Return to El Salvador: The Escobars

For most of the past 12 years I have gotten to know my father’s side of the family more than my mother’s. This is because I usually stay with my father and sister. My family there is very “Coto,” and it’s easy to see how similar we are. When I first met my family, I noticed right away that the Cotos walk the same. We have a distinctive duck waddle that is easy to spot when we are together. The more time I spend with my bother, sisters and father, the more of these traits I have noticed.

Since most of the Escobars are still in El Salvador, I haven’t had a chance to get to know them as well. During this trip I really got to see what the other side of the family was like.

One night after going out to eat Pupusas, a typical Salvadoran dish, we stopped by my Aunt Haydee’s house. As she was talking, I noticed right away that my brother Ernesto and she make very similar facial movements. I chuckled a little and hoped she didn’t notice. I could just picture Ernesto making the same face.

I looked over to my aunt Tita on the couch and there she was, sitting just as I would. Back to a corner, one arm stretched resting on the sofa back, the other in the air supporting her head. Up until that point I always thought my mannerisms came exclusively from my father’s side. It was nice to see one from my mother.

I’ve often wondered what else I got from my mother. Looking so much like my father, I thought a lot of my personality might have come from her. Watching the family interact, I got to see their characteristics. My Aunt Tita and her daughters are warm, fun loving, and silly. My Aunt Dalilla and her sons are more quiet, reserved, and pensive. What a wide range of personalities! I definitely see these same traits in myself. It appears my hunch was correct, I am very much an Escobar.

That weekend was my cousin’s wedding. It was one of the reasons that I decided to go back to El Salvador. In attendance were all but one of my aunts and cousins I had not seen in 12 years. Some of them resembled my sister and her daughter. Others reminded me of my late grandmother. My cousin Cesar bares a striking resemblance to Ernesto. He was there with his wife, daughter, and newborn son. Again I’m reminded of the life I might have had. We danced and laughed the whole night.

Besides figuring out which family members looked alike, I also learned more about our family history. I learned that my grandfather, Hector Escobar, worked in construction and even helped build the Panama Canal. It’s very cool to think that our family had a small part to play in its creation.

Getting to know the Escobars was a lot of fun. I got to see another side of my family and myself.

The Last Time I Saw Her: Remembering My Grandmother, Mama Chila

May 2008

A Remarkable Woman

Two years ago last week, my grandmother Mama Chila passed away. I’m not sure I can describe what an important person she was to the family. It was due to her pure determination that we were even reunited.

After the war, she went back to El Salvador to look for her lost grandson. She asked questions people didn’t want to hear and had doors slammed in her face. She kept pushing until her dream of finding me came true.

When we were reunited she played a crucial roll in bringing the two families together. The first letter she wrote to us after our initial visit was to my younger brother Derek. It started “Dear Grandson.” This was a very meaningful gesture because Derek was not related to her and the reunion had been hard on him. She knew the only way this would work is if we became one family. She set the tone right away.

Since I can’t put into words what she meant to us, I want to share with you my last memory of her.

Remembering Our Last Days

In May of 2008 I went down to Central America for three weeks. Mama Chila had started to get sick the fall of 2007. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I went to go visit, but I was pleasantly surprised to see her condition had improved. She was a little frail, but up to her old tricks, cooking, cleaning and doing chores around the house. I gave her a big hug and greeted the rest of the family. Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew this could be the last time I saw her.

I’m pretty sure the first thing she asked me was if I was hungry. She would make a traditional Salvadoran dish called pupusas. Knowing that I was coming she had already gone to the store to get all the ingredients. Mama Chila and my aunt got to work right away.

They must have been really good that day because I ate a lot. I had four for five for lunch. Then I had another two as a snack and three more for dinner. As if I knew this was the last time I would enjoy her cooking, I had more than my fair share.

She loved to cook for me. I think it was her way of taking care of me. I had my own life in America and didn’t need anything from her. The one thing she could do for me, that she knew I loved, was to cook. I didn’t even have to ask. She was always ready when I came to visit and if I didn’t eat at least four she would ask if something was wrong.

This was our relationship. We never talked much about life or about the events of the past. We just had those little moments together. I think they were special in their own way. After everything we had been through, the separation and the journey to reunite, the only thing we needed was that.

A goodbye for Mama Chila – by Eva

There are no words to describe what she means for us. Everyone who knew her understands how special and particular this lady was. It is hard to say goodbye to a person like that, however I have to do it.

Mom: You were the only mother I knew when I was a kid. You were always there for me and loved me unconditionally. You taught me good from bad and how to be a person who cares. You were my strength in every difficult time, and you were there with me to celebrate the blessing to be a mother. You will always live in my heart, but now I know you are with God in a better place.

