Saturday, November 28, 2009

A visit to El Bario

Yesterday Alexine, Margaret Jane and I visited El Bario, a village that is part of the Suchitoto municipality. Many people from El Bario lived in the Calle Real refugee camp in the mid-1980s when Margaret Jane and Andrea Nenzel worked there - walking in with Margaret Jane is a bit like being an escort for a star! Lita, who once travelled to a Geneva conference on refugees with Margaret Jane, showed us around her beautiful and well-organized village. In the top photo, Lita (in pink) stands with her mother, Margaret Jane and Alexine. Other photos show the village chapel, Alexine with two very delightful young girls, an older girl with a hen on the way to market, and a mother watching over her daughters who are embroidering panels for baby dresses. The panels end up on clothes in the United States; the girls get two dollars for each panel, which is pretty good pay in El Salvador, especially for work that can be done in a friendly group of girls.

El Bario was organized as a cooperative in the 1970s. They were forced off their land during the Civil War, but were one of the first communities to return in the late 1980s - in part because they feared that if they did not return they would lose their land. This is a very well organized farming community, with a school, a community center, a corn mill, a small store and the chapel; it feels to someone from the United States like an extended family, and so it is. Lita sent us home with embroidered handkerchiefs and a recently published study of El Bario's history and present life - great memories of a very special day.

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