Perquin’s former standing as Guerrilla HQ during El Salvador’s brutally long and drawn out civil war now houses a poignant Museum of the Revolution, and that was my first port of call for the day. After breakfast, I conquered the hill climb back into town, and hiked even further up to get to the museum which was on the other side of town.
Museo de la Revolución Salvadoreña is not going to win any prizes for spectacular displays, but it had an important story to tell and tell it it did. Civil unrest had long been on the Salvadorian agenda due to some fairly serious human rights issues and finally flared in 1980 with the assassination of an outspoken Catholic priest. While he was saying mass in the chapel of a cancer hospital, no less! Armed insurrection turned into fully blown civil war which dragged on for over a decade due to US interference by way of arming and training government forces.
The museum contained an interesting collection of newspaper reports, biographies of key guerrilla personnel, photos of guerrilla camp life, camp memorabilia, and anti war posters from around the world. It was interesting to see fully armed men and women fighting side by side. There was also an impressive display of old soviet weaponry and the remains of a US helicopter that the guerrillas brought down.
Adjacent to the museum was a reconstructed guerrilla encampment with many relics that were used during the war. Tunnels for radio transmissions, swing bridges connecting sections of the camp and various forms of camouflage were reconstructed to give the visitor an understanding of what it might have been like. What was real, though, were the huge holes in the ground from the vigorous bombing of the area during the conflict. That was sobering and probably the most effective portrayal of all.
I wandered back through town then back down to the hotel to collect my pack. I didn’t have to wait long for a pick up to roar by and this time I got a seat along the side of the tray. When I had to pay the fare though, I didn’t understand. I was expecting an amount in dollars and/or cents and it didn’t occur to me that I would be asked for a ‘quarter’. I’ve never really got my head around US coins but now I was going to have to learn fast. Trying to work out which coin was a quarter in the dim light of the covered pick up defied me so I just handed over a dollar and got change.
In San Francisco Gotera, the pick up stopped one last time and emptied. This was my sign that we had come to the end of the road for this leg of the trip. Nearby was the bus to San Miguel which I jumped into. It was a very pretty drive, passing little towns and settlements and watching the rural Salvadorian world go by. In San Miguel, I was directed to another bus which had La Union emblazoned on its front window so safely thought it would actually take me there. Alas, this didn’t turn out to be the case and the bus terminated some distance away from my destination.
I was directed to yet another bus that I was assured would actually take me to La Union and handed my pack over to the assistant who placed it on the padded drive case cover up front. My pack had travelled this way on more than one occasion so I wasn’t overly concerned. Until the driver decided he was bored with all this sedate driving and cranked it up a notch. As we were thrown from side to side, a large plastic bag that was with my pack up the front, flew out the open front door. This caused a bit of a to do with the punters as the bus had to reverse back to pick up the bag. That was too close a call for my liking and I went up the front to collect my pack. The senoras up front told me that my pack was jumping all over their place and nearly followed suit. Clearly I had been too complacent and was lucky. Although there was nothing breakable in the pack, it wouldn’t have done it any good, so I wedged it safely next to me between the seat.
I started chatting to one of the señoras near me and when another older señora got on the bus and sat next to me she also joined in our conversation. I took opportunity to ask the senoras about the coins and telling them apart. Identifying US Coins 101 was then held on a La Union bound bus much to the bemusement of the bus assistant.
We eventually arrived in La Union where I had decided to stay the night. The señora I had originally been chatting to took me around the corner to a far from salubrious hotel in what looked to be a dodgy part of town. Still, USD12 for a room was reasonable. For this money though, I had to use the communal bathroom which was next to my room. This consisted of a toilet and water pipe behind a 1960s glass shower screen. No door. No lock. Anyone could just walk on in! A tiny wash basin was just outside the cubicle. There was nowhere to eat nearby but I wasn’t really hungry. The hotel sold beer for USD1 so couple of those tied me over. All in all I had a reasonably comfortable night in another town with a bad rep.