Archive for November, 2006

Golfito, Costa Rica

Thursday, November 30th, 2006

We arrived the other day after a very mild trip around the Oso peninsula (our books says the area is “famous for its violent thunderstorms”). We had probably four knots of wind all night, then upon sunrise, it poured rain. I stood in the cockpit on watch under the umbrella while the boat just sat still in the middle of the gulf, the water pounded flat.


Bahia Drake to Golfito

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006

According to Charlie’s Charts, there is one anchorage between Parque Manuel Antonio and Bahia Drake; it breaks the trip up into two nice day-long sails. We set out for Bahia Uvita under light wind and arrived about an hour to sunset with a storm about to dump on us and our wind about to die. Our charts show Uvita as a hammer-shaped lump at the end of the spit of land, thereby creating a little protected nook to anchor; Charlie’s doesn’t show the hammer but it has a little island and says that the exposed reef cuts the swell to create a mellow spot to anchor. In actuality, a storm at some point must have wiped out all land lumps and islands because now there exists only a blunt nub of land with a mile-long exposed reef sticking off the end. The swell comes over this and breaks up into billions of choppy wavelets that create a high-frequency barrage of wakes, thereby turning the anchorage into a godawful mayhem. We discovered this around the time the wind died, the sun set, and the rain started; so we stayed.

It was a rolly, lurchy, violent night and neither of us got the Beauty Sleep; by four or so the next morning, we climbed out of bed and staggered around the boat getting coffee started and trying to get the motor started. Naturally, the motor refused to start and managed only a choking cough sound every time its cord was pulled. We gave up on it and just pulled up the anchor under sail. With maybe two or three knots of wind and the frightful chop generated off the reef, “sailing” out of the anchorage was a vexing experience. We physically held the sails out to keep them from flogging and to try to hang onto what little air there was. At four in the morning we did this. An hour later, we were only 1/2 mile from where we started but we were just far enough around the reef so that we were fully exposed to the open swell; here, thankfully, it was calm enough for Joshua to take the carburetor apart without fear of falling overboard. By hour two, we were still within a mile of the anchorage (lame!) but the wind began to pick up (sweet!). Joshua, who is a fucking genius, actually got the motor running after whatever it was he did to the carburetor and we ran it for a while to give ourselves the impression of forward progress and until we were well out of the reef area. Then we killed it to sail under wind power.

The sail to Bahia Drake actually turned out to be excellent after the rocky start; the wind picked up steadily until late afternoon when it peaked at around 15 knots (perfect wind for a beat) and we were flying through the relatively calm seas. We found a promising-looking scum line (yes, excitement abounds upon the Time Machine) and sailed along it for several miles while trailing delicious plastic squids through the water; sadly, the dorado shunned our lures and our dinner that night was not to consist of the Fish of Opportunity. (Actually, we did snag one skipjack but threw it back because that’s the only one I don’t like.) At sunset we entered Bahia Drake and anchored. The bay is lined with beautiful jungle hills, few scattered houses, no mega time-share high rises, reddish sand beaches, and several river estuaries. There were only a few fishing pangas and one other sailboat in the anchorage. The hills glowed amber and glass windows reflected gold in the setting sunlight.

