Sometimes the contrasts in this city are striking. I live in the middle of them all the time. In one day, I can talk to some friends that are wealthy, and influential, and powerful…and then later in the afternoon I can talk to a woman begging for food while I’m in my car at a stoplight.
There is wealth in this country, in the hands of a few. And there are millions struggling to make it through the day. We really don’t fit in either category. We are sandwiched in with the emerging middle class of this country. There are a few in this middle class, but many don’t stop and look back on their way up and out of poverty.
Yesterday, I passed something I pass nearly every day. It’s an outdoor shopping mall that has many top of the line stores selling everything from granite counter tops to handbags costing hundreds of dollars. There is even a Chili’s and a Starbucks. A movie theater with stadium style seating shows the latest hits from Hollywood. Kids can go zip-lining, or bungee jump on a trampoline, or mini-golf, or ride the little train. When we miss the States, all we have to do is hang out at this plaza which caters to the middle and upper classes of San Salvador.
But the contrast is apparent when you look across the street. Literally across the highway there are homes built on a median strip by the road. The houses are made out of trash and dirt and muddy plastic sheets. These two contrasts live in full view of one another. The ultra-rich, and the ultra-poor. The “system” has not worked for our friends on the median strip.
In San Salvador, like the many thousands of urban centers around the world, the contrasts point to the reality of the brokenness that exists. Some are getting richer and richer, and others are growing more desperate. I am sure that those on the median strip are aware that the fancy plaza mall exists. They can see it every day. But do those frequenting the restaurants and designer stores, see the disparity before their eyes? Really see…people…and not just something unpleasant blocking their view.
What about us? What do we notice as we move in and out of the urban centers, the broken places, the failed systems of the world? Do we notice those on the fringes? Or are they just something blocking our view on the way to the nicer part of town?