Letter, April 15, 1975

Dear Jan,

I was glad to hear you enjoyed the Smokies trip so much. I am envious. It all sounds so beautiful, especially the clear fresh streams, as it is still dry as a bone here. I can just see Tom exploring all the new sights & sounds. He is so spontaneous & curious, I think he’s got an excellent mind & hope he develops it well. It’s really good for him to get out of the local atmosphere & experience new environments (both natural & human) at his age.

I have been in the city (San Salvador) for several days now. I’m hoping to change my job as I’m very dissatisfied with my present one. They haven’t given me anything, really, to do until recently & I feel the work they have in mind for me now is “flunky work”, trying to find the best way to get around the people & get them to accept the way they (the heads) have decided to carry out the project (in Atiocoyo), rather than adapting their plans to the needs of the people. There is no input from the “grass roots” level here. All the orders come down from above, & everyone just bustles around trying to make poorly conceived plans work. It is a form of neo-fascism, I have to say, if I want to be honest about it, & if I don’t want to be an instrument , I have to find work on a level closer to the rural people, the campesinos (peasants), who are the system’s economic base, & it’s worst victims. Wow! They’d call me a communist for saying that here, but it’s true!

So much for my troubles. I talked with Harry Brokish, a friend from my U.W. {University of Wisconsin} days yesterday. He and his wife took a trip through South America overland, spent 3-4 weeks. They really saw a lot! He says the food in Argentina is great & cheap, and that despite all you hear about the unrest there, that the people are friendly, & the agriculture is surprisingly modern, almost like the midwestern U.S. He says Peru is in really bad shape though. There are tanks in the streets, the people are poor, discouraged & unfriendly, & that the government keeps Americans under almost continual surveillance. They hit about every country but Brazil, taking local transportation mostly, & saw some things you just wouldn’t see on a Pan-Am tour!

About coming down here in January or February, that’s a good time to come since it is the dry season (almost 0 chance of a rain storm), and there are no Salvadoran holidays in those months so the beaches won’t be mobbed.

It is of course the American tourist season, but they don’t exactly come in droves! If you decide to come, maybe I’ll take some vacation & we can take a bus down to Costa Rica (it is beautiful there), or go up into Guatemala where there are some fantastic Mayan ruins. If you can stand the unbelievably crowded buses, we can see quite a bit of stuff, or if you just want to take it easy, we can go to the beach.

The question of people’s reaction to North Americans is really too complicated to answer in a few sentences. It ranges from servile admiration (as if we were a superior race and their patrons) to a willingness to blame us for all their nation’s own problems as well as the world’s. One guy demanded of me: “Why didn’t you help us in the war with Honduras?” It seems that Guatemala & Nicaragua sided with Honduras in this 1972 conflict, & he thought we should have sided with El Salvador (Since they were obviously in the right!). Generally people are friendly though, even if they don’t especially like the U.S. government or big U.S. companies. They have, many of them, learned a little English in school, & they never tire of trying it out on you. It is sometimes irritating, since what they say is hard to understand, & you can bet they won’t understand you if you reply in English, but it is prestigious to speak English here, so I guess you have to live with it.

Take care,


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