Mangrove Roots. Bahia Drake, Costa Rica

Bahia Drake turned out to be just as gorgeous by day as it seemed the night before. It is remote—the only way to get there often is by boat (yes, we rock) because the rainy-season creates some appalling jeep-swallowing ruts. It also is at the northern edge of the Corcovado National Park, which encompasses a large portion of the Osa peninsula and is one of the largest, most primeval, oldest, tallest, with the most abundant and unique flora and fauna, and a-few-other-things-else-est park in the entire world (if you believe everything you read). There is a small town with a medical compound complete with scrub-bedecked nurses prowling the local ‘sodas’ during the lunch hour and a few “eco-resorts,” which are schmancey hotels nestled amongst the jungle foliage rather than high-rising out of a cleared portion of it, with bars and restaurants and artful landscaping all around everything–and they also cost a bloody fortune. Eco-resorts are invariably owned and run by gringos. There is a trail running down the southern edge of the bay down the coast goes all the way around to Puerto Jimenez, but we followed it only until Bahia Pariaso, maybe six miles away. Along the way you keep feeling like you have left it all behind and I-hope-we-brought-enough-power-bars, but then another kilometer down, you stumble into a clearing where there is a tent camp and a running generator or something (you can hike all over the peninsula, tent camp to tent camp); this time of the year sees few tourists since it is still officially rainy season. We initially worried that we had set off on the hike without enough water but this turned out to be stupid because there were coconuts all over the place and those eco-tent-resort things every few kilometers. Periodically, we would collect a couple of coconuts and bash them open on the rocks (not easy) for the water inside, then continue down the trail munching on the nutmeat. (By the way, coconut husk juice splatters widely and stains badly.) (Oh, also, never eat too much fresh coconut meat because it, um, makes one’s intestinal tract slickery, if you catch my drift.)

suspended footbridge. Bahia Drake, Costa Rica

The third day, we had planned a leisurely kayak up one of the rivers at high tide, but when lowering the kayak into the water, the Cordura casing ripped and so, until we fix it, that is the end of the kayak. The wind started blowing so we just put our stuff away and took off for Golfito, located around the tip of the Osa peninsula inside the gulf. Mom was due to arrive in a few days anyway so it probably was best we had a chance to scope out the scene and stock up on martini ingredients.

shoreline. Golfito, Costa Rica

The run to Golfito was an overnight run for us; we wanted to give ourselves a lot of time in case the wind was light and we made poor time. Typically I prefer the second and fourth watches. I dislike the first watch because, although I am infrequently tired right at 6 or 7pm, I fear the initial onset of darkness when we are sailing along into the night with all those night preparations and putting away of things and all that. I like to just try to go to bed immediately and forget about it all. Waking up at midnight for a three-hour watch seems less freakish to me. Jeff always called this the ‘Dog Watch.’ You just get up and it is already dark and you are disoriented because you just were woken up after getting very little fitful sleep but you go above after donning what you assume must be the appropriate clothing and look around and assess the situation, take over the steering wheel and resume. If I am lucky, there aren’t any squalls, I don’t have to do any extensive sail readjusting, don’t have to start the motor (and wake up Joshua because our motor is being lame lately and I don’t have the explosive strength in my arms to pull-start the bastard), and don’t fall asleep. About half the time this is true and I get through the watch without checking the clock on the GPS too many times and then I get to go back to sleep. I know I am really tired when I have a hard time keeping our course straight. Once back in the bunk and a groggy Joshua deposited back into the cockpit, I dream all sorts of confused weirdness; then I get woken three or four minutes later by a very tired Joshua. In reality, three hours have again passed and by now it is the morning shift. Joshua summons the last of his strength to report every light that has passed and how well he could see it and how our course has changed a whole 15 degrees because actually this is the most exciting thing that has happened all night and then he goes below and passes out cold. And I am again sitting in the cockpit blinking my eyes and wondering if there might be any cookies left.

Dawn happens about sixty billion hours later and this particular dawn, on that very uneventful night around Matapalo towards Golfito, the sun rose over heavily cloudy and obscured skies; then it rained. Very hard. I saw it coming and buttoned up the boat tight; then I popped open the umbrella and stood in our cockpit beneath the downpour, listening to the roar. The wind had died utterly and the water was mashed flat by the force of the raindrops but I just stood and waited another hour until Joshua woke up to get the motor started for the last mile into Golfito bay.


