I wake up this morning to the news that the death toll in Oslo, Norway is up to 94 after a bombing and shooting spree. I was reading about it yesterday in the news when only “several people” had been injured from the bombing and they weren’t sure about the numbers from the shooting.
I am thinking about violence in the world. I am in a violent country right now where I cannot go where I want, whenever I want to. I mean honestly, so far, I have not felt unsafe in El Salvador. A little uncomfortable at times, but not unsafe. Although I have also not taken a bus yet or gone into some of the more dangerous “municipios” or cities in San Salvador. Just to clarify, San Salvador is the capital of El Salvador and it is a departamento or state in El Salvador. It’s a little confusing.
My friend, who know lives in Washington, D.C., grew up in one of the most dangerous areas of San Salvador, the city of Soyapango. He told me the San Salvador he grew up in is very different from the San Salvador I have seen so far. I am not in the nicest or wealthiest area, but it’s safe more or less.
In areas like Soyapango the gangs, or Maras, have made it a very scary place to live. People are not out after dark, shopkeepers have to pay off the gangs to stay in business and the “security” of being in a gang is a constant temptation for youth living in extreme poverty, without any other opportunities on the horizon. Another friend of mine from Soyapango, also now in the U.S., does not speak highly of her country. Her mother put her on a plane to the U.S. when gang members were threatening her mother’s business. Another friend’s mother, from El Salvador, looked at me like I was crazy when I said I wanted to come live here. She is from another dangerous area called Apopa.
Last night I was exposed to, not a rougher San Salvador, but an americanized San Salvador. I was in two different neighborhoods with nice restaurants, clubs and American and European brands like Nine West, Northface (winter gear in E.S.?), ZARA, Steve Madden, etc.
The first neighborhood we went to was Centro Comercial or Gran Via. To my surprise our friend Hugo wanted to go to Bennigan’s because he likes their mojitos. You know, the chain restaurant you see around the U.S. “American fare, Irish hospitality.” I almost died. I thought it was funny, bizarre and disturbing all at once. So I was in Bennigan’s having buffalo wings and a mojito, in a room where everyone is speaking Spanish and Latin music is booming through the speakers. I was thinking to the people I spent time with in the country this week, coming into this restaurant would seem as out-of-place to them as it did to me. Lesson: never underestimate the influence of power and money. Also, don’t forget how small the world is. I am only a 4 ½ hour plane ride from D.C. Capitalism has reached much further.
Then it was off to a gay dance club in the area of La Zona Rosa. This area has lots of nice restaurants and bars. When I met Irene’s friend Hugo, a tall, handsome Guatemalan, I was intrigued by what it must be like to be gay in El Salvador, or Guatemala for that reason. He told me he doesn’t like living here all that much, the social scene for gays is definitely lacking. But he has a good job and a nice house. Seeing this club made me happy in a weird way. I guess I felt relieved or something that gay people here have an outlet. El Salvador, like the rest of Central America, does not take kindly to homosexuality. But as much as people want to deny it or abhor it, people are going to find a way to live their lives, be who they want to be and love who they want to love. It’s just the way it is.
Violence and hate is everywhere. You can let fear paralyze you or you can live your life. There are people who have to push that fear away everyday and carry on. The people in Oslo are doing that right now and there people in San Salvador right now doing the same.
P.S. Of course, I forgot my damn camera last night so there are no pictures. I promise I’m going to be better about this.