LOS ANGELES — Tens of thousands of Salvadoran immigrants and their children, friends and neighbors joined in the seventh annual “Salvadoran Day in Los Angeles” celebration Aug. 6-7 at Exposition Park here.
The sixth of August is a major holiday in El Salvador, the ecclesiastical Dia de El Salvador del Mundo (Day of the Savior of the World, also known as the Transfiguration). The occasion has emerged as the primary festival of the Salvadoran community in Southern California, a community that numbers over 1 million people.
The celebration featured traditional food, music, clothing and other cultural expressions aplenty. People crowded around colorful booths of community groups, Spanish-language media, and small and large businesses. Food booths were very popular, with the longest lines for pupusa and carne asada plates and soft drinks like tamarindo and agua de chan.
Alongside traditional folk attire were many T-shirts of Latino and North American music groups, as well as of Che Guevara and the left-progressive FMLN movement, which led the revolutionary struggle in El Salvador in the 1980s and ’90s. The FMLN remains the main opposition party in El Salvador today.
Newly inaugurated Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was warmly greeted by the crowd. His election as the city’s first Latino mayor in over a century provided added cause for celebration.
Father John Cortina and the Rev. Frank Alton spoke about the social and economic issues the community faces: poverty and repression in El Salvador, and unemployment, poor housing and inadequate health care in the United States.
The celebration was sponsored by the Salvadoran American National Association, which — as the voting strength of the Salvadoran community grows — is playing an increasingly important role in civic affairs.
Supporters of the People’s Weekly World/Nuestro Mundo handed out copies of the paper, and while they were doing so this reporter interviewed a few participants about the situations facing Salvadorans today.
Roxana Martinez, 36, said she felt especially happy to bask in the food, music and atmosphere of her mother country, observing that “this park is like a piece of my country.”
Americo Duran, 62, of the Anastacio Aquino community group in the San Fernando Valley, said he had struggled in his home country for its freedom, but later emigrated to the U.S. He said the celebration was an important way to retain and recover Salvadoran culture.
Duran said he was familiar with the PWW/NM as a paper that “reflects the struggle and problems of our people in El Salvador and here [in the United States].”
Blanca Pastran, a 50-year-old garment worker, said she and her family, like many other Salvadorans here, have a hard time making ends meet because they have only limited work permits. “While my country is beautiful, the work situation makes it necessary to be here,” she said.
Echoing Pastran’s concerns about the economic picture, Edgar Urrutia, 45, said severe joblessness in El Salvador and in the U.S. has fostered delinquency and violence among some youth. He said that while life in the U.S. is better compared to the poverty and violence in El Salvador, youth unemployment is a serious problem here, too.