Photo Credit: La Prensa Grafica
Today Oscar Garcia is guest blogging to share with us his perspectives on the violence in El Salvador.
El Salvador is a small country with big problems. Like a tiny boat in the middle of a raging sea, our country is rocked day after day. As Salvadorans we feel the weight of rapid population growth, financial strain, soaring violence, and political distress. We struggle, and strain, and row against the wind and waves just to get the through the day.
We, the people of El Salvador, feel like we are caught in a vicious cycle, like a crazy ride that we just can’t get off. Difficulty after difficulty, catastrophe after catastrophe…and there is no rest from the cruel circumstances that clash with our desire to live “normal” lives each day. So many factors contribute to the cycle…a civil war that broke out 30 years ago continues to subtly hurt those who experienced it firsthand, and a legacy of violence continues to touch the newer generations.
The constant violence in our society makes us want to abandon hope and some already have. They are fleeing in search of better and safer living conditions and all of us have a friend or family member that has just gotten too tired and has decided to try their luck elsewhere. But not everyone can pack up all of their extended family and leave everything for another country near or far.
Violence is around every corner, and it attacks us all. But some are more vulnerable…the poor, abandoned, and homeless are especially at risk. Those who have been cornered need an escape. They need a quick exit, but they find none.
How does this start? How does a society accept violence? I am not an expert, but I have seen and experienced things in my life. I know that all it takes is a push, or a phrase to give birth to violence. I have seen and lived myself, things that have brought our country to the violence of today. I have observed a combination of things that have created a culture of violence in El Salvador.
First, many Salvadorans have survived abusive and violent childhoods. The consequences were all around them as they grew. They saw family members, friends, and neighbors die. Their own parents suppressed the trauma they experienced, and the emotions of grief and terror were pushed down and then inflicted on the next generation often with abusive results.
Second, so many Salvadorans have been abandoned. Their parents, mentors, and role models fled the country for new opportunities. Children and young adults were left behind to fend for themselves with no one to guide them along the way. They were left vulnerable to all kinds of circumstances, and left as easy targets to adults who would seek to manipulate them. I have lived this myself, along with so many in my country.
A third factor is constant gang harassment. No one is immune…children, youth, and adults are all vulnerable. Gangs have been targeting families in El Salvador for a long time and they demand anything they want. Families are forced to move to escape the pressure and neighborhoods are terrorized in El Salvador every single day. The chronic fear never lets up.
Finally, in my country there is unrest in the streets. There is always an expectation that something will happen. I like to run and one day as I was running in the street I passed someone and he jumped in fear because he hadn’t seen me coming. We live with the constant feeling that we will be robbed, that we will be questioned about where we are from and where we are going. We get suspicious looks from everyone, everywhere that we go. We must be always on our guard, prepared for anything and everything. We all know that violence could be waiting just up ahead.
Some may call it a war, political distress, or gang related issues. We are affected just like every country that has experienced frequent violence, but the thing I love about my country is that there is a desire to overcome the struggles that we face each day. The difficulties, and the violence, do not erase what I see. I see many people in El Salvador continue to show love and kindness, and continue to reach out to those in need.
Things happen that make me still believe that things can change. The other day I was on my way to work on the bus and we began to approach a street where an old man always begs. I noticed the bus driver searching for something in his bag. I realized that it was his breakfast. The bus driver grabbed his sandwich and quickly veered to the side of the road to give his meal to the old man. When I see this, I see that we can all do our part. We can stop complaining about the violence and start to do something for our neighbor. Only then can a brighter future start to shine for El Salvador.