Parque Manuel Antonio

Tuesday, November 21st, 2006

Anchored at Parque Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

In spite of, or probably because of, Margo’s (a.k.a. Mrs. Charlie’s Charts) less than ecstatic review of the Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio (i.e., gobs of people and she only saw white faced monkeys, wah!), we were terribly excited to arrive and get our anchor down. We were promptly rewarded with goodies too; the anchorage is right in the park, right off the prettiest beach, right in the lee of the spectacular “Punta Catedral,” and within clean earshot of the howler monkeys. There was also one funky odor that was a combination between mushroom and skunk. The entire park smelled like it and that first night had me following my nose all over the boat, sniffing at our “clean” laundry, at the dishtowel, at the pile of foul weather gear stacked on the bunk, at the bunk itself until I was mostly convinced the smell did not originate on the Time Machine.

We hopped in the water and swam to the beach to check out the late afternoon scene. People were set up with towels and swimming all up and down the beach (a fair amount of people, but not enough to be horrible). We wandered across the narrow jungly land spit over to the other side, where there was another lovely beach littered with tourists. Then the ranger started blowing his whistle: 4pm, the park is now closed! He herded people out with his whistle and we walked back to the other side to swim back out to the boat. Halfway out Joshua looked back to see one of the rangers standing on the edge of the sand looking after us, shrugging his shoulders to say “what the hell?” Ha ha! Safe back on the boat, we hung out and made micheladas with the last of our beer. We noticed that there was a crowd of mixed gringos and ticos (Costa Ricans) left on the beach, screaming and swimming and generally having a dandy time; the rangers totally ignored them and they stayed long after all the tourists left. After a while some of them swam out to the boat to see what was up with us. They were all volunteers, mostly young people from the UK, and Costa Rican guides; they all lived in a house inside the park. “Oh the park is gorgeous! You’ll love it! TONS of wildlife!” they said. I was stoked. Then we found out that the next day (Monday)–the day we thought we’d be heading in to do all that national park stuff–it would in fact be closed. Damn!

Ah well. Maybe we’d head into Quepos and restock our beer supply. However, the next morning we awoke to a downpour. Around noon when it finally did clear up, it was dreary and still. Since we were not feeling like motoring all the way around the point to town, we decided to spend the day toodling around in the kayak, since we could not go IN the park, we could just sort of go around it. We kayaked around the opposite inlet to an inlet two headlands away where we thought, from the chart, it might be possible to anchor. (After looking at it, it turned out that no, not good—rocky and not as protected as one might think, but fun for a kayak.) We actually saw a number of monkeys from the boat too: white-faced monkeys, which look startlingly like cats from a distance (and when you are nearsighted), and squirrel monkeys (which look like squirrels even to a person with 20/20 vision). We got quite a good look at the squirrel monkeys, the first couple we saw and got all excited about turned out to be the first of a large group and they spent a lot of time running up and down the branches of bushes and making huge leaps from tree to tree. These monkeys are tiny and adorable and very lithe. Joshua tried to record the leaps with the video function of our camera but captured mostly the insane lurching of the kayak.

The next morning we tied the kayak up under what we hoped was not the poisonous tree on the beach and walked back to the entrance where we could pay for some tickets (good little bunnies). Then we set out to spot some wildlife. Turns out it is not all that difficult, particularly where guides and tourists are abundant; you just look in the same direction all the other people are looking and you will be rewarded with an iguana, or monkey, or jesus lizard. By the end of the day we had seen nearly every animal we had heard mention of and had taken one and a half gigs of photos and video.

I was pretty jazzed about the squirrel monkeys the previous day but we have seen by now a lot of howlers and so monkeys were not exactly high on my list of must-sees. What were: SLOTHS. I was hell bent on spotting a sloth. A three toed sloth (were there others? Two-toed? Five-toed?). Whenever we passed a particularly excited group of people snapping photos at the underbrush, we’d eavesdrop to discover that alas, it was another lizard or something. After a while we were just hiking around the trails and we ran across a pair of Dutch tourists looking up. “Three-toed sloth,” they said. All right!

