Made In El Salvador

This blog entry about the events of Saturday, December 08, 2007 was originally posted on December 12, 2007.

DAY 19:  Being in a familiar scene of a modern city was actually a nice change of pace from being on the go from site to site on the gringo trail to fill the day-to-day entries of this stupid blog.  A brief reversion to “normalcy” has helped me recharge in the past, like it had staying with Shelle and the ex-pats in Lusaka, Zambia, hanging out, going out to restaurants, and sitting around watching TV and DVDs.

My last day of normalcy in San Salvador was one hanging out with my unexpectedly gracious host JP, who picked me up at 2:30 in the afternoon.  I hopped in the front seat of his Volvo this time.  “Tatiana’s not coming?” I wondered.

“Tatiana was going to come, but she still had to take a shower.  I said, ‘This guy’s leaving tomorrow!’”

The reason for the haste was because our destination, the Parque Archaeologico San Andres (a 30-minute drive from San Salvador) was going to close before dusk.  Going there was one final attempt to at least show me something touristy during my stay, plus JP’s wanted to show me one of his old teenage haunts.  And so, armed with a couple of McPollo sandwiches and a cooler full of beers, we head east on the highway as Rage Against The Machine came on the radio.

THE RIDE TO THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE in the Zapotitan Valley became a lesson in El Salvadorean state of affairs.  Striving to no longer be a post-civil war “banana republic,” the country is on its way to economic betterment, evident in the repaving of roads, and the industry lining the sides of them.  Beyond the orchards of cholesterol-lowering goji berries were many factories and office buildings, most producing goods that Americans companies simply slap their labels on.  “That’s the biggest manufacturer of towels in Central America,” tour guide JP told me.  “[Martha Stewart puts her labels on them and sells them in the States.]”  Along with that we saw factories for Ralph Lauren and Nike, who all branded price-bloated items with tags declaring proudly, “Made In El Salvador.”

The recent economic boom has spawned many emigrated Salvadoreans to come back to their homeland; the population increased by almost three million in the past seven years with more work and better jobs.  El Salvador, like other Central American countries, has also been taking tech sector and call center jobs away from Bangalore, India, mostly because (according to JP) for the same price, you get better results, and with similar time zones.  And the economy would only get better; El Salvador is on track to making their own oil refineries to process imported oil from Venezuela — cutting out the expensive refining middle man:  the USA.

SOON A SIGN APPEARED: Parque Archaeologico San Andres.  “That’s a very Spanish Mayan name,” I pointed out — yet the impressive Mayan site went undetected for centuries after the Spanish colonial rule.  It wasn’t until about fifty years ago that it began undergoing archaeological investigation, after a company was planning to use the area for production.  Unlike Tikal, the principal Mayan ruins of San Andres made in El Salvador haven’t been completely uncovered, most of it still remaining in the way it was found: covered under a layer of volcanic ash and overgrown with grass.  Currently an active archaeological site, only a few chambers have been uncovered within its multiple structures, with many found items on display in the nearby museum, also showing models of what is beneath the grassy mounds (picture above). 

As many newly discovered Mayan sites were, San Andres was not only a find in the archaeological world, but a place to hang out as a teen, climb the ruins while drinking beers and smoking blunts like in JP’s day.  Nowadays it is more of a developed park and historic attraction, mostly for picnicking families — we weren’t allowed to relive any of JP’s youth as the beers were forbidden in the park.  (We just drank them in the car after because, “Don’t worry about drinking while driving here; it’s so common.”)

“What do you think?” JP asked me about the ruins.

“I like it.  I like that there aren’t many tourists here; it’s not even in my guidebook.”

“Yeah, tourists mostly come to El Salvador mostly for surfing.”

THE MAYAN RUINS were the only “touristy” things that day; the rest of our time was spent back in San Salvador, back in “normalcy.”  JP salivated over a sweet 32” Samsung HDTV and a Nintendo Wii that he had his eye on at the mall when we went to get my printed airline tickets.  I picked up my laundry and we went to JP’s parents’ house, not too far from my hotel, to say hello to them (Elisa’s godmother Ines included), his grandmother and sister Carolina, who were all very welcoming in their colonial-style home.  I was still amazed at the extended hospitality coming from an brief encounter I had in China three years prior.

“I don’t have Facebook, I only have Myspace,” Ines told me, checking for emails on the laptop in the dining room.  She called her mother to come over.  “[It’s the friend of Elisa from New York that she met in China.]” 

My stay there was brief — but not without a quick photo — and after JP and I met up with Tatiana who, in her absence of the day trip, found a healthy lost-looking stray dog.  After a few arguments, they settled on bringing it to a pound for it probably had an owner.

