Photo Credit: Lindsay Arden Cooper
El Salvador is a beautiful and majestic country with its own struggles and challenges.
The people of El Salvador suffer from extreme violence. Unaccompanied minors leave El Salvador and journey to the United States in hopes of receiving asylum. Gang violence runs rampant with the nation’s two rival gangs Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and 18th Street (Barrio 18) in constant battle. Disruption from violence impacts everyone, including children.
The root of the disruptive gang violence of today stems from state sanctioned apartheid, which began in the 1970s. El Salvador’s government and military engaged in a bloody civil war with guerrilla factions. This occurred during an era when U.S. foreign policy concerned itself with halting the spread of communism.
Tens of thousands of people were killed by the end of the war. At the same time, Salvadorian gang members living in Los Angeles were deported in large numbers. Weakened economic, social, and political infrastructure hampered the nation’s ability to deal with the arriving gang members.
As violence increases, children’s access to basic human needs such as access to schools, basic health benefits, and safety has been greatly challenged.
El Salvador has suffered from several natural disasters over the past decade. Flooding, mudslides, volcanic eruption, and a tropical storm have lead to a need for humanitarian and economic assistance. School closures have disrupted learning. Vulnerable areas were heavily impacted. These environmental factors have contributed to the instability and violence in the country.
On February 20, Clowns Without Borders USA traveled to El Salvador in collaboration with local organizers, CRIPDES, and Sister Cities El Salvador to share smiles and joy with the affected communities. With a troupe of incredible artists hailing from Colombia, Brazil, Italy, and the United States, we could not be more excited to play and share during our 12 day performing and workshop tour. We performed in San Salvador and also spent part of the project with communities outside of San Salvador in more rural areas.
To learn more about what’s going on in El Salvador, check out the links below. While we know that the challenges of gang violence and crime facing the people of El Salvador are very serious, we also know that the El Salvadoran community is a beautiful, rich, and generous culture. So read these articles with compassionate objectivity. Remember that there are incredible people, quietly doing amazing work in their communities, in areas of conflict all around the world.