Except, I couldn’t see it. I did see a sort of funky growth on the tree. “Is it moving?” we asked. Well, they said, they thought they had seen it move maybe a few centimeters. If I knew anything at all about a sloth, it was not to expect aerobics. Then it did move. It very slowly and deliberately walked along a branch and up another branch; it was like watching a slow-motion film. Then it froze again and munched on some leaves. And it was cute! Sloths look like the Swedish Chef from the old Muppet Show. We watched her (she was a she, we later decided) so long that I had to hold my hand behind my neck so my head didn’t drop off backwards, then we finally moved on.

three-toed sloth. Parque Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

By the end of the day I had completely satisfied my sloth-sighting quota because after a while we got our sloth-eyes on and had to but look up into the forest canopy and there one would be, dangling under a branch. By far the most amazing sloth encounter, however, was when we were walking down a dirt road on the edge of the park. I heard a rustle at the side of the road and a sloth all but tumbled down the embankment onto the road. Right in front of me! We had earlier overheard a guide explain that sloths are very easy to sex—the males have a black dot on their backs and the females don’t; this was obviously a male. “Black dot” is something of an understatement too: this thing is five inches long and looks like an evil eye; the fur is also a different texture and length. Anyway, this sloth just plopped down onto the road, looked up at us, then continued on across the road, utterly unconcerned by me or by any potential traffic there may be. What kind of self-preservation is that? And, while they may move slowly through the trees, they definitely move with finesse; on the ground is another story entirely. He lurched and tummy crawled with his long arms and short legs and those freaky curved claws across the gravel. We self-importantly escorted him across, Joshua shooting photos the entire time. Every so often, he’d swing his head over without breaking stride and give us a mild look. Finally when we got to the other side, he pulled himself up the first vertical thing available and was back in the trees.

I find it difficult to believe, but more than one guide told us that sloths come down out of the trees to go to the bathroom. They climb down, dig a hole, poop (slowly), then go back into the trees. During this time they are of course a sitting sloth for any predators, and they have all sorts of natural predators too: jaguars and other wild cats, big snakes, dogs, taxicabs, etc. I would think that tree-poopers would have been selected for by now so whatever purpose an energy-taxing and life-threatening ground-poop fulfils must be of utmost evolutionary importance.

white faced monkeys. Parque Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

We didn’t see the squirrel monkeys again this day but we did see a large group of white-faced monkeys. These guys are a real crowd-pleaser; they come blitzing through en masse and they are ornery, snatch things from the tourists and each other, run up and down the trees picking at twigs and chewing on leaves, and from time to time, screech loudly and make everyone jump. We chatted with one of the guides while we waited out a white-faced monkey squall and he said that they were the most destructive of all the animals in the park; they tear stuff up, they harass the other slower animals (sloths), and they can get aggressive when stupid humans feed them snacks.

vine snake. Parque Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

We watched one monkey find a thin brown vine snake, then bite into the middle of it, tearing off strips of meat. He ate only a few bites and then tossed the flailing snake aside (no regard for the starving monkeys over in India). The snake was alive but probably not for long. It was a pretty and very delicate little snake.

We also saw howler monkeys, TWO-toed sloths (sleeping in a tree; these guys are nocturnal and evidently more aggressive than their three-toed Swedish-chef cousins), an abunti (rodent of unusual size), iguanas, jesus lizards (those guys that run on water, like in Wild Kingdom), long-nosed bats (roosting in the tops of the poisonous trees), many morphos and other insects, coatis, raccoons, and a family of deer.

two-toed sloth. Parque Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

[Two-toed sloth; from this photo he looks downright scary.]


Let’s Cooking = Pupusas

Thursday, November 16th, 2006

I may have mentioned a few thousand times about the dismaying blandness of Central American food, particularly after the richness and variety of Mexican cuisine. The mercados no longer offer a rainbow of hot peppers, even the ever-present chili poblano disappeared, only to be replaced by a lighter-green facsimile that has no apparent spice whatsoever. El Salvador cooking, however, in my vaguely biased opinion, is a bit more exciting in general but there is one shining gem that not only makes El Salvador a food destination, but nearly redeems all of Central America, just knowing this island of potential deliciousness exists. And this is the Pupusa.

