The end of this journey’s road took us to the Salvadoran countryside. The green was a welcome break from the asphalt streets, cement shopping malls and traffic jams of busy San Salvador. Some of the team visited a women’s cooperative making the wine we had already found in Wal-Mart. Bottles at home didn’t stop an impromptu tasting on the go. . .
On Friday afternoon Steve, Gita and Kate went on a rolling green, curve hugging, volcanic vista, sugarcane sweet road trip to the western corner of the country. Led by Eduardo Cader, Bpeace’s fast driving, enthusiast and unshakable liaison for this week, we were taken on a tour of his favorite places in the stunning yet humble mountain villages of this coffee region.
Eduardo has a long family history here. His great great grandmother is buried in a local church. But today the building faces a town plaza abuzz with the sounds of marching bands and the joy of a Children’s Day parade. We grabbed a pastry at a corner shop and onward we went. We walked the cobbled streets of villages where old women in the park called out hellos at our passing, dogs wandered or dozed, their occasional sound breaking the quiet of a sunny slumbering afternoon.
As we marveled at the beauty of these towns’ fading architecture we couldn’t help but feel the nostalgia for something soon to pass. A few smart shops, creative and colorful cafe murals are emerging. San Salvadorans and tourists are beginning to discover these untouched places. Even Wal-Mart has landed here as the chain has developed a small town Salvadoran model. Change is afoot. Will it impact the poverty productively? Largely unmarked by violence, will development bring conflict?
But for today we enjoyed the view and felt peace and safety. In many ways these small villages represent what is possible here — the graciousness of a beautiful and rightfully proud country. Yes, the spirit of El Salvador has captured both our hearts and our intellect.
This is the beginning of Bpeace’s exploration, not the end. In the coming months we will need to skillfully map Bpeace’s path here, deploying equal parts of heart and mind to address the country’s opportunity gap in the Bpeace way — creating jobs, creating hope, reducing violence.