If you strike out on the highway and head west out of San Salvador, you will eventually end up in Guatemala. It's a nice drive in an old pick-up, maybe a little slow in brightly painted bus with 85 friendly travelers. Depending on the season you might find corn kernels spread out along side of the road to dry, or bright white sugar cane tassels waving in the breeze, or even a few cows in the road.
Before you hit the border you get to Cara Sucia. I have to confess that I don't know too much about the town itself. A local friend told me that the name Cara Sucia (Dirty Face) originated with the Spanish, who noticed that the children who played near the river had dirty faces, so the name stuck. Whether that story is true or not, the nearby Cara Sucia and Paz rivers are sources of both life and challenge to the farmers who live and work near their banks. My friend said that he learned to swim in the river when he was a little boy . . . The water rose up and all of a sudden it came into the house. Then I was in the river. There was furniture going by and trees going by and even a cow. That's how I learned to swim.
If you are staying outside of Cara Sucia you can take take the little moto-taxis into town and back to go to the market. Or, you can grab some local truck transportation for with a Salvadoran friend (for 10 or 20 cents) and share a little slice of life out in the countryside.
First stop - a small brick-making business. Our young Salvadoran friend thought this would be an educational stop for us, and it was! The family showed us the process of mixing the clay, putting it into molds to dry in the sun, stacking, baking in the kiln and stacking again. This is hard work, especially in the rainy season!
Next stop - a bakery. Our friend took us to a home which had a very large oven for cooking bread. The family makes a few different baked items but is famous for their soft and delicious rolls (pictured here).
Next stop - a fisherman's home. We got to watch as the man skillfully wove his fish net from string while talking to us about his home and his work. Recently there was a flood in this area. The water filled the porch where he is sitting now. He goes out fishing with the nets in the early morning. This is how he supports his family. He also has some crops.
Our final stop (for this tour) was a walk through the farm fields. I am not a corn expert, so the discussion about the different varieties of corn, the different planting and harvesting seasons and the different ways in which to store and use the corn were a little tricky to follow. But, it was great to be with a farmer who was so very proud of his crops and so very hopeful that no disaster would take away the promise of a good harvest.
In Cara Sucia, a place very prone to flooding and high winds, farmers, fishermen and business folk alike all place their livelihoods into the hands of God and Mother Earth.