Letter, May 31, 1975

Hello Jan,

Since you asked me about “adventures” I will have to tell you about the Fiestas Patronales {Patron Saint Festivities} which took place in my town, San Isidro, on the 15th through 18th of May. The Fiestas Patronales or Festival of the Patron Saint are THE BIG TIME in every little campo {rural} town in El Salvador (and much of Latin America). It is sort of like the county fair, Fourth of July, the junior prom and Easter Sunday all thrown in together! About a week before the Fiesta was supposed to start a big truck came into town & they set up a portable whore house right across the road from where I live. The next morning at breakfast the lady with whom I eat & the social worker told me what kind of establishment it was, and asked me if I was going to patronize it! That took me aback just a little.

They also brought in some carnival rides. Most were hand operated, but they had one whirling job which was motor powered. They had games of chance and lots of thatched-roofed, quickly put up food stands with sweets & pastels {pastries} & pupusas {a kind of filled tortilla, where the filling is cheese, meat or refried beans}. The center of the thing was the corner of 4 streets nearest my room so the loud “alegre” {happy} music made it hard to sleep at night.

After the whore house got established, people started celebrating even though the Fiesta wasn’t due to start for a week. The drunks would be shooting off their pistols in the middle of the night & that with the music made sleeping a challenge.

I steered clear of the festivities as much as possible until the weekend (17th & 18th), then I went to the big soccer game. The home team won of course; I don’t think any away team would have the guts to win knowing that in the crowd were several drunk local campesinos {peasants} carrying pistols (which they sometimes discharged when the home team scored)!

The granddaughter of the lady with whom I eat came out from San Salvador to go to the big dance Saturday night the 17th. She was an AFS {American Field Service exchange} student in Ohio and speaks pretty fair English. She is also 19 years old & very good looking. I had met her once before, but this time we had a good chat about the political situation in El Salvador. Her perspective is so much broader than that of any Salvadoran girl I’ve met that it was really good to talk to her. She told me more about the last presidential election here in which the most popular candidate was robbed of the presidency by the all powerful army. She is somewhat of a feminist for a Salvadoran (Most women here never seem to question male authority or superiority.). She is going to the national university & is going to be an Agricultural Engineer. As you would expect, that field is even more male dominated here than in the U.S. She hopes to do graduate work in the U.S. & I hope she makes it because she impresses me as very intelligent, but her concept of the world outside El Salvador is still pretty simplistic & conservative. For example she was taken aback to learn I had smoked marijuana, & the first time I met her the second thing she said to me was, “I know you’re rich.” I went to the Fiesta & danced a lot with her, & so now the local folks think I have a “novia” {girlfriend}. I do have kind of a crush on her (as you may have guessed), just because she has so much potential, & I would really hate to see her get put down by the neo-fascist political norm here or the male chauvinist social norm.

Well I kind of got stuck on one track this letter. Was glad to hear about the trees you planted; didn’t know olives grew so far north. Got a real good letter from Bruce about what he’s been doing & his plans. I told him to get a technical specialty for job security to fall back on. Agriculture firms like the technical training & agriculture background, and look on the economics & business courses as useful, but secondary. Never can stop giving advice.

Take care,


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