Saturday, January 7, 2012

an uneventful stopover in El Salvador

I have been intending to write about a trip I made to Nicaragua back in the heady days off Sandinismo, but I don't seem to be getting anything written, which is normally a sign that I don't really know what I want to say.  So for now, here is a short piece from my trip down.

I had a stopover in El Salvador.  It was in the late 1980s and I had read in the San Francisco papers that it was a violent place with bitter fighting between the government and leftist guerrillas, but on the plane down all the Salvadorians I talked to said this was all overblown.  My airline was one of the regional carriers favored by the locals and has since gone out of business.  I had chosen it as part of my authentic Central American experience. 
    There had been an interminable delay in getting out of San Francisco, which doesn’t bother me as much as it does some, as I would always prefer that my plane doesn’t take off until the crew are completely comfortable about it.  There was going to be a delay in San Salvador as well, and the airlines said they would take us to a nice hotel and come get us when they were ready to go again.
    There were no passport or transit formalities.  An airline bus took us on a long, pleasant drive past farms and through patches of forest and over some hills to a clean, modern hotel, the sort that would probably rate a star or so, and the nice lady from the airline said they would see us again soon.
    It was an agreeable place with a comfortable lobby and bar and a large swimming pool.  I was surprised to notice that a large number of the guests were young American males with short haircuts and very good posture, which I related to matters then in the news.

Not long thereafter I read that the hotel was attacked by guerrillas who seized the lower floors while the party of American military who had been staying at the hotel barricaded themselves on an upper floor.  While the guerrillas had machine guns, as any self-respecting guerrilla will these days, the Americans had no weapons at all, a fact of which the guerrillas were apparently unaware, and the Americans were able to keep up a bluff until the Salvadorean Army arrived sometime later to chase the guerrillas away.
    Things like that make me appreciate my own uneventful stay in the country.

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