Universities in El Salvador are like sanctuaries. Generally speaking, they are safe, green, open spaces, free from traffic, crime, and graffiti. Thanks to my husband’s job, I’ve had the chance to visit more than a few campuses, most of which are private and religious-based. My usual response to being on campus is a sense of relief and joy; Relief at being able to walk around in a relaxed environment, and joy seeing young Salvadorans chatting in the halls, smooching on the grass, and going to and from classes.
The religious-based universities in El Salvador have chapels. When I find myself in one I like to take a few moments to sit, reflect in silence, thank the universe for what I have, ask the universe for what I want, and feel the energy that comes when you allow yourself to rest. Despite the oppression, lies, and baggage connected with organized religion, I appreciate, and even envy, the rituals where sacred space and community are created.
UCA, Universidad Centroamericana Jose Simeon Canas, is a particularly lovely campus in San Salvador. It is rich with history and played a poignant role in the civil war. Visiting their chapel you’ll find colorful scenes by Fernando Llort, as well as large drawings of people being tortured called “Stations of the Cross”. You’ll also find the bodies of the six Jesuit Priests who were killed by the Salvadoran Military. In 1989 these priests, along with an employee and her daughter, were shot to death in the early morning on the campus grounds. Near the chapel is a Museum for Martyrs and Center for Monseñor Óscar Arnulfo Romero. The history is chilling, but it’s impressive to see how it is honored at UCA.
If you happen to visit one of these universities, I encourage you to take a moment, whether under a tree or in front of Madonna, to reflect in silence, appreciate all you have, and sit with the unknown.
From Don Bosco University in Soyapango, Universidad Don Bosco
From UNICAES in Santa Ana, Universidad Católica
P.S. UCA has one of the best bookstores in the country
featuring many Salvadoran writers.