Day 55: San Salvador - La Palma
La Palma Travel Blog› entry 74 of 120 › view all entries
Some 85 kilometres north of San Salvador, 15 kilometres from the Hondurian border, lies the little mountain town of La Palma. According to my guidebook this was a nice little place to break the journey to Honduras.
Because the town lies rather remotely in the mountains, it almost seems like a completely different country. Small, almost European-like houses, surrounded by beautiful green mountains and colourful wild flowers everywhere.
In 1972 an artist, named Fernando Llort, came to live here. His characteristic, almost child-like painting style (on virtually any object, from vases to hat stands) is famed around the world, and considered indissoluble from El Salvador.
The men all make little crafts and souvenirs, while the women paint the souvenirs in the typical Llort style.
So La Palma is teeming with little touristic souvenir shops, something which struck me as slightly odd, as there was hardly a living soul to be found in this town. Sure, the town lies en route from San Salvador to the Caribbean coast of Honduras, but apart from a few Honduran and Salvadorian tourists not many visitors come here. You can count the foreign tourists in this country on both hands, and most of them don't get further than San Salvador or the pacific coast, so on the day I visited La Palma, there was only one other white person in the entire village - an English girl who was also on her way to Honduras.
But the many souvenir stores in this town suited me fine, as I needed some. And I really liked the Llort painting style, so the choice was easily made that I would do most my “souvenirs-for-the-folks-back-home” shopping here.
In the centre of town was the brand new Cooperativo de Artesanias La Palma, or rather, a souvenir market run by a group of collaborating souvenir makers.
I ended up chatting to four nice girls who were working in the market, who were all too happy to finally have someone to talk to. They told me that the large souvenir market wasn't yet the success it was intended to be, but they expected the place would be packed with tourists within a year's time.
I doubted it, and it seemed a shame as well, if this idyllic town would be overrun by tourists.
After my visit to the souvenir market I did a little walk along the Nonuopa river and relaxed a bit in a hammock in the garden of my hotel.
At around 6 PM I went back into town in search of a pupuseria. On my last day in El Salvador I wanted to sample more of its national dish.
We took a little stroll through town and everywhere we went we were gazed at by locals. A European tourist is a curiosity in itself, but with four local girls frolicking around him... I was not sure it was appreciated by most people. With less than 3000 people living in the village it was obviously everybody knew everybody, and I was sure our little walk resulted in a fair bit of gossiping.
They brought me to a little restaurant (no more than a living room) and I invited them to join me for a drink, but that was a little bit too much for them.
And so I sat in that restaurant, all by myself, gorging on pupusas. When I started nibbling on my fifth or sixth I saw one of the girls walking past the restaurant. It struck me as odd that one of them was still hanging around the restaurant, so I walked outside only to find all four waiting for me there. “we are waiting for you to finish your dinner, so that we can bring you back to your hotel and you don't get lost!”
This is ridiculous. We're talking literally about a one-street town here, how on earth can I get lost?
So I invited them in for a drink once more, and this time I would not take no for an answer.
And so they joined me at my table, somewhat uneasy. It was obvious they didn't quite know what to do with me. On one hand I was incredibly interesting, coming from Europe, travelling around Central America on my own, having blue eyes (somehow I got the feeling the latter was the most interesting bit), but on the other hand they were visibly worried about what the rest of the town would say. Four twenty-something girls having a drink with a gringo was obviously considered inappropriate in this conservative town.
And so I had a bit of a dilemma. I enjoyed their company, but when we arrived back at my hotel 20 minutes later I felt it would be too much to invite them for a drink in the hotel bar. They had been visibly uneasy back at the restaurant, so I figured it was just best to say goodnight to them and promise them to come back to the souvenir market in the morning to buy some stuff off them...