This sign says “Welcome, President Obama.” Huge billboards, roadside signs, and posters saying the same are hung from trees and telephone poles are all over San Salvador this week.
The big news in El Salvador right now is the arrival of President Obama and the First Lady. They will be here on Tuesday and Wednesday and it is a nationwide event. Both of our kids’ schools are closed for the duration of the presidential visit and many streets will be closed making it viritually impossible to get around certain areas of the city. Many businesses and government offices will be shut down as well. Our friends who work at the U.S. Embassy will be working long hours, and hundreds of extra security workers will be swarming the city. To escape the chaos, we will be leaving tomorrow morning for a two day “Obama-cation” at the beach to take advantage of the extra vacation time for the kids.
During his visit, discussions about security and poverty are on the agenda according to local papers. El Salvador , like the rest of Central America, is a cross-roads for drug and human trafficking and a country that is troubled by gang violence, a soaring homicide rate, and poverty.
He will also visit some of the local Mayan ruins as well as the tomb of Archbishop Oscar Romero. Romero was murdered on March 24, 1980 so Obama will be visiting the day before the anniversary of his death. Obama is the first U.S. president to do this and it is a significant gesture. During the war, Romero came to be a hero for the guerilla fighters. The government fighting the guerillas was backed by the U.S. Obama visiting Romero’s tomb is an act that will surely endear him to many Salvadorans.
It is just another part of cross-cultural life to understand the way that our government can have such an impact on those of other countries, and it definitely is a new experience to see all the buzz in the country surrounding Obama’s visit this week.