Today was our last day in San Francisco. We were going to be spending the morning in the caserío of La Llanes, one of the poorest communities. In the afternoon we were going to have a huge celebration with everyone from all the caseríos of San Francisco invited, complete with food and piñatas. Like yesterday, we didn’t have permission to take the direct road to San Francisco today because of the construction. So we had to leave early again this morning – at 7:30am. We stopped briefly to pick up the two police officers that were going to accompany us today and then we headed out. There was a brief traffic jam on our way out of town, but luckily we’d brought the fuzz along so they got out of the truck and handled the problem.
It was a long ride to La Llanes, about 2 hours in the back of the pickup on rough roads, but the trip out went relatively fast. We turned onto the road that would take us to La Llanes, what Michelle called a goat path, around 9:30am. It’s always slightly unnerving to drive on the road since it’s basically right on the side of the mountain and one wrong move would have us tumbling down, but the view is spectacular.
Piñatas in the back of the truck
A nearby truck stuck in the mud
View of the geothermal plant
This is a road
Blanca brandishing the policeman's baton
What an incredible view!
We arrived in La Llanes around 10:00am and were warmly greeted by several people and families. It was wonderful to be back in La Llanes. I’ve always felt such a strong connection to the people there. Despite the poverty in which they live and the difficulties in their lives, they are some of the warmest, most loving people I have ever met. It is a privilege and honor to call these people my friends. I immediately gave hugs to several people and kids. I couldn’t believe how much the kids had grown! And I was filled with joy when people remembered my name.
We chatted briefly with the heads of the community. A couple families’ houses were too far away for us to reach in the amount of time we had to spend in the community, so they had come to us. We presented them with the gifts we’d brought from the US and took pictures of them. I was bummed we couldn’t walk to everyone’s houses, but I understand that sometime there just isn’t enough time to do everything.
Talking to Carmen and her son
Talking to Reina and Marjery
Kenny & Josseline
We greeted all the families we could on the way down, gave them their packages, and took pictures. Unfortunately, in El Salvador, what goes down must come up. That includes us. And let me tell you, it was a long and hard walk back up to the top of the “hill.” My calves were burning, my heart was pounding, I was out of breath, and sweat was pouring out of every pore. I had little dignity intact by the time we reached the top. Michelle and I got a picture with our little companions as proof we made it back up the hill.
Walking down the hill
Nahum and his sons
Carmen and her family
Getting water from one of the water tanks
they received in 2011
And down we go
Jose Emilio and his family
Jessica and her sons
Walking with my friends
Arriving at the last house
Time to walk back up
Not an easy climb
We made it!
Michelle and the police woman who
accompanied us for two days.
She was our favorite.
Thankfully, it was time to eat lunch. They had prepared beef with rice, tortillas, and passion fruit juice. It was all delicious and we hungrily ate away. I especially enjoyed the passion fruit juice. Fresh passion fruit juice is not something I get in the US.
So happy together
Then Josseline came over to me and asked if I wanted to see the baby she had been telling me about. I said I did and followed her over to the communal house where they did the cooking for everyone. There in the hammock was Marleny’s tiny baby girl. She was 4 months old. Marleny told that that her name was Alicia (which is my name in Spanish). She said to me in Spanish, “I always said that if I had a baby girl I would name her Alicia after you because it is such a beautiful name and you are important to our family. I’ve named her Alicia in your honor.”
I was stunned. I was speechless. I couldn’t believe that someone had named their baby after me. I honestly don’t remember much of I what said. I think I managed to get out a couple words about how honored I felt and what a beautiful little girl she was. What a legacy. I asked Michelle to take pictures of baby Alicia and me. I talked to Alicia and let her know that she was a very special little girl and that she was going to be very smart and kind hearted just like her mom when she grew up. I also told her that I’d be back to visit her as soon as I could. I hope I’m able to make it back on a regular basis so I can watch her grow up.