THE EVENING WAS A CASUAL one.  We walked from JP’s parents house, down the block to the fairgrounds of the city’s Fair and Convention Center, where the Feria Panamerica was in full swing.  Part flea market, part food court, part Jersey shore boardwalk (arcade games and skill cranes included), it was an okay place to kill some time with churros (cut off a big spool the size of a garden hose), “crazy corn” (steamed corn on the cob smothered in mayonnaise, ketchup, worcestershire sauce and cheese) and a couple of carnival rides — bumper cars, and the generic rotating whirlabout carnival ride that thankfully didn’t cause any ejection of semi-digested crazy corn.

“I’m dizzy.”

With stomachs back to normal, we ended the night at a local restaurant specializing in comida typica for one more definitive item made in El Salvador: pupusas, the stuffed tortilla treats served with Salvadorean sauerkraut — this time with pork, cheese, and beans.  With it I had horchata and another new Salvadorean favorite:  pasteles de platano, a half-savory, half-sweet “lasagna” with layers of beans, cheese, tortillas and plaintains with a savory dollop of cream on top. 

“Now you’ve seen urban Salvadorean life,” Tatiana said to me.

“Hope you liked it here,” JP said.  “Next time you should spend more time here.”  He mentioned a ton of other places he could have taken me.

“This was great. It was nice,” I told them about my stay.  “When you travel, you just go from site to site.  It gets tiring.”  I thanked them for their hospitality by buying them dinner, glad to have been in their company in what many other travelers with no hook-ups would have just brushed off as a generic modern city not worth coming too.  “Yeah, like you said, most people just come for surfing.”

That night, JP and Tatiana dropped me off at my hotel.  I invited them to come to New York, and they invited me to come back again, and for a longer time too.  One day perhaps I would, for friendships are made in El Salvador too.






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Comments for “Made In El Salvador”

  • OKAY, Im back from the jungle… here’s the rest of El Salvador… Honduras to come… I’m rushing off to Costa Rica now…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/12  at  04:17 PM


  • It’s great to see hospitality alive and well.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/12  at  05:27 PM


  • “Mayan ruins of San Andres” and “haven’t been completely uncovered” are dupe pics…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/12  at  05:28 PM


  • No Nicaragua?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/12  at  06:14 PM


  • I second Kent’s question… missing Nica??

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/12  at  08:47 PM


  • JP’s parents’ patio looks so nice!!

    After all this, you are going to find Costa Rica full of gringos!

    One more week and a day until Guatemala!

    Posted by sara  on  12/12  at  08:51 PM


  • KENT/NOELLE:  Nica please… In due time; I’m not going linearly on this trip…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/12  at  09:41 PM


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This blog post is one of thirty-nine travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip: The Central American Eviction Tour* (*with jaunt to Colombia)," which chronicled a six-week journey through Central America, with a jaunt to Bogota, Colombia.

Next entry:
BFFN (Best Friend For Now)

Previous entry:
Brotherhood Of The Cock




THE GLOBAL TRIP GLOSSARY

Confused at some of the jargon that's developed with this blog and its readers over the years? Here's what they mean:

BFFN: acronym for "Best Friend For Now"; a friend made on the road, who will share travel experiences for the time being, only to part ways and lose touch with

The Big Trip: the original sixteen month around-the-world trip that started it all, spanning 37 countries in 5 continents over 503 days (October 2003–March 2005)

NIZ: acronym for "No Internet Zone"; a place where there is little to no Internet access, thus preventing dispatches from being posted.

SBR: acronym for "Silent Blog Reader"; a person who has regularly followed The Global Trip blog for years without ever commenting or making his/her presence known to the rest of the reading community. (Breaking this silence by commenting is encouraged.)

Stupid o'clock: any time of the early morning that you have to wake up to catch a train, bus, plane, or tour. Usually any time before 6 a.m. is automatically “stupid o’clock.”

The Trinidad Show: a nickname of The Global Trip blog, used particularly by travelers that have been written about, who are self-aware that they have become "characters" in a long-running story — like characters in the Jim Carrey movie, The Truman Show.

WHMMR: acronym for "Western Hemisphere Monday Morning Rush"; an unofficial deadline to get new content up by a Monday morning, in time for readers in the western hemisphere (i.e. the majority North American audience) heading back to their computers.

1981ers: people born after 1981. Originally, this was to designate groups of young backpackers fresh out of school, many of which were loud, boorish and/or annoying. However, time has passed and 1981ers have matured and have been quite pleasant to travel with. The term still refers to young annoying backpackers, regardless of year — I guess you could call them "1991ers" in 2013 — young, entitled millennials on the road these days, essentially.




Spelling or grammar error? A picture not loading properly? Help keep this blog as good as it can be by reporting bugs.

The views and opinions written on The Global Trip blog are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the official views and opinions of the any affiliated publications.
All written and photographic content is copyright 2002-2014 by Erik R. Trinidad (unless otherwise noted). "The Global Trip" and "swirl ball" logos are service marks of Erik R. Trinidad.
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