Mauricio lives in the village of Piedra Azul (“Blue Rock”) in the region of San Rafael, about 150 miles east of the capitol San Salvador. He is in his early 20’s and is the church council president. He studies communications at the university.
It takes some effort for those from Mauricio’s village to attend high school, let alone college. There is no high school where he lives, so those few students whose families can afford the cost of transportation take a bus some distance from home each day.
University is a whole other matter. Mauricio spends two weeks at a time living away from family so he can take classes.
After a morning devotion and conversation about the text for the day – the story of the Good Samaritan – led by Pastor Donald, we are invited to ask questions of church members about life in this region of El Salvador. We hear about living at the base of a volcano. We hear of its eruption this past December forcing the evacuation of the village. We hear residents tell of “sleeping like rabbits” now – one eye closed and one eye open, alert for signs of another eruption.
And then Mauricio speaks. He says that he’d like to talk about the recent increase of Salvadoran youth to the United States. There are six youth from the village who in the past six months have attempted the journey to the United States. One boy has made it (on his fourth attempt) and there is a celebration planned for this weekend.
Someone asks Mauricio a question – they want to know what he sees as his future ten years from now. At first, Mauricio seems surprised by the question. Then he answers that he believes in several years only women will be left in the village.
But then he is asked to answer the question personally, as a young college student… and Mauricio breaks down. He swallows hard to hold back the tears and simply shakes his head.
His pastor speaks up and offers words of encouragement. Other adults share their hope for the future. But the picture of Mauricio shaking his head in despair lingers in my mind. This is why I believe I came to El Salvador – I needed to listen to Mauricio and other Salvadorans like him.