War And Coffee

Words Cannot Express How Much You Bean To Me @ Finca Del Carmen, Ataco

We were off to explore La Ruta De Las Flores, a series of small pueblos/villages in an area famed for it’s high quality home grown coffee and its revolutionary past. Along with other regions in western El Salvador it witnessed a horrible Peasant Massacre by the government in 1932.

“Change” Cristo Negro @ Juayua

A short bus ride from Santa Ana and we had arrived practically on the door step of our hostel “La Mazeta”. A quick check in and we hit the streets in time to see locals putting up the gazebos for the food festival that was on for the weekend. We had heard that other than the weekends, Juayua (why-oo-ah) is a complete ghost town. Luckily we had planned our Ruta de las Flores trip around the weekly weekend food festival. We grabbed a coffee and meandered through its “lovely” cobbled streets admiring the cathedral and main square. A rich indigenous settlement where Nahuatl roots can still be seen “in the craft aesthetic and high cheekbones” (Lonely Planet).

Cristo Negro/Black Christ (in the back of the above photo inside Juayúa’s church) is a significant statue carved by Quirio Cataño in the 16th century representing change. Juayúa has had a brutal and violent past. Indigenous uprisings ignited the revolutionary movement in 1932. This uprising was based on a history of growing social inequality between peasants and land owners. The plantation owners paid their peasant workers (many of whom were indigenous) basically nothing. They were not in fact even paid in money, they were given food and “vouchers” that could only be redeemed at certain shops that were of course controlled by the plantation owners. The movement was made up of insurrection and protest. It was said to be disorganised and unfortunately due to superiour weapons and numbers, government troops slaughtered mostly Nahuatl coffee farmers for an attempted insurrection and mass protest. There are various estimations from anywhere between 10,000 and 40,000.

Templo Del Señor Juayúa @ Juayúa

After a short history lesson and a walkabout, we spent a chilled out evening watching a film due to the very heavy afternoon rain (Forrest Gump if you’re interested, Jess was not interested either), absolute classic, the soundtrack is incredible. We decided to cook in as we had access to a kitchen again.

Switching writers*

The next day we wandered into the square and watched as people set up their hot plates and stands. Within an hour the smell of bbq swept through the streets. We walked through the marquees of food stands and were handed cocktail stick tasters of some of the most tender and flavoursome beef we had ever tried.

Coffee and War, Hand In Hand @ Finca Del Carmen, Concepción de Ataco

We sat and listened to some absolutely horrific singing whilst we had a wee drink and pondered over which comidor we would eat at. Finally we decided on the first one we had come across and for $5 shared a massive plate of marinated beef, veggies and salad. The meal also came with two tortillas but the tortillas here (and in most of Guatemala) are thick and cakey, unlike the ones we loved in Mexico.

Half way through Alice took a big bite of, what we both thought, was cheese stuffed capsicum. It turned out to be a really spicy chile and, well; enough said. Alice drank pineapple juice out of a pineapple the size of her head for the next hour.

That evening we had full intentions of eating at the market but we soon discovered that it closed at 5pm. The next best option? 60 cent pupusas at the famous local joint, Esmeraldas Pupusaria, and they were probably the best yet. We were the only ones in the whole restuarant to be given (without asking) cutlery and to not have plastic on our plates, Alice appreciated the cutlery, she doesn’t really eat anything with her hands ever. Everyone also happened to be drinking a lot of coffee and hot chocolates with dinner, we had noticed this a bit in El Salvador; at least the coffee was back to being decent!

Concepción De Ataco;

The next morning we packed up and jumped on a local bus to another little village on the Ruta De Flores, Concepción De Ataco. We managed to get the craziest bus driver in El Salvador. He wasn’t the worsts we had had but he was determined to take corners as quickly as possible. I was sat on my bag and Alice was standing in the aisle desperately trying to hold on to the luggage rack while the driver almost flipped the bus on ever corner. Thankfully, we arrived alive within half an hour to Ataco. On our walk to the hostel, we admired the murals painted on the walls of the buildings. We had a bit of a wait for our room to be ready (we were expecting this due to the fact we had arrived at 10am) so we took to the streets.

Revolutionaries @ Concepción de Ataco

Firstly we walked up to a mirador where we had a beautiful view over the pueblo. We then wandered through the streets for the next couple hours. There was a l in the village this weekend and the streets were lined with participants, vendors of all things and the local food festival.

The murals lined each street, minimally obstructed by the artesan markets spewing out onto the roads.

Coffee and Indigenous People @ Concepción de Ataco

After lunch at the food festival, again with all the meets which is really the only decent part of the meal, the tortillas are a cm thick and dry, we headed to the local Finca De Cafe (Finca del Carmen) and took a tour through the start to finish of the coffee making process, finishing with a cup of the good stuff itself. It was a very interesting tour, especially when Alice decided to ask about fair trade which followed by us trying to explain fair trade.

We will say it was lost in translation. There was also a section which was the final stage before bagging where they employed women (only women) to sit at a conveyor belt and pick out the spoilt or irregular beans. This job was reserved only for women because and I quote “they are more patient, pay more attention to detail, and they have smaller hands”, Alice was not overly chuffed with this answer. “What if men have small hands? Do you also employ children based on their hand size? Isn’t it a bit generalised to say all women are more patient than men?”. It’s probably more based on shit wages in that part of the process.

Colourful Streets @ Concepción de Ataco

That night we braved the start of an electrical storm and headed to a pupuseria that apparently had the best in the country. We half jogged half power walked due to my irrational fear of storms and ended up at Pupusaria Primivera. We had been told by Chelle and Stark (the two ladies we climbed Santa Ana with) that the garlic and cheese was not to be missed. We ordered a mixture of chicken, squash and garlic pupusas and watched as the electrical storm completely lit up the sky and the streets. Chelle and Stark were right, these did end up being the best pupusas we had had so far, although that is not much to go on as up until Suchitoto we had been too scared to eat them again after Ad’s case of the pupoosas on Tajamulco.

The next morning we woke up early (early for Ataco) and hit the streets to take photos of the hundreds of murals that lined the streets before vendors and tiendas opened up and covered them with their stock. Literally nothing was open. We waited until 9am for our hotel café to open but it turns it it’s obviously closed on a Monday. Obviously. Everything was closed, it really was like a ghost town.

We gave up after 10am waiting for any place that sold food to open and jumped on a bus and headed 15 minutes down the road to Ahuachapán, where we changed buses for Tacuba. We had no accomodation or plan, but this is the jumping off point for Parque Nacional El Imposible.

Good Morning! @ Concepción de Ataco

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