The War

Yesterday at a birthday party for a beautiful, one-year-old baby girl, I was told stories of The War. Growing up in my third-generation Angeleno family, whether coming from the Mexican side or the White, “The War” meant World War II. But now for me, in my world, in my work, in my neighborhood, among my friends, a conversation about “The War” normally involves the 1980s, Central America, and tears.

Yesterday (as most often is the case) it was El Salvador. Familiar words and phrases were used: massacre; soldier; bodies; gunshot; army; interrogation; missing; guerrilla; church; almost; if it weren’t for… 

The grandfather of the birthday girl had heard I went to El Salvador for the presidential elections. We talked briefly about the candidates, the FMLN win, the neighborhood in San Salvador he is from. His reaction to the elections was typical of many Salvadorans in Los Angeles who I’ve talked to, men and women who physically survived The War and who for the past two decades have been trying to survive it spiritually: he was skeptical, cautious, unsure – almost afraid to hope, to dream of a different El Salvador because that dream has been beaten so hard and so long into the ground by post-peace accord corruption, poverty, and gangs. 

We only talked for a few moments at first, then went back to the party, the gifts, the cake. But, later on in the afternoon he found me, and without being questionned or prompted, began his story. He ended it crying.

This election does represent change, and that change has revealed wounds that The War cut sharp and deep, wounds that have been hidden but still seeping beneath the sticky gauze of the status quo. I wasn’t surprised to find out later that his son, my friend, had only recently heard these stories himself – since the election.


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