A Nation Lost: The El Salvador I May Never See
Angel is a prolific author and media activist who has just released the juicy political thriller novel Janus: The Devil's Election.
It's 4am and still hours until dawn, but the streets of Apopa are already full of life with trade and banter. Hundreds of street stalls peddle cheap, sizzling Pupusas, schoolchildren travel in giggling groups, commuters gulp down hot coffee and, as always, the loud, smoking buses teem with eager passengers.
El Salvador is traditionally a country that wakes up and gets on with the day early; but usually not this early. Kids having to get up at 3am to get ready for school is not normal anywhere, except in certain barrios around San Salvador.
"It's the gang violence. Everyone wants to get all their work done before the gangs wake up."
Early morning commuter; Apopa, El Salvador
However, the even sadder part is that El Salvador wasn't always like this. It wasn't violence-filled to the point where you had to stay in your house all day to dodge bullets. The truth is, even though many parts of that beautiful country are peaceful and safe, gang violence has transformed other parts into a war zone.
My mother was born and raised in El Salvador and I know her life story off by heart. When she was a child, people were much kinder to one another. Doors could be left unlocked overnight without fear of home invasion and children acted like children and weren't radicalised and weapon-trained by the time they hit double figures. Even the fiestas were peaceful; a different time.
In fact, El Salvador was once most commonly known for its majestic volcanos and perfect waves. The nation exported sugar and corn from its many vast mountainside plantations that were curated by honest, hard working farmers. For some extra money, the farmers would sell their Pupusas by the road side after work and on weekends. I would love to have seen this side of El Salvador, but I fear that I was born too late. The civil war was at its peak when I came into this world.
The gangbangers, or maras in Spanish, are the sole reason that El Salvador's good name has been ruined almost beyond repair. They selfishly rob, loot and kill, just to be able to gain territory that isn't theirs to begin with, and to control the country's lucrative drug industry.
1979 was year zero for when the trouble started; it marked the beginning of the decade long civil war which tore the country apart. Hard to believe, but in some parts, the trouble has gradually gotten worse since.
The tiny country has never been able to properly recover from the effects and ravages that war and violence will inevitably bring. The first thing I see now when I Google search El Salvador is pages and pages of death and destruction perpetrated by gangs like MS-13 and Barrio 18. It makes my heart weep.
The fact is, that El Salvador has the worst crime rate of any other country in the world; a crime rate mostly concentrated into poorer areas of San Salvador. In 2015, there were over 6,000 homicides nation wide; mostly gang members or innocent civilians caught in the crossfire. I can only imagine what that figure might be in another decade.
The point of this article is to fill you in; El Salvador is not a bad country. Many regions are stunning and filled with beautiful people that only wish to welcome you. The way that the media often portrays the country is irresponsible; to them, the entire nation might as well be a crime syndicate. For being the smallest country in Central America, El Salvador is an extremely diverse, cultured society with a remarkable history. Please don't let today's news effect your opinion of Salvadorians.
*If you enjoy Angel Ramon Medina's writing, please check out his epic novel series 'The Thousand Years War' now available on Amazon.