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The mission covers the western portion of El Salvador and Belize in its entirety. Both have very tropical climates. El Salvador is comprised mostly of Latin Americans who speak Spanish and has a high crime rate. Belize is a melting pot of cultures and people, including African Americans, Latin Americans and others. San Salvador is the capital city and has 315,000 people. Santa Ana is another major city and has 200,000 people. Belize has 300,000 people in the whole country, Belize City and San Ignacio are two of the major city, and Belmopan is the capital.
There are very few atheists and country is very christian. Christianity a prominent religion with many Catholics, Seventh Day Adventists and Mennonites. As a country, they are not as religious as El Salvador. Most public schools associated with religion. Even the gangs respect christianity and the missionaries. There are people who go to church everyday, and Catholic churches are at the center of every town. In Belize, there is a large rastafarian influence. Most of the citizens are african american, except for near the border of Guatemala.
Rainy season begins in May and runs through October. Dry season is from November to April. When it rains, it pours. There are days when it rains all day, and most days during rainy seasons are nasty. There is always a chance of hurricanes. There are multiple volcanoes in El Salvador. During the dry season, temperatures reach the 90’s daily.
Snapshot of El Salvador – Spanish is El Salvador’s official language. The dialect spoken in El Salvador is similar to other Central American countries such as Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Honduras. Most Salvadorans are of mixed ancestry (generally of both European and Native American descent). A little over 50 percent of the population is Roman Catholic, and nearly 28 percent of the population belongs to Protestant churches. The LDS Church represents about 1.4 percent of El Salvador’s population. El Salvador’s culture represents a blend of Spanish and Indigenous influences. Ceramics and textiles are popular traditional art forms. Catholicism also dominates many cultural aspects of El Salvador, with several holidays based around Catholic traditions. Many of these holidays have traditional clothing that is worn in conjunction with the festivities. Reggaeton, salsa, cumbia, and hip hop music are all quite popular in El Salvador. Soccer is the country’s most popular sport, but basketball and volleyball are also somewhat popular. The pupusa is a unique food item of El Salvador. Pupusas are thick tortillas that are typically then stuffed with cheese, pork, and beans. Panes Rellenos is a popular type of submarine sandwich that generally uses either chicken or turkey. Seafood, tamales, soups, and fresh fruit are also popular.
Snapshot of Belize (part of El Salvador San Salvador West Mission)
Belize is unique as being the only Central American nation that has English as its official language. Despite this, Kriol (an English-based creole) is more commonly used, especially in informal settings. About 30 percent of the population speaks Spanish as its first language. While the Roman Catholic church is still the largest denomination in the country, its numbers have been declining in recent years as the number of Protestant churches has been growing. About 15 percent of the population has no religious affiliation. Courtesy is extremely important in Belizean culture, and it is important to greet other people, though it is considered rude to greet someone you do not know very well by their first name. Arranged visits to friends are also common. Punta and Brukdown are unique popular music styles similar to calypso, though reggae, dancehall, and rap are also popular. Soccer and basketball are Belize’s most popular sports, and cycling is also a popular sporting activity. Belizeans eat a wide variety of foods, including rice and beans, tortillas with beans and cheese, tamales, and empanadas. Cassava is also used in cooking various dishes, such as Boil Up, which combines boiled eggs, fish, pig tail, and other starchy vegetables. Rice and beans are generally served with meat and a salad for dinner. Fresh fruit is also commonly eaten. Lunchtime is considered an important family meal, and many schools and stores close during lunch hours.
The church in El Salvador is very strong. There is a temple in San Salvador, the capital, which is the only temple in the country. There are 115,000 members and 162 congregations. Most of the congregations meet in chapels, which causes people to associate the church with money.
In Belize, there are 4,200 members and 11 congregations. There are chapels built and in construction. Members travel to Guatemala to attend the temple.
In El Salvador, citizens eat a lot of thick corn tortillas. There are women outside making and selling them everyday. The tortillas are cheap and filling. People eat them eat them as part of their meals, with rice. Corn tortillas are a part of one of the most popular foods in El Salvador called pupussas, which is a corn tortilla with beans and cheese, meat inside and covered in sauce. Pupasses are sold on the street.
In Belize, people eat rice and beans. They are eaten mixed together with coconut oil. People eat a lot of chicken as well.
Missionaries mostly travel by foot and bus in El Salvador. Buses are can be violent and packed with people. Taxis are another option but are expensive.
Most of the mission areas in Belize have beach-cruiser type bicycles.
Buses in Belize are safe, and people travelling within the city would take a taxi.
A typical street in Belize.
There is a high amount of gang violence and high profile gangs in El Salvador. Gangs typically respect missionaries and Christianity. There are areas that are off limits to missionaries due to the crime in the area. It is important to keep some cash to give to thieves and obey the mission rules.
Belize is a relatively safe country. There is some violence in big cities but there are no huge safety threats for missionaries.
El Salvador is very Catholic, so most of their customs have to do with religions. The Semana Santa, or Holy Week includes parades and art on main streets.
Belize has many cultural influences. Corner stores are typically Chinese, so a nickname for them was “Chinee.” Electronics stores are owned mostly by Indian people, and there is an entire mennonite community that grows good crops, makes furniture and houses sold all over the country. There is also a large Garifuna population, which is an African tribe with their own foods and language. There are still remnants of mayan cultures and ruins in the country. There are many African Americans in Belize because of the slave trade. It was a british colony before it gained independence.
In El Salvador, Spanish is the official language. In Belize natives speak Creole to each other, but most know their own version of English, similar to what most would call a Jamaican accent. Missionaries can teach in Belize in English, and some teach in the native English accent. Missionaries can learn Creole to communicate.
Like most Latin American countries, El Salvador has its own slang or dialect called “caliche” which is Salvadorean slang. There are a lot of slang words only used in El Salvador. Some of the major ones are:
Casaca- a lie
Chelito- white guy
The most important thing is to find a way to waterproof your backpack, and that can be done in the mission with plastic sacs. Accept the fact that you will get wet and pack accordingly.
Apartado Postal #81
S.S. San Salvador
El Salvador, C.A.
Straight from the El Salvador San Salvador West/Belize Mission:
*What items were hard to get or not available?
“We had a little of everything.”
“a lot of make up, sandals, big hair accessories.”
*What did you eat the most of?
“Pupusas, Rice, Beans, Soup”
“Rice and beans”
“rice and beans, sometimes chicken or meat because the most of the people were poor.”
*What is the craziest thing you ate?
“I got to the bottom of my soup bowl and found a layer of bugs at least an inch thick on the bottom of the bowl.”
*What was most surprising about the culture?
“Everyone walks around with Machetes, including children.”
*What advice would you give to someone going to the El Salvador San Salvador West/Belize Mission?
“Be obedient to all mission rules… Even if they seem weird. They are there to protect you.”
“Fill her or his heart with love, faith, hope and desire to work hard in missionary work.”
*What do you wish you had known before you served?
“I wish I had known more about what other religions believe in so I can use that to find common ground and build a relationship with other faiths and with the community.”
“The history of the country and their cities or important details about the people, culture, food, tourist sites, sports, languages to start a conversation friendly.”
“Have fun doing the lords work!”
“I will always love this wonderful time that changed my life completely. I was a poor missionary but I had the happiest time in my life and this was and will be one of my greatest treasures. On one occasion in a single month were baptized 41 people during my mission.”