajo Lempa. When we got back, it was as dark as when we left.
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