On Friday evening, the second day of our El Salvador pilgrimage, we took a break from the sultry heat by escaping to the mountain village of Allegria, about one hour from San Miguel. The countryside is an amazingly beautiful mix of tropical forest and volcanic mountain ranges.
Caught in a magnificent thunderstorm, we took refuge in a charming cafe. Even here, one could find a latte and Internet access.
The Roman Catholic parish church in Allegria was right off the central street and was open into the evening. People wandered in and out to sit, pray, and talk together. I was struck by how much the church was integrated into the social fabric of the town. Here, poverty doesn't necessarily isolate people from community.
There must have been a festal celebration including a procession through the town, because we discovered in the church a band of angels in parade formation.
The lush natural environment and cultural pageantry provide a counterpoint to the stark poverty and simple human kindness of the people. It all served to refresh my spirit, even as it challenged me to examine my complicity in the cultural and economic hegemony of the U.S.