It is night time and we are having sangria outside, in the street, with our latest iPhones on the table and the blasting music of all surrounding bars, while pedestrians seem to own the pavement, bar hopping, laughing, talking, singing at the popular karaokes, or buying pupusas (article to come!) at the many food stalls. We are experiencing El Salvador by night, one of the most unsafe countries of Central America.
Indeed, corruption and gangs (las maras) make living in the country quite unsafe for many of its inhabitants who dream of leaving it for the USA where 2 to 3 million Salvadorians already live (for a country of slightly over 6 million inhabitants). These gangs’ bread and butter are local people and businesses and travelers are not specifically targeted. Riding the bus, checking out various areas of the country, visiting markets, going out, we have only met very friendly and hospitable people, often speaking a bit of English, and clearly happy to meet two gringas (Americans from the USA), and still thrilled when they learn we are not gringas!
Tonight, we are very close to San Salvador, that is very famous for its dangerousness, as the country ranks among the top five of the greatest intentional homicide rate in the world. But Santa Tecla is a safe satellite town about 5 kilometres from the capital. Patch-worked by guarded residential areas, malls, churches and schools, Santa Tecla feels like its inhabitants could create a safe harbor, away from the craziness of San Salvador. Far from being a dormitory city, the area of Paseo del Carmen is where the booming nightlife happens in a joyful atmosphere.
Going out at night, surrounded by people dressed up, spending money on drinks and food, partying and enjoying little moments with no safety issues might well be the way for Salvadorians to escape the harsh reality of life while hoping for a safer country. Since 2012, government initiatives seem to have reduced gang-related crimes, and hopefully, this is only a start.