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World March Blog
14 December 2009

El Salvador

When I was a little boy I had an atlas and I was fascinated by the little countries of the world.  I studied everything about Liechtenstein until one day I discovered El Salvador!  It was so far away and so exotic; I never imagined ever coming here and now here I am…

The country is quite charming.  On one side there is the Pacific Ocean and on the other side are Guatemala and Honduras.  Guatemala and Honduras have a strong indigenous feeling but I imagine that El Salvador has suffered many more slaughters in its history.  We arrived in the evening from Guatemala after a rather twisted path that saw us go through border controls 6 times in one day!

After events in 2 small towns we reached our destination for the night.  One thing that I have noticed ever since we left Mexico is that on every occasion the authorities play the national anthem and I find this disturbing because you see all the little children standing up putting their hands on their heart and singing.  For me this is brain washing the children.  It’s not that you shouldn’t be proud of your country; I always support England in the Football and Great Britain at the Olympics but I would never stand up for “God save the Queen”, and to put my hand on my heart for that is inconceivable.  This is all a terrible militarization of a country from my point of view.  When you instil a strong nationalism into the children it is no wonder that later on they willingly join the army and sacrifice their young lives for the concept of “nation”.

According to Luis on the base team, Voltaire said something like, “There can be no peace where there are, nations, flags and national anthems.” (can someone confirm this quote?)  To this I would also add “borders” because it’s clear that while these things exist there will be those who want to put the value of these things higher than human life and justify violence with it.

After the previous day where a monument to commemorate the World March was unveiled in Esquipulas, today we unveiled a small town Square for Peace and Nonviolence.  It was really quite special and it shows that this March is not a spontaneous thing that comes from nowhere.  People from World without Wars and the Humanist Movement have been working in this area for 10 years; building relationships with local authorities, working with local people, organising events in promotion of peace and nonviolence, etc.  The March really is an accumulation of a lot of hard work.

In the evening, Micky, Magally and I went to a local radio station to do an interview with the idea that afterwards we would go to the central event in San Salvador.  While waiting for the interview, we had the opportunity to hear from Mario about El Salvador.  This March has been an opportunity to hear about different examples of Nonviolent struggle around the World and El Salvador has a proud history.  Back in the 40s there was a military dictatorship that was brought down by a total national strike.  And more recently in the 70s and 80s Archbishop Oscar Romero fought tirelessly for the poor and oppressed during another military dictatorship.  He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 but murdered by gunmen in his own church in 1980.

When we arrived at the Square for the central event we were told that it had been suspended because the organising team was unable to get a sound system.  So we went over the road for something to eat.  Unfortunately no one had told either us or the people that the event was cancelled!  And while we were eating, one of the local organisers also came in to get some food and was surprised to see us there, explaining that there were many people in the square waiting for us.  So we hurriedly finished our food and went to the Square.

In the Square was a bandstand (a raised platform with a roof) and a brass band was playing and there were several rows of people sitting on chairs and we thought we’d come to the wrong place.  I had my small World March banner in my back pocket and we took it out and started to walk in the direction of the bandstand not really knowing if we were heading to people that were there for the World March or just passers-by who had stopped to listen to the music.  Suddenly as we approached, the people jumped up and started enthusiastically applauding.  It was incredible.  There were still about 40 or 50 people waiting for us and listening to the band that the authorities had organised.

There were councillors and local authorities there and they were all keen to listen to our adventures with the World March.  I was really touched by the reception.  It was totally unexpected and I had a strong feeling that these people really wanted to be there.  Many times in this leg through Central America the events have been attended by young students and I always wonder if they come because they are interested in our themes or because their teachers are.  This time though there was no doubt.  It was really a great gift to experience this event and will be one of my strongest memories from Central America.

With a big hug

Tony

2 comments to El Salvador

  • Matias

    Hi Tony,
    Thanks for your description of the Central American part…
    I couldn’t check if the phrase you mention belongs to Voltaire yet. But either way, it helps to get an idea of what you all felt with so many border controls and national anthems…
    Best regards,
    Matias

  • Liliana Piastra

    No me consta que Voltaire dijera nada parecido, por un lado su preocupación intelectual se basó, entre otras cosas, en la tolerancia religiosa y la libertad ideológica y, por otro, la mayoría de los himnos se escribieron en el siglo XIX, que fue cuando surgieron las inquietudes nacionalistas, cuando él llevaba ya un siglo muerto. Sí me constan en cambio otros citas suyas:
    “Detesto lo que escribes, pero daría mi vida para que pudieras seguir escribiendolo.”
    “El que es demasiado pequeño tiene un orgullo grande.”
    “Es peligroso tener razón cuando el gobierno está equivocado.”
    “La ignorancia afirma o niega rotundamente; la Ciencia duda.”
    “En el desprecio de la ambición se encuentra uno de los principios esenciales de la felicidad sobre la tierra.”
    “Hay alguien tan inteligente que aprende de la experiencia de los demás.”
    “La pasión de dominar es la más terrible de todas las enfermedades del espíritu humano.”
    “Los que creen que el dinero lo hace todo, suelen hacer cualquier cosa por dinero.”
    “No estoy de acuerdo con tus ideas, pero defiendo tu sagrado derecho a expresarlas.”
    “Quien se venga después de la victoria es indigno de vencer.”
    “Pensad por cuenta propia y dejad que los demás disfruten del derecho a hacer lo mismo.”
    “Trabajemos sin razonar, es el único medio de hacer la vida soportable.”
    “Quien no tiene toda la inteligencia de su edad, tiene toda su desgracia.”
    “La probabilidad de hacer el mal se encuentra cien veces al día y la de hacer el bien, una vez al año.”
    “Los ejemplos corrigen mejor que las reprimendas.”
    “Dos cosas hay igualmente terribles: un cuchillo en manos de un loco y una gran inteligencia en la cabeza de un malvado.”
    “El mayor infortunio del hombre de letras no es quizá el hecho de ser víctima de las intrigas, la envidia de sus colegas y el verse despreciado de los hombres poderosos, sino el verse juzgado por los necios.”