Up in the coffee mountains near Los Naranjos (the orange trees), the climate differs from the rest of El Salvador. The simple hotel room doesn’t offer A/C, nor does it need it. Clouds smash into the beautiful property, causing a mist that obstructs your view. Flowers display their vibrant colors like male peacocks during mating season. Ancient trees describe their tales from other times. And when the sun breaks through the clouds, the exquisite view is scattered with dancing, yellow butterflies. This little sanctuary is so beautiful that residents regularly use the land as an event space for weddings and birthdays. However, I’ve noticed they always leave by 3:30 p.m. It gets dark by 6 p.m., and nobody wants to be out once the sun goes down.
Only 100 yards away is one of the poorest communities I’ve witnessed in this country. Shed-like structures made of corrugated metal that fit entire families line both sides of the road. Running water and electricity are luxuries only obtained by the wealthy. And the Barrio 18 gang has unofficial command of the area, with extortion checkpoints in the neighborhood for locals that must pass through to get to work, school and to the store and back. The hotel staff will not allow me to walk down the dirt paths into the community to purchase tamales. Although I can walk away from this in two weeks, this is an unfortunate reality for many Salvadorans trying to raise their families.
President Nayib Bukele has ostensibly been cracking down on violence since his election in 2019 and promises to get rid of all gangs within a four-year period. I’ve felt nothing but safe since my arrival, and it would be a shame for a country with such spectacular vistas, history, people, food and music to not be a destination for others around the globe.
Trevor Davis, former cidermaker and working musician from Frederick, is a travel writer and content creator scouring the Earth in search of taboo culture to absorb. Follow his adventures: Instagram: @rogue_and_vagabond; Tiktok: @rogueandvagabond; Facebook: @rogueandvagabond official.