These are the highlights of my first time visiting El Salvador in 20 years. It is not that I didn’t want to return and see the place where I was born and spend time with my family who still lives there; it is that it took me that long to get my legal papers so I could travel.
I spent a month in El Salvador, I will not go into details about what I did or places that I visited; you probably don’t care and is not the purpose of sharing my story. I want to share with everyone my mindset at the beginning of the trip, and at the end.
Obviously, after 20 years of living in a safer environment, I was concerned about what El Salvador will look like, I was seven when I moved to the US. I consider myself a Salvadoran, that to this point had almost no interaction with the country.
The days leading to the trip affected me the worst, I kept on looking on the internet about Safety in El Salvador; I found more bad news than good news.
In the beginning, I was scared and expected the worst.
Some of you might relate to what I was feeling, I was gone from El Salvador for 20 years; going back was scary for me. Looking at news articles made it even worse, my mind was wondering, how can over 9 people get murder every day in such a small country.
Getting robbed within two hours of being back in El Salvador.
I got picked up from the airport by my brother, I was excited to see family that over the last 20 years I have got to know only over social media. I was looking forward to meeting them and giving them presents from America!
Well, it didn’t work out as planned. My brother wanted to go directly to the small town that the family lived in; but, me being me, I wanted a phone to use. After all, I was going to be there for a month and needed a phone.
Robbed at the mall in El Salvador.
On our way to the town my family lives in, we stopped at a shopping center near San Salvador so I could get my new phone, I am not going to list the name of the mall, as is irrelevant.
My brother drives a pick-up truck, so my luggage was in the back. At the mall, we parked in front of the security station and then moved the bags into the front seat, and of course, locked the doors.
We went inside the mall and got my new phone within 30 minutes. Now, I had my phone and was ready to go see the family. But, once we got back to the truck, my luggage was gone.
I couldn’t believe that I was robbed within two hours of being back into the country. How was this possible after we parked in front of the security station in a mall?
Of course, the security guard’s answer was that they haven’t seen anything. One of them even asked me, “Are you sure you had bags in the car?” He thought I was making things up. The next step was to file a police report.
My brother put me aside and told me that we could file a police report if I wanted; however, the chances of me getting things back were 0%. He said that it sucked, and probably the security guards were either involved or were afraid to say who robbed me. In the end, we left without filing a police report.
I loved my brother, but I was upset as he kept on saying that this was going to be a funny story that I could share in the future. So, I got to met the family with no presents.
The First week in El Salvador, my mindset.
My first week back in El Salvador was the worst, particularly after the incident with my luggage. I was afraid to leave the house, especially at night, even though the town I was staying at is one of the safest in the country.
My mindset was so screwed up at that point that I thought everyone other my relatives were criminals and were involved in shady stuff. Needless to say that because of the way my mind was overthinking things, my first week in the country was not fun.
What made me change my mindset.
This happened at the start of my second week in El Salvador. I went to city hall to get a copy of my birth certificate, I was alone as everyone in the family had to work or go to school.
I finished early, so I decided to venture into the park, which sits in front of the city hall or Alcaldia, a typical small town set up in El Salvador.
This was my first time on my own, I was still worried about being mugged; however, I saw police officers and city hall security all over, so I felt safer.
I bought a cup of coffee and bread from a small vendor in the park and decided to sit and look at what people did.
I was there for about 20 minutes enjoying the park and everything else when I saw two foreign girls looking for directions. They were smiling and being friendly, they were trying to communicate with the locals using their broken Spanish.
At one point, the two girls got in front of me while talking to this older man who was selling candy, he was a street vendor.
To my surprise, the older man points at me and asks me, “What are they saying? You live in the US.” I was like, how did he know that? It turns out that he lives next door to my family.
Two College students from Kansas.
I spoke with the girls, they were students from Kansas who were traveling across the country by themselves. I had so many questions for them, the one that came to mind first was, why aren’t you scared of traveling El Salvador alone?
After all, this was El Salvador, a country known as one of the most violent in the world. Also, these two girls were blonde and surely did stand out as foreigners.
I spent about two hours talking to them, I shared with them my story and how I was feeling; I told them that I couldn’t believe they were traveling alone.
They told me that they were always concerned about safety; but, that they had prepared their trip carefully as to where to go and stay at.
They shared with me what they had done so far and how many friendly Salvadorans they had met along the way.
I am not going to share their name as they are not backpackers or travelers who like posting things online. These two girls were college students visiting a unique country that they could afford.
Meeting these girls changed my mindset about El Salvador, they had probably seen the same articles or news that I had seen; but, unlike me, they had not formed a biased opinion about the country or the people.
In all honesty, I felt ashamed that as a Salvadoran; I had judged the entire country and the people before actually getting to know them.
From that point on, I decided that I was not going to be judgemental of others. I was still going to be careful, but I was going to be more open-minded.
My mindset after going back to El Salvador for a month.
My mindset changed after spending a month back in El Salvador. I went from being afraid and skeptical of people to becoming joyful and trusting.
I got to learn so much about the Salvadoran culture that can only be experienced in El Salvador. My parents did teach me about El Salvador and its culture; however, it is different once you see it with your own eyes in El Salvador.
I am lucky that my family lives in a safe small town, something that not all Salvadorans can say. Hopefully, things get better for the country soon!
Why I am not giving up my name.
I am not giving up my personal information and the town my family lives in for safety considerations.
Even though my family lives in a safe town in El Salvador, they are still in El Salvador. I don’t want anyone knowing who they are, am I being paranoid or overprotective? Perhaps, but it is better to be safe than sorry.
Why I am sharing my story.
I am sharing my story to apologize to all Salvadorans for being narrow minded about the country and its people. Especially being a Salvadoran.
Also, I would like for other Salvadorans and Non-Salvadorans who have never been in the country or have been away a long time like me, not to make assumptions of the nation or its people beforehand.