Today is the first time since we have been hearing about the coronavirus, that the people checking and greeting us at the port were wearing masks and checking our temperature as we came ashore. We have all been hearing about the plight of some cruise ships over in Asia but so far we are happy and healthy on this side of the Pacific Ocean on our ship. Touch wood!!!
The port of Acajutla has one of the largest industrial seaports in El Salvador, but it is not heavily frequented by cruise ships. It is the smallest and the most densely populated country in Central America. It is bordered on the northeast by Honduras, on the northwest by Guatemala, and on the south by the Pacific Ocean. As of 2018, the country had a population of approximately six million. It’s capital and largest city is San Salvador and I am heading out on a tour to visit that city toay.
On our bus ride into town, it seemed as if this was quite a poor country, if the homes and businesses along our route were an indication. Coming into town were the inevitable US chains of MacDonalds, Starbucks, Wendy’s, and I even saw a Scotiabank along the way. In town, it was rather grimy. Their “department” stores seemed to be the carts of clothing, hardware, drug store supplies, and food, scattered along the curbs of the streets.
We visited a square and a couple of churches. One in particular, El Rosario, was very different. They had to get permission from the Pope to build this Catholic church because it wasn’t your regular ‘cross’ shape church. It was designed by sculptor Rueben Martinez and finished in 1971. From the outside it looks like a cement arch with rows of windows. However once inside it was really beautiful in its un-church like state. Those “rows of windows were actually stained glass which caught the sun as it crossed the sky and changed the hues inside, not unlike Familia Sagrada in Barcelona, but on a lesser scale. I was glad the Pope had given them the OK!
It appears this country continues to struggle with high rates of poverty, inequality and gang-related violent crime. They also produce and export a lot of sugar, coffee and shrimp. But it seems to me that tourism is a godsend for many of the countries throughout Mexico and Central America if they could only get their acts together. However, every time there is another violent incident, it sets them back and the tourists stay away in droves. I did not have a sense of danger during my visit here – nice people wherever we went and the police presence was not as obvious.
I think I have seen more volcanoes along the coast of Mexico and Central America than anywhere else. El Salvador is no exception. They have 9 active volcanoes and we were told, over 700 volcanic mouths or craters. El Boqeron – the big mouth – is the most famous and the western sections of the city lies on its slopes. They are on the Ring of Fire that circles the Pacific and they have earthquakes almost every day. I didn’t feel any earthquakes the day we visited. Thank you!!
On a lighter note, I learned that the colorful “chicken” buses one sees all over this part of the world, are old recycled yellow school buses from Canada & the USA. When they go out of service back home, there is an auction. People from this part of the world, buy them and send them back to their countries, where they are painted in vivid, psychedelic, rainbow colours and then put back into service as public transportation. These buses bear little resemblance to their original yellow color. The name chicken bus came about because they used to carry live chickens, produce and everything else you might think of. I rode on once when we were in Guatemala many years ago, and it is an experience not to be missed!!