PART I (Made in El Salvador)
Exile has been the destination of many of my Latin American compatriotas. Compatriots, because that was the feeling amongst us when we all arrived to what would be our new homes. Many of us were victims of corrupted governments, dictatorships, and oppression. We were violently separated from our countries and our people. I came to the United States in the mid-80s, escaping a military dictatorship and a dark civil war that left behind more than 70,000 dead and thousands of disappeared. I ran away from horror and into el exilio along with many other Salvadoran refugees. The number of refugees gradually crept up to two million. And I, like so many million around the globe, entered a new existence with roots in my mother country and branches spreading out in a new land. El exilio--a place not like home but a place of constant exploration and renewal.
Many of those who came to the US from El Salvador, landed in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington D.C., New York, among other places. Many of us arrived leaving established professions behind; doctors, scientists, engineers, professors and artists, came along with factory and farm laborers. The civil war spat us all out. In this country, we were greeted as one and the same, all working in a variety of jobs; dishwashers, cooks, construction workers, gardeners, painters, janitors, hotel workers, farm workers.
PART II (Made in USA)
The cycle is vicious. Sons and daughters of broken families, many born in El Salvador, but raised in this country, have ended up in constructed “families,” joining gangs, without a clear purpose, but that of survival. The violence, drugs and alcoholism involved with this new world, is a repetition, in a different context, of the violence that brought them to this country in the first place. The colors red and blue symbolize divisions that have no past. They are constructs that have been born in the spiritual vacuum that the children of many exiliados have found in this country. Many are deported, ending back at the mother country, uprooted for a second time in their lifetime, without language, family or skills, spiritually unfocused, lacking the tools that will allow them to be part of a new society. Governmental programs such as “Mano Dura” and “Super Mano Dura” are inadequate, underestimating the need for guidance and constructive steps that should be taken in order to create a healthy, educated and democratic citizenry, incorporating these “hermanos lejanos” whose identity has been broken over and over again. And the violence continues, while the economies grow.
- Victor Cartagena