Intro to Arcatao: Fiestas de San Bartolome

A Bit About Arcatao

Katie and I arrived in Arcatao Friday. Arcatao is a town of about 3,000 people located on the Salvador-Honduran boarder. Like many Salvadoran communities, the war had a strong impact on Arcatao. In 1986, without warning, the military government (funded by the United States government) came here with firing squads. Those who were not killed fled the town and were either internally displaced or took refuge in Honduras. The Madison sistering committee was founded days after.

Mural at El Centro de Martirez Sumpul, Arcatao

Today the community, overall, is peaceful and organized. Check out this video for a better understanding of the Arcatao-Madison sistering relationship:

Fiestas: The First Few Days

As I said, we arrived Friday just in time for the town’s patron saint fiestas. We had a meeting in the afternoon where we met with the leaders of each committee in Arcatao (many were absent because of the fiestas).  The meeting began with each attendee introducing themselves and their work. It was nice to get a feel for what opportunities for involvement there are here. We also got to check out the historic memory museum. The historic memory committee is in charge of running this museum and keeping the history of Arcatao alive so future generations can learn from the past.

After the meeting, we helped people blow up balloons and decorate for a party for the elderly. It was a nice ice breaker to see these people who were so formal during the meeting make dirty jokes about some oddly shaped balloons.

My host dad/grandpa (bottom) and Katie's Host dad (top) get creative with their decorating skills
My host dad/grandpa (bottom) and Katie’s Host dad (top) get creative with their decorating skills

Saturday morning, Katie went to the elderly party and I went to the regional meeting for the sistering communities of Chalatenango. This was a great opportunity to learn about what other communities were up to in this region (they are busy people…)

Sunday was action packed. I went to mass with my nine-year-old host sister, Karen.

La Iglesia
La Iglesia

Still dressed in my Sunday best, I helped my host brother/father (I’ll explain my host family in a later post) move rocks to expand the entrance to the house so he could park his work truck there. Then, a group of us brought a picnic to the river where there were a bunch of waterfalls and pools. After a nice swim, we piled back in the truck and returned home. Karen and I went to check out the rodeo, which consisted of bullriding with football helmets, and a live band with a girl dancing in between the singers.

Rodeo Clown

That evening, my host mother/sister (bet you can’t wait for that post!) invited me to evening mass. I kind of thought going to mass twice in one day was overkill. Luckily, my host mother/grandmother stepped in, “You already left the house three times today. You went there, there, and there,” she said, pointing to the church, river, and rodeo respectively. “You probably want to rest.” These are my kind of people! I went ahead and declined the invitation to mass that evening, but agreed to help milk the cows at 5:30 the next morning.

Fiesta Foto

Two rides came to town for the Fiestas: a kiddie merry-go-round and a giant-squeeky-sketchy ferris wheel.  Since these are the only options, they put the ferris wheel on full throttle.  Man can that thing crank.  When Monday evening came, I took a big sigh of relief that I did not have to ride it.  I felt I had avoided a booby trap–I had survived the fiestas.  As I was getting ready for bed, Karen told me we were going to the fiesta one more time.  The family sat down in a comedor for a Coca-Cola.  My host mom/sister looked at me, “We’ll wait here for you,” she said as Karen grabbed by hand…


The bar that held our chair up moved side to side and made a “clunk” noise every time it rotated.  With each revolution of the wheel, the full throttle made it seem like a roller coaster drop, like I would fall to my death at any moment.  I planned escape routes.  I thought of how I would save Karen.  When we finally dismounted I looked at the stars with gratitude.  It never felt so good to have my feet back on Tierra Firma.


2 thoughts on “Intro to Arcatao: Fiestas de San Bartolome

  1. I have been looking up flights to San Salvador all week haha. I am so excited to keep reading more and to (fingers crossed!) come visit you!!! xoxo


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