Thursday, September 9, 2010
Spanish lesson for the day:
finca - farm.
reverdecer - to grow green again.
ANADES has this amazing finca in Sonsonate, a few hours outside of San Salvador, way up in the mountains where the weather is cooler, the clouds feel lower, and the people live a different type of poverty than in the city. Here, people struggle with gang violence, delinquency, unemployment, pollution, and the locura that is this city. (Take, for example, the chaos that has been the past few days as gang threats have led to a bus strike, leaving the city at a standstill). In the countryside, though, the poverty looks a little different. There is still machismo, of course, but there, at least, people aren´t afraid to talk to their neighbor. Kids aren´t afraid to run around outside and play. But the opportunities are few - there are virtually no jobs to be found, outside of the agricultural sector, and if you want to make it to high school, you´ll have to find a way to travel for hours on a bus every day. Forget about university, unless you can somehow find a scholarship that will pay for tuition, transportation costs, books, and maybe even living costs in the city. The mountains protect the people, perhaps, from the chaos and violence of the city, but they also entrap, as the isolated communities are starving for economic development, hospitals, running water and opportunity.
ANADES has this awesome finca in Sonsonate, Finca San Jorge. It supplies each of their five education centers around the country with organic food for the kids, and what is leftover is sold. There, everything from coffee to corn, beans, fruits, lots of veggies, and herbs are grown. Livestock are raised, and a couple of huge henhouses provide tons of eggs. The money ANADES makes from the sale of food from the finca (especially the delicious coffee) and the ecotourism project there (there are some cabins, a cafeteria, and some amazing waterfalls and trails to explore) almost pays for the operating budget for the whole NGO every year. It´s an amazing lesson in sustainability, not only for the environment (yay organic agriculture!) but also in the operation of a self-sustaining NGO.
For me, the finca is literally the most beautiful place on earth. Not only are the mountain views and waterfalls and hiking paths beautiful, but the people who live and work there are super welcoming and friendly. For me, it´s also very spiritual. Last year, as a student at the Casa, we made a silent retreat there, and I remember finding such healing and redemption there, watching the rain roll in over the mountains and meditating in the maizales, or corn fields. I think corn, especially in El Salvador, is a powerful symbol of resurrection. Only when the old crops are burned to dust can the new crops grow again. ¨Pues, cuando ardió la pérdida, reverdecieron sus maizales.¨ That´s what El Salvador is for me. Sometimes there is so much suffering and injustice I feel like the whole world is burning. But then, miraculously, beauty springs forth from the ashes. A child goes to school. Two people in love get married. An old lady gives me directions on the bus.
There is also this tree. This seriously sacred tree. It´s an amate tree. It is huge and ancient, and you have to hike up and down mountainous, rocky, muddy paths and through the corn fields, eventually crossing a makeshift bridge before you finally arrive. But when you get there, you get it. The pilgrimage was totally worth it. Her roots do not dig deeper into the ground, but grow out, covering everything around, wrapping around this huge boulder. Sitting under the immense shade, being sheltered by the tree, supported by her roots, I feel held, protected. And there is this unbelievable view. The tree watches over this expansive valley in between two mountain ranges, river running through the valley below, and on a clear day you can see all the way to the sea. The sky is expansive. The ocean meets the sky and the land and me and there is grace, grace, grace.