Friday, April 5, 2013

April miseries, April beauties

For me, "April is the cruelest month" here in El Salvador - not because of the lilacs that T.S. Eliot wrote about, but because the combination of heat, dust and the smoke from burning cane fields makes moving and breathing heavy, hard. 

April is the month before the rains start.  Everything is dry: the big trees still keep their green, but the fields and sides of the road are dust-colored.  It's the sixth month without rain.  Besides the burning cane fields (they are burned to clear away the tough out leaves and leave the juicy interior stalk to be cut and carried off for processing into cane sugar), trash is burned and spontaneous fires start on hillsides and volcano slopes.  They never seem to turn into wild fires: I suppose there must still be  deep moisture under the dry surfaces that keep them from exploding.

One of the pleasures, then, in this cruelest heat, is getting into the air-conditioned car and driving down the road to San Martin and San Salvador, encased in a bubble of cool.  And one of the great pleasures along that drive is the new face of San Bartolomé Perulapía, the town just before San Martin.  When I first moved to Suchitoto, Perulapía was no fun to drive through.  Lots of gang graffiti, signs that suggested deep quarrels between political and religious sectors.  But since a new mayor was elected in 2012, a beautiful change has come upon Perulapía.  All along the main street, house fronts have been turned into vivid, lively murals, like this one honoring San Romero of the Americas:

Or this one, where I caught the painter in the act:
And Perulapía, which once seemed dangerous and drab now invites visitors and makes a high point for my escapes from the heat of April.

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