Friday, June 5, 2009

The really important thing

The really important thing that happened on June 1st in El Salvador - and that I didn't blog about because I ran out of time - was the inauguration of President Mauricio Funes, the first President from the left-wing FMLN. This is also, I believe, the first peaceful and democratic transition of government from one party to an opposing one in El Salvador's history. A wonderful and memorable day!

At the start of the day, Funes and his wife went to the crypt of the Cathedral to pray at Monseñor Romero's tomb, and to pledge themselves to carry on his preferential option for the poor - a moment of deep resonance throughout El Salvador.

Marta and I watched it all on television from Suchitoto - an event filled with pomp and ceremony, and with deep meaning. I rejoiced in Hillary Clinton's presence - wearing a red pantsuit, the FMLN color - as a sign of U.S. Government support for this democratic transition and for Funes. And we rejoiced in Funes' inaugural address, where he called for a focus on the needs of the poorest people in El Salvador, for new homes, a better healthcare system, better education. Funding all of this and carrying it out will not be easy, it never is, but Funes begins his term with a 72% approval rating, which will surely help. For more details on his speech and the first steps of the new government, go to Tim's El Salvador blog, always an excellent source of evenhanded information. By the way, Funes named Obama and Brazil's President Lula da Silva as his inspirations in choosing the path ahead.

Now I find myself in Guatemala, which is having its own political troubles. But in the beautiful city of Antigua, all seems very calm and peaceful (and full of U.S. tourists - you hear as much English as Spanish in the streets). I'm spending four hours a day with my splendid teacher, Rosa Maria, and let me tell you, it is exhausting to have one-to-one instruction for four hours. Home is about eight blocks from the school, with Thelma Molina, who has a great family and a pleasant house - and is a good cook as well. Between times, I'm reading novels in Spanish, going to Mass at the historic churches here, and wandering happily in Antigua. Oh, and going to sleep at 8:30 pm because I can't keep my eyes open any longer.

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