Saturday, December 10, 2011

The best of times, the worst of times

Today began so beautifully, with the firecrackers at 4 AM giving notice that it was time for our neighborhood, el Barrio Calvario, to gather for our procession to the church to make our "ofrenda" to Santa Lucia.  We gathered outside the home of my next-door neighbor, Dinora, and drank coffee and ate pan dulce while we waited to begin.  I talked with Martha about how beautiful these celebrations are, how I wish we had such fiestas in my own country.  We walked and sang and carried our candles into the church, where we placed them below one of the santos or at the entrance to the santísimo (the sanctuary).  We participated in the Mass that began at 5:45, and afterwards I walked home, thinking about the possibility of a nap.

Just as I was about to turn the corner onto my street, the peaceful scene was shattered.  I didn't hear a bullet, but I saw my neighbor Dinora come running, crying out that "they killed the Niña Julia."  (Niña is in this case a respectful way to name an older woman).  Julia runs a little restaurant on the corner that's part of the mercado building; her son owns the disco behind our house.  We quickly learned that she wasn't dead, but was seriously wounded; the police arrived to carry her to the local hospital, where her wounds were beyond their capabilities; she was sent on to Hospital Rosales, an hour away in the capital.  I am praying for her to live.

How could such a horror happen in the middle of our fiesta, in the middle of this little town that's usually an oasis from the violence that seems worse every day in El Salvador?  No one knows exactly; there's speculation that she didn't pay the renta (protection money).  It's said that the shooter was an adolescent boy.  I don't know if the bystanders knew who he was, and if they did know, I don't know whether they'll tell the police.

With little trust in the police and even less in the courts, ordinary Salvadorans have no solution to the violence that has become so everyday here.  And they have reason not to trust the police and the courts: just this past week, a judge refused to let a witness appear in a facial mask and refused to have him use voice distorting equipment.  The next day two of the witness' relatives were killed.

My Salvadoran friends will go on, living their lives as best they can in as much peace as they can find, fearing for the future of their sons and daughters, and I will go on accompanying them.  And praying for the life of the Niña Julia.  And praying for peace.

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