Dear El Salvador, I am trying….

Updated: Dec 28, 2020

As the smallest country on continental America you are, of course, interesting. With 6 million people crowded around five active volcanoes, your fairly lush, tropical landscape is dramatic and active. I have now twice passed through the ‘hammock’ region where the earth swings with tectonic movements.

El Salvador

Friendly armed guards – with my Scottish friend, Fred


I love the fact that your border controls are fast, polite and do not require bribes for efficiency (as opposed to: Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Honduras). I really enjoy how friendly and affectionately smiley everyone seems to be and your roads are regionally good.

Your central region of coffee and indigo plantations is beautiful and everyone loves the colonial city of Suchitoto,  in your central north.

Alas, here is what troubles me:

Roughly 25% of your economy is remittance-based (money sent back from relatives), so effectively you have no economy.

You somehow mix populist left-wing propaganda with an uber-conservative Catholic Church and a massive presence of evangelicals who seem hell-bent on conversion, but with no interest in basic human rights.

El Salvador

Gum fruit. So much good food all around … but in the cities fried everything!


Garbage is everywhere – scarring what could be promoted as Central America’s most dramatic landscapes.

Poverty is obvious and aggressively visible.

You have an inexcusable amount of gang violence and, as a consequence, armed guards are so common as to guard corner stores – and of course they will run at the first sign of trouble.

And finally you have become famous for locking young girls into jail for years at the hint of an abortion.

You have focused purely on sin and not on good; your saviour – El Salvador del Mundo (the saviour of the world) must look down with shame. Among your decrepit poverty I hear preachers and see evangelical signs around every corner.

Perhaps, dear, beautiful El Salvador, you should stop moralizing about Christian values and actually respect the lives of your many desperately poor and disenfranchised citizens. Perhaps you could clean up the centre of your capital city. Either get rid of your military or use it for some public good.

I really want El Salvador to be a success. Its citizens are famous for an impressive work ethic and the country is just small enough, just diverse enough and just rich enough to be a model. Despite an atrocious public security record, I feel welcome and mostly safe.

Despite an oppressive history and of course the scars of the cold war, El Salvador has the opportunity to build something special and indeed to become an important tourist destination.

It may be time to focus on El Salvador and not simply on emigrating. You need a healthy, local middle class, rather than your wealthy living high on the hills looking down upon the masses.

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#Suchitoto #ElSalvador #Guatelama #nicaragua #Honduras

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