Thanks for everything you gave me and did for me. Thanks for all the love and thanks for being my angel, everyone’s angel…Goodbye mom.

Mama Chila – By Eva

What do you do when a person you love is feeling pain? What can you do to help?

It breaks my heart to leave Mama Chila at the Hospital de Heredia today, alone, knowing she is feeling pain and wondering if she will get better for good.

What a brave woman…

Today when I saw her laying on the hospital bed a bunch of thoughts and feelings came along like a big wave, like a sudden and pouring rain… how much I wanted to tell her at that moment, and now I wonder if I will have time to say it to her?

After all, the only thing I could clearly find in my mind was thanks, thanks because she made me the woman I am now, and please tell me how you can thank someone who gave you her entire life and more just in a simple act out of love?

For so many years I’ve been thinking I was prepared for this, but facing this kind of situations is not something you are exactly prepared for… all the feelings of lost and loneliness came again to my heart by thinking I am losing my mother, again…

Today I Remember My Mother, R.I.P.

Ana MilagroI guess you could say that this is the day that changed my life forever. It was on this day 26 years ago, three days before my first birthday, that Honduran officials stormed the safe house where I was staying with my mother. At the time my family were fighting as revolutionaries in the Salvadorian Civil War.

We don’t know the exact details and probably never will. We think my mother was not in the house when it happened and was able to call my grandmother one last time. We will never know exactly what happened, but what I do know is that this was the last time I was with my mother.

While searching the safe house Honduran officials found me in a back room. I was placed in an orphanage for a year before getting adopted.

It’s a little strange to think that one moment in time completely changed my life forever. Had my mother left the movement like she wanted to, maybe I would have never been lost for 16 years. It’s hard to say what might have happened. But I don’t spend too much time thinking about that any more.

However, for many years I did think about what happened, and this day always was very hard for me. I felt like this was the day that everything went wrong, the day I lost the most important person to me; my mother.

A few years ago that started to change for me, when I realized how fortunate I have been in my life. I started to let her go.

I still think of her on this day, but it’s not the same. I think about what she had to give up. The strength it must have taken to put herself and her family in harm’s way. How impossibly hard it must have been. If I would have done the same. Most of all I think about how the sacrifices she made for me gave me a life and opportunities I might have never had otherwise.

This may seem a bit off topic but I’m a big Harry Potter fan. I suppose that part of me identifies with that character. His mother died for him so that he could do great things. I see that in my own life and its the reason that I try to live everyday to the fullest. I wanted to share a quote that J.K Rowling uses in the final Harry book. To me it says, even though the ones we love are gone, they still live on inside of us.

Death is but crossing the world, as friends do the seas; they live in one another still. For they must needs be present, that love and live in that which is omnipresent. In this divine glass, they see face to face; and their converse is free, as well as pure. This is the comfort of friends, that though they may be said to die, yet their friendship and society are, in the best sense, ever present, because immortal. – William Penn, More Fruits of Solitude

R.I.P. Ana Milgro Escobar de Coto. You will always be with me.

Saying Goodbye to My Grandmother

About a month or so ago I found out that my grandmother was sick. At the time we did not know what was wrong with her, but she seemed to think this was the end for her. They told me she was tired and was ready to move on.

This was something I was not expecting to hear from her. Over the past couple of trips I had started to notice her aging more than she had before. I had a lingering feeling that one day I would have to say goodbye. However, it wasn’t until I heard what she said to my sister that it actually hit me.

I am going to miss her. Now, I can’t say that I am very close to her. Since my Spanish isn’t the greatest, we don’t talk much.

When I see her it’s for a few hours each trip. She greets me with a smile and asks me about the rest of the family. She never asks me about my life or what I am doing. She loves to cook for me, and I definitely enjoy her food. It’s so simple and in some ways so meaningful.

It’s not talking, it’s not judging, it’s not questioning. It’s just being together.

I’m not exactly sure why this is affecting me this much. I’ve had other grandmothers whom I loved pass away, and I didn’t feel like this. I don’t think I was that close to them either. Maybe it’s because without her I would not be sitting here in my sister’s house.

I don’t think I can put into words what she means to me and how I feel about her. All I can say is that she never gave up on me and because of her hard work I have had so many happy memories.

She is doing much better now, but I know that one day I will have to say goodbye. Hearing those words was a wake up call in some way. I suddenly knew that each time I see her it might be the last. It’s a little sad to think about, but from now on I will appreciate so much more every moment I get to spend with her.