"Have you ever been to Cinquera?" I asked The Grandfather. Beautiful views of Lake Suchitlán passed by outside of our vehicle's window. Maybe some of our delegation members took photos. I listened to The Grandfather.
"Oh...yes," he paused, "I came up here in 1991 or '92 accompanying a group of [Salvadoran] families coming from Honduras who were re-populating their lands after seven years of exile. They traveled from the refuge in Honduras to San Salvador, and then came to the shore of Lake Suchitlán. We lived in this forest for 10 days because we had to transport the people to their community by boat. We only had small wooden boats, and it took 10 days to move the people. The most difficult part of the experience was that the children born in Honduras during the exile, some who were seven years old, did not know their own country, their own culture, their own land. This was the time when I was doing work with the Lutheran Church."
"Is there a Lutheran Church near here?" I asked.
"No. At one time there was a hacienda near Cinquera which the Lutheran Synod was going to purchase. It was land which the church planned to use as a resettlement area for refugees coming back from Honduras. When I arrived at the land I saw that it was surrounded by many, many families living in little houses of cartón (cardboard). How could we move people onto this land when it rightly belonged to the people who already lived there and who needed it more? They were the real owners of the land, so I said we could not buy it.
"Before we could bring the people back to their land I helped to clear it. I looked for mines. I removed the abandoned ordinates - live and dead ones. I coordinated with the mayor's office and the local priest. This was the work we had to do. This was a time in which my work for the Lutheran Church touched the whole northern region, from Chaltenango to Nejapa. All this time in the work of moving the people I was accompanied by two nuns. They said, 'Eat, Pastor, you need to eat!' but I did not eat during that time because the work was so hard and the people did not eat."
We arrived in Cinquera. The Grandfather got out of the small bus and walked slowly along the town square. "What change -- what a difference," he said quietly. His eyes moved slowly from building to building, and he moved along the street as if he were moving through time. "There was nothing here when I left. Nothing here."