El Salvador 2012 trip diary: Volcanoes and domestic violence

By Patricia Spross

 Today we hiked around the perimeter of the volcano. On the hike the contrasts of the beautiful country of El Salvador were once more in evidence. Wizened bare chested men carried lush calla lilies and colorful tropical blooms on their bent backs. A woman in her thirties did not smile for the camera because her front teeth were missing. We pondered why they were missing from her mouthful of healthy teeth. 

This question brings me back to my arrival at the airport where extended families assembled to greet arriving loved ones. Bouquets, balloons, and beribboned babies created a festive atmosphere. Grandmothers in ruffled aprons and grandfathers in woven cowboy hats mingled with the younger folks. The faces of the old ones were creased, yet their bodies were erect and strong. Yet, we soon learned that here, as elsewhere in the world, family togetherness has a dark side of machismo and domestic violence.

The SEW women of Comasagua told us in shaky voices of fathers who did not value them enough to educate them past third grade. Another woman’s husband fathered a child with a thirteen year old neighbor girl. A third was badly beaten during her sixth month of pregnancy by gang members sent by her husband and his gang-member girlfriend. Yet these beautiful women spoke of hope for the future and a better life for their children. They spoke of every working mother´s concern over childcare and a flexible schedule to meet their family´s needs. These women have been devalued and beaten, yet they are not broken. They are not far-away images of unknown unfortunates. These are flesh and blood women who have suffered and not given up.