Hi everyone. I'm kind of caught up now that Easter has passed, so I can share some of the information and experiences from my trip. I'll break the information into smaller pieces and add a little every day.
This is information from the group Equipo Maiz that teaches the history of El Salvador from a "People's" point of view. They gave us an excellent overview.
The indigenous peoples of El Salvador have had a very difficult history. The Spanish arrived in 1524 and imposed harsh violence. Resistance lasted 15 years, but they eventually became a Spanish colony. But the Spanish didn't want the corn (maiz) that was their major crop. They wanted to grow indigo for export back to Europe (used to dye clothing blue). This meant that all the people living on the flat lands by the ocean (very little of El Salvador could be called flat) were relocated to the hills and mountainous areas. When the price of indigo dropped in the late 1800s, coffee plantations were started, but they needed the hills and mountains, so another forced relocation of the people. Anyone who resisted was killed. The lands of the indigenous were given to people with enough money to start coffee plantations - by decree of the president. They were kindly given shacks on the edges of the plantations, but with such a good deal - free rent - they were expected to work for free. Their lands taken, they became virtual slaves.
A peasant uprising in 1932 failed and resulted in a coup by General Martinez who ruled in a Hitler-like manner for over 30 years. This was followed by a succession of presidents chosen from the military who brought constant persecution. It was during this time that many Salvadorans began leaving for the United States. And the seeds of the coming civil war were planted.
This is a very brief, simplified, version, but it did help provide us with the context of violence and repression that has been part of this country's history.