In the 25th annual anniversary of the patron saint celebrations of the Divine Savior of the World and the Day of the Salvadoran festival, thousands of people were present uniting the generations of those who began the diaspora of the “Thumbnail of America”, before, during and after the Civil War (1979-1992) and to children who were born on US soil.
Although pupusas are by far the most popular food or the national dish of El Salvador, there was no shortage of chicken, pork and corn tamales, breads and stuffed chicken or the typical churrasco with beans and fried plantains, at the various stalls that have been set up along Venice Boulevard.
“The bad thing is that they tripled the prices,” complained Marina Menjivar, a Salvadoran born in San Miguel and a Los Angeles resident. “Imagine, a fresh Salvadoran salad was sold to me for $10 and the pupusas, don't even mention it, the vendors want to make a killing with us.”
This year, organizers of UNICOMDES USA (Unit of Communities of El Salvador in the United States) predict that approximately 70,000 people will gather at the festival of live music, food stalls, outdoor beer garden, rides, art, crafts and culture.
“I came to Los Angeles to teach my children the beauty of my culture and our gastronomy,” said Geovany Molina, a student advisor in Washington State, while shopping for El Salvador national soccer team jerseys for their sons Kemuel and Levi.
Admission to the festival is free, and the organizers have asked their compatriots of Salvadoran origin to participate and donate toys for needy children in their country and in Los Angeles. They will be released in December.
“If there are profits, we will give away scholarships of $500 to $1,000 for students who are children of Salvadorans,” revealed Jaime Tejada, treasurer of UNICOMDES USA. I would discuss this topic with Wendy Cordero (president) and Wendy Castillo (secretary).
In addition to being part of the committee for the Dia del Salvadoreno festival, Tejada is part of the Chalchuapaneca Pro-Emergency Committee (COPRECHA), an organization dedicated to helping repatriate the bodies of Salvadorans who die in the United States, in collaboration with a funeral home.
“The aid limit we have for the relatives of the deceased is $2,199,” he said. “That's why we ask the community to help us to help.”
A community that multiplies
From 2000 to 2017, the population of Salvadoran origin increased 225%, from 711,000 to 2.3 million.
According to figures from the Pew Research Center the highest percentages of Salvadoran migrants are represented in California (32%), Texas (15%), and New York (9%).
And, according to the Consul General of El Salvador in Los Angeles, Alejandro Letona, there are already 2.8 million Salvadorans in the United States: 1.5 million in California, and half a million in Los Angeles.
One is Nelly Gallegos, a Salvadoran from La Paz, who was talking with Herlinda Ferman and Areli Vega, both from San Salvador, who decided to try typical Guatemalan food.
“I miss everything about my country, but more, the food and my relatives; but I feel proud that I can now go to my country in peace,” she said, acknowledging the subjugation and imprisonment of 70,000 ex-gang members during the term of President Nayib Bukele.
“I lived through the war from the beginning until the end,” he recalled. “That's why I came to celebrate Salvadoran Day with my people.”
The proclamation and Descent of the Divine Savior
Although the official celebration of Salvadoran Day dates back to 2006, when resolution HR 721 of former congresswoman Hilda Solis -current Los Angeles County supervisor- was approved, the holidays Agostinas have been celebrated since 1999.
The idea of ??celebrating Salvadoran culture and heritage arose from the inspiration of Isabel Cárdenas “Chabelita” and members of the Salvadoran American National Association (SANA), an organization made up of sympathizers and militants of the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN).
“The idea of ??the descent of the Divine Savior came from Salvador Gomez Gochez, and it was Fidel Sanchez who put the idea into action for several years”, “Chabelita” Cardenas reported to La Opinion. Other SANA members included Mario Fuentes, Werner Marroquin and Raul Mariona
“The federal proclamation of the Day of the Salvadoran American was written by me, with the help of Mario Beltran and we proposed it, on behalf of SANA, to former councilor Nick Pacheco,” added Cárdenas, from 84 years old.
On the other hand, “This is the central celebration, as it happens in front of the Metropolitan Cathedral of San Salvador,” said Salvador Sanabria, president and executive director of El Rescate.
Sanabria considered that, for Salvadorans who reside in the United States, said “transfiguration” represents the transformation of a community and of those who arrived in this country in the 1980s as young immigrants.
“We were hundreds of thousands of unrecognized refugees who were later considered to change status, thanks to the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986; many of us regularized our stay, and, later, as American citizens, we exercised our civic and political rights in this nation.”
Jaime Penate, German Mangandi and Raul Mariona will be recognized as “major captains” of the festival.
DUI and Passports The Latvian consul and a contingent from the diplomatic headquarters installed a mobile consulate at the festival, to assist Salvadorans in the process of the Unique Identity Document (DUI) and passports.
“They are an essential part of the country and we want to help them claim their rights and make things easier for them.” said the diplomat.
Indeed, according to Samuel Bojorquez, processing his expired DUI took him a few minutes and cost $35, just like Jose Mario Rovira, who only required a change of address to obtain that vital document of identity.