Alicia & Alisha
Talking to the baby
With Alicia's mom, Marleny
Kisses for the baby
When I was finally able to give the baby back to her mom, I joined the group in giving out a couple more packages. We took more pictures and talked about the logistics of getting people from La Llanes to the church in San Francisco so they could join us in the celebration. Then we loaded up ourselves and some other people from La Llanes and began the drive to the main part of San Francisco. I believe we squeezed in about 17 in the back of the pickup including a couple kids. Not a record for the pickup but it was still cramped.
Reina and Marjery
Giving out more gifts
Marleny with Walter and Josue
More gifts to give
With my little friends
Deciding who is going to ride in the truck
Up at the front
Many people were gathered around the church when we arrived at 1:15pm. Everyone was told to get their food to the church by 1:30pm and that the celebration would start at 2pm. For the most part, people were on time. The celebration started right at 2:00pm, which was amazing since these things often don’t start on time. Daniel, one of the Delegates of the Words for San Francisco greeted everyone and then Balmore gave a brief reflection. After that, each of the three presidents of the Directivas of El Cimarrón, La Llanes, and the main part of the San Francisco all got up to speak.
Gathered inside the church
The president of La Llanes
The president of San Francisco
Taking a nap in the church
Next it was time for giving out the Little Dresses we’d brought from the US made by women from our church. It was also time for the piñatas. We had a ton of dresses, 7 piñatas, and about 300 people present. Blanca made the decision to split everyone up into groups and rotate. I’m not sure how she and the other leaders accomplished it, but somehow all of the kids got divided up. The girls from La Llanes and El Cimarrón went first to get dresses followed by the rest of the girls from San Francisco. At the same time the boys were divided up into three groups to do piñatas then followed by four groups of girls. Though in the end everything turned out well, it all seemed like pure chaos at the time.
Quick massage before the chaos started
Giving out dresses
Let the chaos begin
Doesn't this look safe?
The adults had as much fun as the kids
The adults had a LOT of fun
Once the insanity of the dresses and piñatas was over, people gathered again inside and around the church. Michelle thanked everyone in the communities for their friendship and their hospitality and reaffirmed our church’s commitment to the Pastoral Team and to the communities themselves. Balmore spoke once again about the partnership between the canton of San Francisco and our church and then it was time for food! Blanca explained how everyone was to line up and where to get food. For the most part people were organized and obeyed the rules Blanca had given, but there was such a massive amount of people that it again seemed like chaos.
It was wonderful to see everyone together and having a good time. I don’t know if I’ve even seen that many people gathered together in San Francisco at one time. That being said, I was very overwhelmed by the amount of people and how crowded everything was. Everyone seemed to want to talk to us all at once. I tried to talk with and take pictures of as many people as I could at one time. I also gave out lots of hugs. Though I’m not usually a fan of hugging other people, El Salvador is one place that I do like to give hugs.
Talking to the ccommunity
Getting ready for food
I just love this picture.
They both look deep in thought.
Line outside the church
Take our picture!
Maggy and a cute little baby!
Michelle showing kids the pictures she took
This woman really wanted to talk to Maggy and Michelle
Eventually it was time to say goodbye. There was still probably 150 people left at the church, but it was getting late and we still had to drive two hours back to the house. We left around 4:15pm. The ride back wasn’t quite as pleasant as the ride there. I love riding in the back of the pickup and feeling the fresh air, but after a while it is exhausting. We’d been walking and driving around for 4 days in the community and we were all tired. We got to see the sunset but then it was dark and slightly chilly outside.
We got back to the house around 6:30pm. Though we had originally planned to go to a nearby town, Alegria, for dinner, everyone was so worn out that we decided to get some local fast food instead. We dined on Pollo Campero, which is kind of like a Latin American KFC. After dinner Michelle and Maggy started getting packed and I looked at photos of the day. It was our last night together as a delegation. We usually sit around at the table at the end of the day and chat, but everyone was too tired. It had been an amazing week together. One that I’m sure we will never, ever forget.