Pupusas are like a stuffed tortilla, made either of corn or rice flour. We have found both rice and corn to be available nearly everywhere we’ve gone. They are about six inches in diameter, thick with fillings of cheese, beans, chicharrόn (fatty pork), or any combination thereof; a mixture of all three is called ‘revueltas.’ In San Salvador, you can often find cheese and ‘ayote,’ a grated squash, and these are particularly excellent. On the Estero, at Mar y Sol, we often ordered cheese and shrimp. Invariably it is served with ‘curtido,’ a shredded cabbage, carrot, and onion saurkraut-ish salad, as well as a mild tomato sauce. They cost from 25 cents on the street to 40 cents depending upon how ‘fancy’ the restaurant is; I can eat two. Frequently I think I want to eat three, but experience has taught me that I will be sorry and to always stick with two.

In San Salvador, particularly near the center or around the market, there are pupusa stands set up everywhere you look. They line the sidewalks of certain streets, one after another; some cooking corn pupusas and some cooking rice ones. Despite my corn intolerance, I broke down once (for the sake of science) and ate a couple of corn pupusas. I have to say the corn are perhaps a little better—I find they have a richer flavor, but typically I was forced for the sake of sanity and well-being to stick to the rice pupusas and many people prefer these to the corn.

Pupusa Stand. San Salvador, El Salvador

This woman had her pupusa stand set up a few blocks from the hotel we typically stayed in, near the technical university in San Salvador. The number of pupusa stands is staggering in this section of town and since she was on a side street off the major busy diesel-choked bus street, we generally made a beeline for her stand the moment we exited our hotel in the mornings. (Even so, avoiding busses is nearly impossible in this city, as you can see.)

You can see the large aluminum bowls of fillings; she makes two different sizes, the six-incher and another smaller one, of around four inch’s diameter. Most people seem to order the smaller size in the mornings, possibly because it is easier to eat with your hands. Pupusas are typically eaten with the hands; utensils are used only to scoop the curtido out of the jar. We would usually try to ask if they had any sort of utensils (we are not as skilled at not making a mess if we eat them with our hands; besides, they are always hot as hell to touch when they come off the grill) and this would be met with confused looks like, ‘just what are you going to DO with that fork?’ or sometimes a lengthy search resulting in one bent-up aluminum fork and one dusty plastic coffee spoon. We actually took to carrying around a couple of plastic forks wherever we went in case we needed a pupusa or two and this always killed the pupusa ladies; they would nudge each other at our curious gringo habits, we would give them a big goofy grin, and they would burst into raucous laughter.

Pupusa Stand. San Salvador, El Salvador

She was either assisted by her son or her husband (today is the son).

Pupusa Stand. San Salvador, El Salvador

The aluminum canister on the left is the coffee urn. Coffee, albeit brewed (not instant), is weak and much sugar is added. Sounds gross but we sort of developed a taste for it when we were in the city. The pupusa stands usually also have an urn of hot chocolate in the mornings. (Note the elaborate market apron; market women in El Salvador invariably wear one of these aprons, although generally they don’t have the bib part, just the skirt.)

Pupusa Stand. San Salvador, El Salvador

This was our other favorite street pupusa stand; they were located a block off the central square in the market and they always had cheese and ayote pupusas. The only problem is that they did not have tables set up—you had to take your pupusa to go wrapped in brown paper with a little plastic baggie of curtido and a baggie of tomato sauce.

