Thursday, January 8, 2009

A visit to the campo

We visited the countryside today, taking what seemed like a long journey to visit Rosita and her daughters and son in the El Paraiso area of Chalate-nango. It turned out to be only about 42 miles one way, but given that I was driving, getting used to a stick-shift again (turns out to be like riding a bicycle - you don't forget), and navigating the challenging traffic of El Salvador, it felt like a looonnng trip.

Above top, Lupita, Rosita, me, and Edith (pronounced eh DEET, more or less, and I have no idea how she spells it in Spanish), and the two beautiful girls below. Rosita has been connected with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace and PeaceHealth since 1989 when she came to Jesuit Refugee Services at El Despertar in San Salvador. She was 11 years old then, and had lost both legs below the knee from crude amputations - perhaps resulting from an infection or gangrene, she didn't really know why. She met Sister Eleanor at El Despertar, and was eventually fitted with prostheses which she uses like a pro today. In the years Eleanor was away from El Salvador (1993 - 2000) Rosita had her three children, but without any lasting relationship to their fathers and no way to support herself, they were mired in deep poverty. Through the help of Eleanor and friends among the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace and at PeaceHealth, Rosita has been able to buy a small lot and have a two-room house built, very simple and campo style, but adequate space for her family; she has banana trees on the lot which yield fruit that they can eat and sell, a well, an outhouse, a small flock of chickens tended by a glorious rooster and some scrawny dogs and cats, and her daughters are going to school. It's a life that would still seem like deep poverty to any norteamericano, but for this little family it's security and a bit of hope. It was good to be there and to connect with Rosita.

The other wonderful connection today came when we went to the Archdiocesan offices so I could apply for a carnet - a card identifying me as a Sister. There, by blessed serendipity, Eleanor was able to introduce me to Monseñor Ricardo Urioste, who was Secretary and Vicar General to Archbishop Oscar Romero. He was sad that he had missed seeing Sister Andrea, whom he remembered from her work at the Calle Real refugee camp, and I was sorry too, as it would have been a joy to have witnessed their meeting. Like Oscar Romero, Monseñor Urioste has been a powerful voice for social justice in El Salvador. He is a humble, warm and friendly man, and it was a great honor to meet him.

Both Rosita and Monseñor Urioste remind me that I am living in a country filled with the memory of war, loss, holiness and hope.

1 comment:

  1. What a great story, Susan, and your adventure seems to be filling all sorts of places in your heart.
    I love reading about this journey of yours in which you pick up the threads from PeaceHealth and CSJP contacts and carry on into the next, as yet unknown, point of human service.
    Many thanks--muchos gratias!