Water rushes down hillsides, sometimes carrying with it whole villages. The refuse washing into the rivers contaminates them and the water tables they feed giving the people in Bajo Lempa an unimaginably high incidence of kidney disease. Often the rain falls so hard that it washes over damns and floods entire villages. The rain’s moisture brings with it mosquitoes and a current triple epidemic of dengue fever, malaria, and pneumonia. Swelling rivers, sweating faces, rain drops large enough to fill a coffee mug, this much moisture astounds and devastates. In El Salvador the rain can be as violent as the recent history of this smallest of Central American countries.
The rain would be more welcome but that this is the second most deforested country in the Western Hemisphere. The lack of trees to hold soil with their roots, to nourish the air with fresh oxygen means that the water carries away more than it hydrates. Rich soil is skimmed off the rocky surface of a volcanic country. A similar process happens with the countries wealth.
Reagan spoke about “trickle down” economics; Salvadorans talk about a circle of wealth. US companies and their Salvadoran agents employ people in maquilas (assembly factories with commonly horrendous working conditions) and pay them near poverty level salaries. Salvadorans then purchase US company produced goods or US farm produce. This circle continually benefits the rich of the U.S. and El Salvador and prevents the everyday worker from access to an improving way of life. The economic power washes over the everyday Salvadoran, eroding their spirit and bodies.
I am currently reading “God Bless You Mr. Rosewater” Vonnegut’s classic satire of American wealth. Written reflecting on the McCarthy era, one of the characters when asked if he is now or ever has been a Communist says that he supposes has “communistic thoughts” every once in awhile, but it is hard to work with the poor without “tripping over Karl Marx, or the Bible every once in awhile.”
I wrote the words at the top of this blog entry in El Salvador. I’m writing these words in a Cafe in Point Loma, CA…home of San Diego’s fleet of private yachts. I listed to the most sane words about immigration I’ve heard in a long time come out of Dennis Kucinich’s mouth the other day (I do not intend to endorse him by saying this, I just think his ideas about immigration are insightful.) He talked about the first step needing to occur being repealing NAFTA…allowing people to have dignified work with a living wage within their own country. I think that is true. Until we pay attention to the level of abuse that we participate in economically around the world, El Salvador will continue to be deforested. Until we work to repare the damage we have done, people in Latin America will suffer so that executives can ride their yachts in San Diego.