Microcredit in El Salvador



Día 69, 10/10/2010

On a break last weekend, I met two other Kiva buddies and went on a wave/seafood hunt. The beach was great, and we actually got a lot of work done scouting the area of my next assignment.


La Gotera

These pics, from a fog-run away from the crazy wild dogs-don´t get caught in a flash flood hike, are what it really looks and feels like where I live.

San Miguel

I spent Sunday in neighboring town of San Miguel, second largest in El Salvador, talking to people in the market. San Miguel is a wild place – super urban, with some colonial influence, it suffers from a lot of gang activity and a deteriorating infrastructure. Everyone I met was extremely nice, and I learned a lot about the relocation of perishable goods from rural to urban areas.


The Old Playhouse



PROESA and Mozote

Día 35, 9/5/2010

On Sunday, I woke up at 4:30AM to spend the day working with Erick for PROESA, a Salvadoran development fund. PROESA sponsors Salvadorans living in remote and hard to reach areas with training, supplies, and transportation, helping them start and run agricultural and tourism-based businesses.

We spent the morning with a woman and her two daughters, bringing them to a local fería and helping them sell home made candies and snacks. I never realized how much work it is for the many vendors who sell products at street fairs, from getting their stuff to the fair to spending the entire day selling what they have.

Building damaged from the war with guerilla inscriptions

To pick the family up in the morning, we drove almost an hour over a terrible dirt road to the town of Mozote. As we drove back, they casually mentioned that Mozote was a three hour walk from their house, and would we mind taking them a little bit farther? Another hour and a half later, the road became impassable, and we dropped them off to walk the final thirty minutes home. It´s incredible how isolated some of the people I´ve met here are, and how matter-of-factly they accept a three hour walk in the morning and in the evening to sell their goods.


On our way out, we spent a little bit more time in Mozote, a tow famous for being the site of a terrible massacre during the war. I talked about it a little bit here a while ago.

Montañas de Morazán

Then I spent the weekend with a Salvadoran friend, Erick. He was a great guide and I explored more of Morazán (the county where I live) than I had ever seen.

We went hiking through some incredibly beautiful mountains

hung out at the river,

and had a few great meals at his house. Erick´s dad is a really well-known carpenter, and has a giant workshop in the backyard.

La Vida Dura

Día 31, 9/1/2010

There´s been a lot of work the last few days. This weekend was the end of the month, which meant a lot of chasing down borrowers, scrambling to get in last minute payments, and everyone trying to get their accounts in order. No days off (what weekend?) and some late nights.

Besides the schedule, life in general is really tough. It´s tough to find good food,interesting Sunday markets,new anti-American-Imperialism Cuban reading material,

The Complete Military Economy and World Imperialism

good places to hike,

and the doorways are almost always too short.

This happens at least once per day

There also aren´t a lot of exciting things happening this week, like Birthdays.

El Cuco

On Saturday morning, I was ready for a break from the mountains, and I jumped a 3hr bus to El Cuco. El Cuco is one of Eastern El Salvador´s more popular coastal towns, and is known for being a big party destination in the summer. There are several noticeable differences between the beaches in El Salvador and those found in Orange County.

The Crowds

Or rather, the lack of crowds.

The Waves

On Saturday afternoon, I took a hike around the hills and valleys away from the main town. I had heard about some good surfing by El Cuco, but thought that most of the breaks were a away and hard to access. All of a sudden, I stumbled onto a sign for this, and a path to one of the more famous surfing spots in Central America, Las Flores. Las Flores lies within a hidden valley, with thick forest all around hiding it from view. After a few minutes talking with security about their families in Gotera, I was allowed to “sneak” in and “promise” to buy $25 worth of food.

Suddenly found myself surrounded by Brasilians, Argentinians, and Americans at one of the country´s most famous surf resorts. This place was incredible – 80 degree water, hamocks, and uncrowded waves that break for 300 meters.

The coolest part, though, was getting away from the wealthy gringos and hanging out in the local camp next door, where all the hotel staff lives. I stayed there for a long time, eating and sleeping and talking about the thirty-year history of surfing (and incoming gringo surfistas) in El Salvador. One group of women had used a microloan to set up a campsite and several huts on the beach, and was doing good business with the gringos smart enough to not pay $200/night at the hotel. Other teeneagers who could blend in at Huntington Beach lounged around with their boards, only to jump up and run with their crafts and necklaces to any interested-looking gringo walking by. Like many of El Salvador´s popular tourist sites, the wealth disparity was immediate and pronounced, but at lease here the waves were free and waiting for everyone.

The swell was big, and I agonizingly decided not to test it out after seeing a board snapped in half. But I am already ready to go back.

The Accomodations

I stayed in a “ranchito,” which was a big plot of land turned into a mini-hotel on the water.

There were probably 10 rooms, 5 showers, three dogs, and me.

The Locals

Over two days, I saw sea turtles, flying fish, oysters, clams, lots of crabs, a ray, big spiders, lizards, one frog in my room, and roosters. I also saw a lot of fish. The fish, and everything else for that matter, are never refrigerated. Instead, there´s some sort of process for drying out both fish and red meat so that it doesn´t spoil for several days. Or at least everybody pretends that it´s not spoiling for several days. This is still kind of baffling to me, but so far so good with my stomach. Thankfully no stingrays or jellyfish, which I had heard about.

The Sunset

I know we have these at home, but this one was particularly awesome.

The Bus Ride Home

Not a bad 3 hours of looking at Volcán San Miguel to end the weekend.