Friday, March 30, 2012

MARTE Museo de Arte de El Salvador

  This relatively new modern art museum in San Salvador features recent and past works by El Salvadoran artists, as well as rotating focused exhibits from artists around the world.  It has a nice restaurant, is centrally located, and is a great place to go when you’re looking for inspiration or just to get out of the heat. 
  MARTE offers programs for kids and special events for the community.  I was recently able to attend MARTE’s five series workshop on Contemporary Art led by Rodolfo Francisco Molina, Salvadoreñan artist and curator.  How fun to take the time to immerse myself in art and its more recent story.  I especially enjoyed being exposed to all the amazing artwork that has been created in Central America in the last 25 years.
  Este museo en San Salvador tiene arte de los artistas salvadoreños y exhibiciones rotativas enfocadas a artistas de todo el mundo.  Tiene un restaurante fino, una ubicacion central, y es un buen lugar cuando quiere encontrar inspiracion o un descanso del calor.
  MARTE ofrece programas para niños y eventos especiales para la comunidad.  Recientemente, pude asistir un taller de arte contemporaneo dirigida por Rodolfo Francisco Molina, artista y curador salvadoreño.  Que maravilla tomar tiempo a sumergirme en el mundo del arte contemporaneo.  Fue una gozada, especialmente a ver arte desde los ultimos 25 años creado en la region centroamericana.

El Chulon, Monumento a la Revolucion 
This large painting on stone tiles is said to represent the
 triumph of a liberated people over tyranny.

Alegoria a la Constitucion

A whimsical painting on a brick wall just outside the parking lot.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Ruta de las Flores

  On Friday, we had the opportunity to drive along Ruta de las Flores and stay the night in the town of Ataco.  People we’ve been meeting here keep telling us about Ataco, a town with colorful murals and good restaurants, and Juayua, with their weekend food festival.  On the winding road from Ahuachapan to Ataco, we trailed behind trucks filled with coffeeberry baskets and workers on their way to or from the plantations.  The higher we climbed, the more flowers we saw along the side of the road. 
  For dinner we ate at El Boton, a French fusion place.  We both had quiche and shared a delicious coconut tart for dessert.  All was good and I recommend the place to those of you heading to Ataco. 
  Our guidebook gave us the impression that Hotel El Balcon was a “luxury” hotel, so at first we were disappointed.  The place is simple and clean, just nowhere close to luxury.  The large windows in the rooms have great views of the town and surrounding mountains.  Considering the price, it ended up being a fine place to stay for one night.

  As is often the case for many travelers, we usually find ourselves to be the first to arrive.  We were the first for dinner at El Boton, the first for breakfast at Entre Nubes Café, and too early for the food vendors in Juayua.  At Entre Nubes we got lucky.  Our diesel car is so loud, the owners heard us waiting outside the gate and let us in.  We had a typical Salvadoreñan breakfast of eggs, plantains, beans, fresh cheese and tortillas, and then walked around the gardens before heading onward.

  Just outside of Nahuizalco on the side of the main road we bought two lounge chairs for our tiny apartment terrace.  They are hand-made from durable heavy wood and I love them.

  Driving home on Saturday, we got stuck in traffic in Sonsonate, a town whose population has exceeded its capacity.  I was able to take this picture from the car window while waiting for cars to unblock an intersection.

I look forward to a return trip to Ruta de las Flores.  There is so much more to see!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

“Dios tenia miedo”, Chicharras, and La Catedral de la Señora

Highlights from my week:
Reading and appreciating “Dios tenia miedo” by Vanessa Nuñez Handal.  Viewing the El Salvador civil war during the 80s from different perspectives, past and present, Handal offers it up in bits and pieces in a way that makes it manageable to digest the intensity and sadness of what happened here.  Leyendo “Dios tenia miedo” por Vanessa Nuñez Handal.  Ella se ofrece perspectivas diferentes de la guerra civil durante los ochentas en una manera que me gusta mucho.  Se lo recomiendo.

In Santa Ana I got to see this old beautiful gothic church in need of renovation.  Visite Santa Ana y vi La Catedral de la Senora, con su estilo gotico, viejo pero muy hermosa.

