I’ve had many life-changing experiences, but, El Salvador was one of the greatest and most impactful of those encounters. Every year, my college chooses a small group of students to travel to El Salvador after many months of preparation. This trip was truly unlike any other.
El Salvador is a nation that has been ridden with immense pain and tragedy, some of it induced by American action. Before we even left the States, we learned about the history of their civil war and the part the US played in it. Upon arrival, we visited sites where Salvadorans & Americans were brutally murdered. Our group met people who participated in the war – both sides, in fact. We also had a home-stay in the mountains of El Salvador where some of the bloody massacre’s happened, which allowed us to hear real accounts of what happened to locals and their families. Communicating in only Spanish, it was notable to see that pain is universal regardless of what language you speak.
At the end of each day, we digested the intense things we heard and saw through open & honest conversation. Most nights ended in tears, sobering moments and humbling realizations. It was painful as hell to realize what humans are capable of and simultaneously beautiful to witness how resilient they can be. It also gave me a crazy sense of appreciation for the life I’ve been given and what I’m able to do with it.
One of the best words to embody my experience in El Salvador is solidarity. Every conversation, every story, and every person showed signs of grief embedded so deeply; it actually took my breath away. I’ve taken something from that trip that I can never fully describe in words, but El Salvador will forever have a piece of my heart. I can honestly say that my experience in El Salvador sealed the deal on incorporating humanitarian work into my life path. Living in solidarity with those who’ve seen tragedy and what the world is capable of – both good and evil-- has changed me forever.