• Confidentiality of Data

The pilot project is evaluated and summarized in a more comprehensive document prepared for IWA personnel to inform planning for follow-on phases. This report is intended to provide an overview for a wider audience. Additionally, it describes in broad strokes similar projects IWA intends to conduct with other ethnic communities.

  • Data collection and methodology

As previously noted, the small number of participants and common elements in their background means the group was not fully representative of the community. The resulting data is, therefore, anecdotal and does not make any claim to statistical significance. Nonetheless, the data collected will help to identify noteworthy individual and community needs that can inform thinking about the development of future projects.

Data was gathered from the storytelling and discussion that occurred during the weekly meetings. The storytelling served as a primary anchor in the exploration of presented topics. Participants shared their opinions and feedback throughout the eight sessions. Evaluations were conducted prior to the commencement of the project, at the midpoint, and after the project concluded.

  1. Themes that emerged from the conversations
  • Feeling ostracized or othered due to higher levels of education – all of the participants are college-educated and many are the only, first, or one of few in their respective families and long-standing social circles to attend college.
  • Homophobia – stemming greatly from religiosity and/or machismo/marianismo
  • Acute awareness of colorism
    • Facilitators were a bit surprised by the lack of concrete linkages to colorism being directly associated with indigeneity, which facilitators believe highlights the level of cultural dissociation with indigenous identity that is endemic to Salvadorian culture.
  • Feeling misrepresented, underrepresented, or not represented at all in the media and mainstream American/global consciousness – furthermore, feeling that the representations that do exist are disproportionately negative (with a particular emphasis on MS-13; narratives of poverty/underdevelopment)
    •  Central America as a whole is often lumped in with Mexico or South America and many Americans do not have a clear sense of the cultural or geographic distinctions between them.
  • Feelings of being in limbo, like double consciousness, ni de aqui, ni de alla (not being from here or there) and/or entre mundos (caught between two worlds)
    • Facilitators were surprised by how varied the expressions of limbo were and how little correlation these expressions had with being born in El Salvador or the United States. Half of the participants were born in El Salvador and would be considered members of the 1.5 generation, but of the two, the participant who spent the most time in El Salvador felt the least able to connect with life there largely due to his sexual orientation (though psychosocial development and adapting to life in the United States were also significant factors).
  • Being thrust into the role of translator and cultural ambassador, often from a young age, and not always as a result of personal choice but instead out of necessity, sense of duty, or societal pressure
  • The tensions created when coming from a community-oriented culture but growing up in a culture that values individualism
  • Feeling ashamed of being Salvadorian as a child due to xenophobia and bullying, specifically when attending predominantly white schools
  • Being told you are not Salvadorian enough in predominantly BIPOC settings when you did not fit the narrowly accepted definition of what being Salvadorian was
    • e.g. taking honors classes, having friends that are not Latino.
  • Decolonizing the mind, especially around reclaiming, affirming and learning about indigenous roots and history
  • Nuances between layers of membership in identity groups – specifically as Salvadorians, Central Americans, and Latinos
  • Intersections of sexuality, gender, and religion within the Salvadorian cultural context
  • The deemphasis on the refugee label and what the cultural implications are for how the community processes trauma as a collective
    • This raises the question of how this impacts formulation of identity and healing; there is an overemphasis on the narrative of migration motivated by the promise of financial prosperity and a deemphasis on migration propelled by violence [structural and physical] and war that stemmed from corruption. Economic issues are more a symptom than a cause, and if they are framed as a cause, the root cause to economic issues are those overarching corrupt structures that created, at different points in Salvadorian history, fragile and failed states.
  • Mental health
    • The group was unanimous in their emphasis that this was a key issue area, this was a recurring topic. The consensus was that there is great need for mental health education and resources, especially destigmatizing therapy and mental health conditions. 
  • Duties and expectations around positionality in the nuclear family (male/female; eldest/youngest)
  • Not knowing parent’s stories, or feeling able to discuss it with them because it can be re-traumatizing for them to recount it
    • Many do not know the particulars of their parents lived experiences. Most have received their stories in fragments, if at all. Certain accounts are recounted once, and never again. This creates an environment the effects of trauma are seen without always fully understanding the cause which makes it hard to heal and perpetuates or “inherits” trauma.
  • Cycles of trauma and abuse – single parents, infidelity, multiple families, abuse
  • Survival mode – overemphasis on practical matters like food and shelter, deemphasis on emotional support; more than one participant described a parent being unable to directly praise them but would affirm them by bragging about their child’s accomplishments to others
  • How a sense of identity and home is formulated; yearning and nostalgia for El Salvador