PUPUSAS

(Dough)
* Rice flour or corn flour (masa). I’ve only tried this with rice flour, which can probably be found in the US in any sort of Co-op or Whole Foods type stores, at least.
* Water

To prepare:
For two pupusas per person, use 1/4 to 1/3 cup of rice flour (or masa, presumably) per person. Add water and mix until you have a dryish pasty consistency. Imagine something you might be able to ball up in your hands… That’s it; it’s insanely easy and I recommend making all the fillings, curtido, and tomato sauces in advance (and in quantity) and then putting together the dough at the last minute whenever you want to cook them.

(Fillings)
* Cheese. Salvadorian cheese, ‘quesillo,’ is a soft melting cheese and either comes mixed with flower buds, called ‘loroco,’ or loroco is added. I have not achieved consistency perfection yet with the cheese, but you must chop and blend it somehow with the flower buds until it becomes creamy, even sort of pasty. A possible US substitution might be a soft mozzarella, chopped and smashed to a more pasty consistency; chives could be mixed in or maybe minced squash blossoms would be good. (You need the pasty consistency when assembling the pupusas.)
* Beans. Basically, use refried beans. I would never make these from scratch due to the insane amount of time required and the profusion of ready-made refried bean products out there, but one obviously could. Again, you want a nice pasty consistency—not too watery.
* Chicharrόn. I have done my best to ignore what is actually in chicharrόn, but I must face my demons sometime so here it is. I thought it was always pork skin, but the consistency of the chicharrόn we got in pupusas often seemed to have a shredded thing going, so I would say use some sort of fatty porky product and you will be safe. Chop the chicharrόn into a pan with chopped onion and tomato and simmer until the veggies are soft and the majority of water has boiled off. Blend the mixture into a paste. (You might start to notice a trend here with the paste thing.)
* Ayote. I never found a recipe during online searches for ayote pupusas but I would guess that it could be prepared thusly: shred some sort of squash, like yellow crook-neck or you could try to find ‘ayote’ in a latin grocery. Simmer in a pan with a little oil and salt until it is tender and much of the water has evaporated. You can probably avoid mashing this one to a paste and just leave it a limp shredded heap.

Obviously this is an insane amount of preparation to make a few pupusas revueltas. Making the fillings you wish ahead of time and then keeping them in the refrigerator makes the most sense; you can then put together a pupusa or two whenever you feel like it. I’ve only personally made the cheese ones.

(Curtido)
* Cabbage. Shred into very fine strips; I try to keep mine in the 1/8-inch width range and maybe an inch or two long.
* Carrot. Peel and coarsely shred a carrot or two (depending upon how much curtido you intend to make). You want the carrot to add a sprinkle of color to the cabbage mixture, not equal parts; a 1:5 ratio perhaps.
* White onion. Chop some onion into thin slices; proportion-wise, you want less onion than carrot.
* Jalapeno. Slice some jalapeno (to taste).
* White vinegar.
* Water.
* Fresh oregano, coarsely chopped.
* Salt.

To prepare:
Admittedly, I have not been able to get my curtido to taste “right.” I don’t know why because the ingredients seem so straightforward. I highly recommend locating a Salvadorian woman and consulting with her about ingredients and ratios. At any rate, mix the vegetables and cover with vinegar and water, mixed half-and-half. Mix in an attractive amount of oregano; enough to taste it but don’t overwhelm the curtido. Add a pinch or two of salt (to taste) and set this aside in the refrigerator overnight or at least for several hours for the flavors to blend. Taste and adjust salt if necessary afterwards; you could add a pinch or two of sugar if the vinegar is too strong. Many of the curtido jars sitting on tables in San Salvador had a yellow color, as if a pinch of tumeric was added; I never found out what this was. The approximate amount of curtido required for one pupusa varies with individual tastes but I would estimate one cup of curtido per four pupusas.

(Tomato Salsa)
* Roma tomatoes. Or you could use canned.
* Chopped white onion. Some.
* Chopped green bell pepper. Some.
* Bouillon; chicken or vegetable, etc.
* Salt to taste (watch out if the bouillon used is already salted).

