Elba’s El Salvador Trip

I arrived in El Salvador, and went to a small market in the village of Ataco. Notice the women carrying things on their head. My mother and I used to walk around with baskets on our heads like these women when I was a young girl.
Even though this mural is partially obscured, I like it because it shows the coffee pickers removing twigs and green coffee from a pile of coffee cherries.
Here is a woman making El Salvador’s national dish…the simple but delicious pupusas! This is a soft corn tortilla filled with porc and cheese (it can also be filled with anything from beans to loroco, a local plant). Pupusas are an indigenous food and originate before the Spanish arrived to the Americas. If you’ve not tried any, find your local ‘pupuseria’. You will not be sorry!
Here I am, excited to be back in my home country.
Here are some healthy looking coffee trees I saw on a small coffee farm.
I went to visit my friend when I was a young girl. She used to pick coffee during the harvests but has stopped going because she is getting too old to be out in the fields all day. I remember going to pick coffee with her many decades ago. She taught me alot about how to harvest and roast coffee. Her father’s plot of land had many mango trees, and we used to sneak and climb the trees to eat the mangos. When her father noticed that we were taking his mangos, he tied a bull to the trees to keep us away.
This is what the kitchen of a coffee picker looks like. The sheet metal roofing was very old and would leak, so that when it rained the kitchen would get all wet. I used some of the proceeds from my coffee business to purchase new sheet metal roofing to protect the kitchen from the rains. I also bought her a stove top with four burners and a tank of propane so that she doesn’t have to always cook with wood.
Here I am making tortillas with the granddaughter of my friend.
I’m on my way to another small coffee plantation. I took this picture from the taxi.
These are dying coffee trees stricken by a fungus called ‘roya’ (which means ‘rust’ in Spanish). This coffee disease has devastated crops throughout Central America from 2012-2015 (see my Nicaragua Trip for more photos).

Coffee Mike: According to an article by Hilary Rosner written for the Scientific American magazine, ‘coffee rust’ is a fungus that infects the plants’ leaves, leaving them incapable of absorbing the sunlight they need to survive.

Here is a good picture of the dead coffee cherries along the branch of this tree. These small cherries should be a vibrant red color. Instead they are rotting.

Coffee Mike: In 2014, it was estimated that this fungus has affected about 500,000 acres of land and slashed production of the whole Central American region by about 20 percent in 2012 compared with 2011.

This is significant because if a crop fails, the coffee farmers lose their livelihoods. They no longer require the use of coffee pickers who depend on this labor. The Scientific American article writes that the coffee farmers “may tear out the trees and plant other crops or sell their land to developers – leaving a trail of unemployed laborers and environmental destruction.”

This is a much healthier looking coffee tree. The color of the leaves should be a nice dark green.
It is very common for banana trees to provide shade to the coffee trees below. Look at the red banana flower!
This is a nice cabin I saw during my visit to a coffee plantation called Finca Las Nubes. Some coffee plantations, like this one, are open to visitors for coffee tours and some even rent out small cabins. This would be a beautiful retreat.
Here is a beautiful coffee tree, which looks about 4 years old. You do not see any coffee fruits on the branches because the harvest season was complete when I visited, so the coffee cherries have already been picked.
Here I am with a coffee tree. Even though I was at a higher elevation (because arabica coffee is best suited to grow at high elevations), it still gets hot, so I’m happy that I brought my water bottle. I didn’t have this luxury when I used to pick coffee on the plantation all day as a young woman.
I met this young girl walking along the beaches alone. She was selling a lot of small trinkets. I bought her a coke. She was very happy. Even a bottle of coke can be a small luxury item in this country.
I like the colorful hammocks in this picture. I took this picture while at a small local market.
A big pot of soup being made. As you can see, this is an old-fashioned way of cooking soup in a big cauldron. These kitchens are vastly different from the ones in Canada!
I took this picture of healthy looking coffee trees, that are properly spaced apart. If the coffee trees are planted too close to one another, like stalks of corn, they will not survive.
This area is not far from the village that I grew up in. 
I remember walking along these tracks with my mother as a young girl, heading back home from the city. I must have been around 5 years old. I remember being terrified of the big trains coming by. These areas are far from the resort towns that tourists visit.

Coffee Mike: Its hard to image that these coffee trees are so closely tied to the modern history of Central America. Ever since the 19th Century, the economic health of whole countries depended on a few export agricultural commodities…mainly coffee, sugar and cacao.

My daughter and I visited the indigenous temples and pyramids. Its hard to say which civilization left behind these structures. There were three main indigenous ethnic groups from El Salvador; the Nahua (sometimes referred to as the Pipils or Cuzcatlecs), the Lenca and the Maya.
Here is a nice photo of one of the temples which is partly underground.
Sometimes you see small coffee plants growing even outside of coffee plantations. This small coffee tree was growing along a walkway in a park.
Sol y Mar (the sun & sea)! What better way to end my trip to El Salvador than by watching the sunset as the waves of the Pacific ocean hug the beach.

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