On the fifth of November, in celebration of both national and international cultures here in Nuevo Gualcho, we hosted a “Gran Fogata”, combining British bonfire with and a night of Salvadorean storytelling.
With the majority of Nuevo Gualcho families present, as well as the ICS volunteers from Santa Marta, the event was overwhelming in its enormity and in the emotional atmosphere it generated. Our whole lives we are brought up to believe that our culture is the only “normality” - it isn’t until you are engrossed in a new community that you realise how bizarre some traditions are (burning a life-size doll on a fire for one thing!) - it is incredibly refreshing not only to embrace different cultural experiences, but what it is like to rediscover your own.
Having given a brief history of British bonfire night, the floor was open to various communal figures to share their personal experiences of the civil war. Tales were told of the suffering that occurred during the war - of lost lives and lost livelihoods, of the uprooting of families to camps in Honduras, of those that returned, those that didn’t, and those that were never found. The passion with which these stories were shared, and the bravery it took to unravel the past, is a real credit to this community. Here, memories are a shared legacy, with gratitude as the principle remaining emotion for the new start that has been given here in Nuevo Gualcho.
The fogata was an enlightening experience in the importance of preserving and sharing cultural heritage, and one that we will never forget.
Written by ICS volunteers Amelia Hunt and Juan Chavarria