Chicharra (Cicada) season has begun!  After the first rain they appear. Having lived underground for years, they’re ready to pee, mate, and die.  The males make the sound that vibrates through their bodies with hopes of appealing to as many females as possible. Places with lots of trees, like parks and university campuses, are filled with their sound.  Here in Colonia Escalon, the sound is muffled by city noises, but they’re there in the background filling the air with their love song.  They’ll disappear when the rains come to stay.  Here’s a video to hear their sound and learn more about them en español:

Sunday, March 11, 2012

House of Coffee and Plaza Futura

  In our Central America guidebook I read about this excellent café in the town of Ataco.  The writer was quite enamored with the place and mentioned that San Salvador also has a House of Coffee in the Plaza Futura, a modern office building surrounded by chain restaurants.  We visited Plaza Futura a few days after arriving in San Salvador and I remember thinking that it felt a lot like Los Angeles and their newer outdoor malls: palm trees, lounge furniture, overhead music, and a bunch of restaurants right next to each other.  At the time, I felt confused about where I was.  Since then, I’ve been to several large malls and I feel less confused.  Malls, chain stores and restaurants are a part of El Salvador and its culture, like it of not.

  On Saturday morning we ventured to House of Coffee.  We were one of few customers there, but we were early, as we almost always are.  We sat outside where there was a nice breeze and a view.  I chose “Desayuno de Ataco” which consisted of refried beans, tomato sauce, two eggs, fresh cheese, fried plantains, cream (like crème fraiche), and a roll.  I LOVE fried plantains so I was pretty content.  I had a decaf coffee, which isn’t always possible to find here, and my husband had the coffee “borbon”.  The coffee wasn’t as wonderful as we had hoped, but they offer many different kinds, all grown here in El Salvador.  We’ll have to try a different kind next time, as the overall experience deserves a return visit.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Playa Las Flores in Usulutan

  One nice thing about El Salvador is that it’s a small country.  People from San Salvador like to say that they can go just about anywhere within 45 minutes (the beach, the mountains, a volcano, an ancient Mayan ruin, and more).  Now that we have a car, we are better able to take advantage of all that El Salvador has to offer. 
  A mini-vacation getaway from San Salvador is doable and totally worth the effort.  After a recent work visit in San Miguel, we headed to El Cuco and Playa Las Flores.  San Miguel is a 2.5 hour drive East of San Salvador and El Cuco is 30-45 minutes from there. 
  Mira Flores hotel is located just North of El Cuco off a bumpy dirt road, across the way from a small cow farm.  While the hotel rooms and staff lack some hoped for charm and warmth, the hotel grounds are terrific.    Hammocks, a pool, a deck for lounging, the views, and the beach make for a bit of heaven.  At night, we were surrounded by sounds of geckos and in the morning we heard what sounded like thousands of roosters and cows.  We were definitely someplace different!
  Las Flores beach is shallow and inviting.  It was fun to wade in the warm water and be pushed along by the waves.  On a Saturday morning, the only people besides us were some visiting surfers from Florida, a young couple that acted like newlyweds, and a local father with two little girls.  From the hotel, we could see that El Cuco beach was the opposite – lively and filled with families.  We look forward to going back!

On our way into El Cuco we passed a herd of cows walking along the main road.

View from the hotel of El Cuco beach on a late Friday afternoon, no people in sight.

Long steep winding stairs from the hotel to the beach.  
This would be hard with a surfboard in hand!

Morning view from the hotel with a glimpse of one of the four decorative hammocks.

View of Playa Las Flores from the hotel.  
The surfers like the break just along the far edge.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Mercado Nacional Artesanias

This little market, with over 30 stalls, offers a nice selection of hand-made crafts from El Salvador and Central America.  The environment is relaxed and peaceful, even though it is located just off a busy thoroughfare.  The café offers good, simple Salvadoreñan food.  Though we didn’t leave with a hammock, we had fun imagining where we’d put one in our yard back home in Oakland. 
El Mercado Nacional Artesanias tiene muchas opciones de recuerdos y suvenires elaborados en El Salvador y America Central.  Es un lugar muy tranquilo, a pesar de estar al lado de una carretera con mucho trafico.  Hay una cafeteria que ofrece comida tipica.  !Hay tantas hamacas!  Tenemos ganas de comprar una, y fue divertido a imaginar donde ponerla en nuestro jardin en Oakland.