To prepare:
Simmer the tomato with the onion and pepper in broth until all is soft. Blend in a blender to create a smooth consistency. You want the final result to have a consistency somewhere between V-8 and pasta sauce.

ASSEMBLY

Set up all your bowls of preparation ingredients: dough, fillings, and a small bowl of oil. Heat a dry flat-bottomed skillet to approximate pancake-cooking temperature. If you measured out the flour on a per-person basis, you might visually or physically divide up the dough with a knife so you get an even amount for each pupusa—that way you don’t end up with a runty pupusa at the end, like I always do.

Rub some oil on your hands and grab up a blob of dough, rolling it around into a ball and then flattening it slightly into a concave shape reminiscent of a giant red blood cell (pardon the metaphor). Scoop up a smaller blob of filling (you want maybe a filling center 1/3 or 1/4 the volume of the dough)—either all cheese, half cheese and ayote, half cheese and beans, or revueltas: cheese, beans, and chicharrόn. The Salvadorian ladies do not make any attempt to mix the ingredients inside the pupusa; they smear a bit of one, another, and then another filling and then get on with the forming of the patty. Having a nice paste consistency of your filling ingredients is key for smoothly forming the pupusa. Trying to keep air pockets minimal, gently close your red blood cell over the filling with your hand, turning the thing gently. Ideal is to have an even-walled ball of dough over the fillings before flattening it into a patty; the Salvadorian ladies tend to overestimate the amount of dough required, then fold it into a purse shape over the fillings pinching off the top of excess dough. Now, gently flatten the ball into your six-inch pupusa, taking care not to explode the filling contents out the outer dough.

Place it upon the grill and continue forming more pupusas. I usually cheat and use the grill to continue flattening my pupusas. Cook until the side has a mild browning—you want the heat high enough so that it doesn’t take so long the dough gets dried out but then you don’t want to burn it. Flip and finish cooking on the other side.

Serve hot pupusas with the curtido at room temperature and the tomato salsa heated slightly. The curtido is scooped over the top of the pupusa and then the salsa spooned over this. You could also put hot sauce on it as well (like Tobasco or Marie Sharp’s). You may eat it with a fork, if you must.

Pupusa Stand. San Salvador, El Salvador

Decidedly pleased to have some pupusas in front of me.


Iglesia El Rosario, San Salvador

Thursday, November 16th, 2006

Iglesia El Rosario, San Salvador, El Salvador

San Salvador city center consists of a grid of bus-choked streets surrounding two open squares. There are a couple of cathedrals and loads of pigeons. Here you can see some of the few remaining old colonial buildings, partitioned at street level into tiny electronics shops and pharmacies and such. Against all of the buildings are lean-tos and escaped market stalls made of wood, black plastic, and corrugated metal sprawling out from the official confines of the mercado. They take up every spare inch of sidewalk and extend into the streets, making walking a nerve-jangling experience with all the taxis and busses rushing past. There are people absolutely everywhere, no foreign tourists that we ever saw, and a lot of good pupusas to be had.

Our favorite thing about the city center is the Iglesia El Rosario, the most atypical cathedral I’ve ever seen. It is a huge cavernous building shaped sort of like an up-ended tuna can half submerged in the ground. From the outside, it just looks large and weird. And very very dirty. The inside, however, is amazing. Embedded in the concrete structure are thousands of shards of colored glass arranged by color and reflecting off the walls and floor into the dim interior. Inside it is cool and there is a dull roar from all the traffic outside punctuated by loud echoing creaks and bangs from the doors closing, benches being dragged around, or whatever. All the religious iconry has been welded together out of scrap metal. Angels with wings made of hundreds of rusty nails, sprocket halos over tangled-wire faces.

Iglesia El Rosario, San Salvador, El Salvador

Iglesia El Rosario, San Salvador, El Salvador

Iglesia El Rosario, San Salvador, El Salvador


Cheyenne Weil, Joshua Coxwell