My mother took me to El Salvador for the first time before I was old enough to talk. Every summer she would pack us all up – my two siblings and I – and we would journey to my favorite place in the world. El Salvador is heat and more heat, it is living with sweat and dirt, it is bugs on bugs on bugs. It is hammocks and rubber rocking chairs, pupusas and pollo campero, it is where my family lives; it is home. How it is that a country that I wasn’t born in, that I wasn’t raised in, could be my country? For me, it just is.
The word “home” doesn’t always have to be taken so literally. My home lies in the memoires of happier times when I, my two older siblings, and six cousins would journey to our parents’ home country for the summer. Home is about being together. We made friends, played games, scraped our knees and ankles and arms. We ate our favorite food – tamales, carne asada, tortillas, choco sandia, arroz, jocotes, the list goes on – and walked around barefoot on the dirt road in front of my abuela’s house. We showered with cold water and got bit ALL over by pesky mosquitos and mutant ants. We went to the beach and played in the black sand where we caught tiny crabs by the rocks. We withstood torrential rains, mini earthquakes, and even a sandstorm where my brother lost a shoe and a neighbor lost a roof. Best of all, we exploded all. Kinds. Of. Firecrackers! All of our free spending money went to buying various types of “cohetes.”
I am proud to have a connection to my people and I am joyous that I have my memories to fall back on. My home matters to me because in its shelter, I became the person I am today. Though there are less of us who visit at a time now, and less places for us to visit due to the rising gang violence that is taking place, El Salvador holds a really special place in my heart. It is my sanctuary. It is my home. Away from home.
Emily Lazo is RUPCO’s Editorial Assistant to Communications. She is a student at SUNY New Paltz double-majoring in English and Communication and Media with a concentration in Intercultural/Interpersonal.