Here I sit, on the balcony of my hotel room, in the brightening dawn of the day. My time here in San Salvador has been well spent -- so much happened yesterday!
How quickly the dawn comes on here. It’s nearly full daylight already, at 6:20 a.m. The birds’ calls overwhelm all other sounds; they are definitely louder than the traffic. What a cacophony!
Yesterday, my day began with meeting Alma, our indigo artisan, for breakfast at the Hotel Novo. Afterward, Alma went back to her room to get the scarves made from a new kind of cotton. They are beautiful! And so soft! I definitely approved the changes she chose.
I demonstrated to her how to put the stickers on our labels, slip on the elastic cord and pin the tag to the scarf. “I could be doing that here for you,” she suggested. “You have to do that with every scarf, with every headband and scrunchie? I can have the girls do it with me, and you would get everything with the tags on it!” The ever-present enthusiasm for this partnership is continually surprising and inspiring.
Before we left the hotel, I found Alma in the lobby engrossed in conversation with three young Hispanic women, hotel guests we’d seen at breakfast. They were trying on her scarves, admiring them and buying them on the spot. The hotel receptionist also selected and bought another one. Someone mentioned Suchitoto, and asked if we have a shop there. Suchitoto is a picturesque town and a popular tourist stop, north of the city next to a lake. Small shops and a few restaurants ring the square and a few adjacent streets. Ron and I went there on at least two occasions with our native guides and drivers, and it’s not far from the community where the women of La Mora Jicambú live. We do not have a shop there, but it certainly is something to consider.
We drove over to CIS (the Centro de Intercambio y Solidaridad -- center for commerce and solidarity) and met up with Iris, Marilyn and her daughter Wendy from Las Tinecas. The demonstrations and teaching Revy tagging and packaging went smoothly, and all their earrings were getting tagged when I was called back to the lobby to meet with Tamar, a daughter of Jaraguá’s founder that Ron and I have seen and spoken with through an interpreter in years past. Revy is offering a $600 sponsorship for her last year of university.
Tamar told me that the Comunidad her family was involved in building in 2016, "Oscar Romero," has now grown to include over one hundred homes -- a far cry from the handful we saw under construction back then. Her father and stepmother, Jose and Evelyn, are now divorced but still work together on designs and production of goods made from coconuts and seeds. You can find some of the designs from Taller Jaraguá on our website.
After speaking with Tamar, I met with the women of La Mora Jicambú co-op, along with one woman from our new coop from Ilobasco, Taller La Família. We adjourned back to the front room after introductions and, through an interpreter, discussed the labeling and packaging of their earrings.
Then Alma and I regrouped for lunch at La hóla betós, an El Salvadorian restaurant chain. Their specialty is seafood, and it was good! Then we headed back to CIS.
We spent some time discussing the needs of the Comunidad Oscar Romero and others supported by CIS. There is an ongoing concern about the lack of safe drinking water in El Salvador, generally, and in their community specifically. There is already a group of engineers working with their community to install a community-wide system; she said that type of system costs about $800, while a one-family water purification system costs $75. I’m now looking at ways in which Revy can help support these needs on a more local level.
Later that day I met with Claudia Flores, a very creative friend of Mario Alabi’s, to discuss ways to train members of a Rotary International sponsored community who are living at the Guatemala City dump in how to make useful items from recycled innertubes. Claudia may be the ideal candidate to run such workshops/training. She has experience in gathering and teaching the creation of recycled products to groups in underserved/ underprivileged communities.
Claudia also told me something about Mario I had not heard before. Mario had been very worried about Ron's health after receiving an email from him last spring, which read like a "farewell." He was relieved to learn that I am dedicated to keeping Revy alive and thriving. His business had slowed over the past few years, however he was very pleased to receive a new order from me in December.
Overall it was a very successful visit to El Salvador. It was important for me to see and talk with our people there; to let them know that Revy will continue to showcase their talents and, in turn, help bring some much needed revenue to their communities. I look forward to returning in May, provided the new spread of the coronavirus allows renewed travel between our countries by then! I know Ron would be pleased to learn that we are keeping his dream alive, and thriving!