A Dream Come True: My Return Visit to El Salvador

by Zulma Martinez

Photo: Zulma's aunt and grandmother in El Salvador

For three years I had been dreaming about the day I would be going back to my country, El Salvador, and thanks to God my dream came true this summer.

I couldn't believe it when my mother told my brother and me that on June 25, we would be going to my homeland. My heart was jumping with happiness and my body was shaking like jelly. After all this time of waiting, finally I would going to my land.

I started packing and buying some presents for my grandparents and some of my neighbors. Finally that day arrived. My mom's face looked sad and my dad's too. At 7:30 a.m. our flight was called and it was time to say goodbye to my parents for a month.

After six anxious hours in the airplane, the captain announced after we landed, "Bienvenidos al Aeropuerto Internacional de Comalapa, El Salvador." Quickly I looked through the airplane window and saw hundreds of eyes straining to see their loves ones.

After we left the airplane and we went through customs, everything was ready to go and look for our family. At the end of the waiting room, I saw a heavy men with white hair. I realized that the heavy man was my grandpa Don Gilberto. In the other corner was my cousin Chico. As I approached, I ran and hugged them. I couldn't believe that they were in front of my eyes, I touched them and looked around and I said to myself, " Zulma you really are in El Salvador."

I asked them for my grandma. They told me that she preferred to stay home because she was afraid she might have a heart attack. Later my grandpa went to bring the car from the parking lot. While we were waiting many kids were begging us for money. I felt sad looking at them, but I realized that if I gave one money the others ones would be asking me for money too and I didn't have colones, only dollars.

By that time my grandpa came. We put the bags on the pickup and we headed to San Miquel, my state. My grandpa was so happy. During the trip we were talking about how much we missed each other, and what things had changed in our family during the past four years.

As we entered the city, I noticed that many things had changed. It was like a new San Miquel. Everything looked new and there were a lot of American things in a new mall called "Metro Centro." Also there were new residential areas, new roads, and a lot of new stores. But one thing that caught my attention was all the gasoline stations looked exactly like here, with food markets and American products.

Finally we entered my colonial "La San Francisco," a section of the barrio. My grandmother Maria was inside the house. When she saw the pickup, tears of joy ran down her face. I quickly opened the door of the pickup and ran to her arms, hugging and I kissing her a lot. I started to cry, too, and with a lump in my throat I told her, "Finally we're here Mami. Finally, after all this time we are here with you."

At that moment I thought that I was dreaming one more time. But I looked around the house. I looked at my grandma, touched her and then I realized that I wasn't dreaming. I really was in San Miquel.

Then our little cousin Karlita ran as fast as she could to my brother's arms. She was saying " Papi, Papi." When she was little she used to say Papi to my brother.

Later my neighbors, Sara and Wendy, came to see me. I couldn't recognize either of them. When I left they were little girls and now they were big girls.

Then I took a little trip to visit the rest of my neighbors and many of my old friends. But then my grandma called me because dinner was ready. The night come and after dinner we talked a little bit about our lives out of San Miquel. When we went to bed, my grandma slept in the same room with me. After a heavy but happy day I fell asleep.

When I woke up, breakfast was already cooked. My grandma cooked our favorite breakfast, tortillas with cheese, coffee and sweet bread. The morning was bright and everything seemed to me like I had never left San Miquel. Everything in my life finally was right, except I still missed something in heart, my parents. If they were there too, everything in my life would be complete. All the day we were talking about our behavior in the U.S. and other things. My grandma was so happy. So was I.

During first the week I had a wonderful time with my old friends. I met Mayra, a nurse who rented a room in grandma's home. While she was there she took care of my grandma. Also I visited my aunt Tina in a town close to San Miquel called Jalacatal. This town, located in the rural area, is very beautiful. Although it is a poor town, people are very friendly. My aunt Tina means a lot to me. I won't ever forgot when she risked her life for us when she took us out of the war. She's one of my favorite aunts.

Every morning I woke up without thinking about the day we had to return, although deep in my heart I knew that the day to return was about to arrive.

I was glad to be able to take my grandma to the hospital. She needed me and I wanted to help her, so I took advantage of every minute to be with her. My grandma is one of the most important things in my life. I remember when she used to me advice that I didn't like. But now, as I get older, I understand what she meant.

Three weeks passed quickly in about one more week my dream would end. Sometimes I found my grandma swinging in the hammock. Her face told me that she was thinking about that day as much as I was. I could tell that she was unhappy. Seeing her like that broke my heart but I couldn't do anything about. I wished I could stay but that decision was not mine.

During that last week everyone looked sad. My brother and I wished would could stay but the agreement was to return to the U.S. for one more year and then come back and stay forever. That news made my grandma happy.

The day arrived. A day before we went to the "mercado" to buy some Salvadorian things for my parents and friends. Our friends gave us a good bye party and we danced and had fun although everyone knew that the next day we were going to leave. That evening passed so fast. It was the last evening in my house, the last sleep, that last food, and especially the last day with my grandma.

Each hour seemed to be a second. It was soon time to say goodbye to my grandma who couldn't go to the airport. My heart was breaking apart. My throat has a lump and I couldn't speak. My neighbors were crying too. But as best I could, I told grandma, "I'm going now, but I'll be back to stay with you and take care of you. Remember that I love you very much, and every second of every day I will always be thinking about you."

I kissed her and hugged her and I kissed her again. At that moment I felt that something very valuable was being torn away from my heart. My grandfather and my friends put their bags in the pick up. We said good bye to all the neighbors. Then we hugged together and with a big kiss on each cheek and tears in our eyes we said good-bye. Then we headed to the airport.

While I was waiting for the plane I wished that our flight would never be called. But that was not possible. It was time to go. As the plane took off, I was crying a lot. "I'll be back soon," I said to myself.

Copyright 1997, Silver International, Montgomery Blair High School, Silver Spring, Maryland, USA

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