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Summer Postcards 2018

Summer Postcard: The Animals of El Salvador

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador—I sit in a coffee shop in El Salvador, reading a blog post released by the White House two days prior. The headline, titled like a xenophobic Buzzfeed article from hell, reads, “What You Need to Know About the Violent Animals of MS-13.”

The article is, of course, about the Salvadoran gang La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13. “Too many innocent Americans have fallen victim to the unthinkable violence of MS-13’s animals,” the White House release reads.

The article is missing a few details: The United States poured $6 billion into supporting a repressive Salvadoran government that forced its citizens to migrate to the United States, a likely death waiting if they remained. MS-13 was formed in Los Angeles in the United States in large part because of U.S. foreign policy. Deportation policy since then has only increased the size and influence of the gang.

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The president of the United States tweets that Democrats “want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infest our Country, like MS-13,” as if the people from the country that has nursed me, summer after summer, are nothing more than subway rodents or a swarm of locusts sent as celestial punishment.

My dear racist-in-chief, here are the real animals of El Salvador:

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Zompopos, or those humongous ants that look as if they’ve been dipped in radioactive waste that’s caused them to grow ten times their intended size. They appear especially menacing if they have wings, like some do.

Aguacateros, or those skinny dogs you find roaming the campo in El Salvador’s more rural departments. Their stomachs will digest nearly anything you throw their way—avocados, stale tortillas, corn cobs, the flesh of a subversive leftist or misidentified campesino in times of civil war.

El torogoz, or the national bird of El Salvador (and also Nicaragua), a bird who flies where it wants with its skinny featherless tail trailing behind it. Coincidentally, a bird that has more right to migrations than the children fleeing violence, perpetual poverty, and abuse in the very country the torogoz represents.

Los cadejos, or those two wolf-like creatures—one white and one black—both meant to lead people back to the best, most moral path in life. One is there to keep you on the right path once you’ve found it, and the other is there to lead you back if you’ve strayed.

It seems that the United States government could use a pair of cadejos working overtime to help it conceive an immigration system that puts people’s lives before rhetoric, puts moral obligation before politics, and acknowledges the basic humanity of Central American refugees.

It’s easy to put Salvadoran children in cages if you convince the world that they are animals. Here’s the reminder that El Salvador does have animals. But they’re birds and dogs and insects, not migrants painfully leaving home because no other choice remains.

Ruben E. Reyes Jr. ’19, a former Crimson Editorial Chair, is a History & Literature concentrator in Leverett House.

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