Resources

Culture

From: The Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples/Salvadoreans/Lisa Kowalchuk

The culinary dimension of Salvadorean culture is well preserved in Canada. A guest invited to dine with members of the community is likely to be served several of the traditional foods, including beans, rice, tortillas, tamales, and pupusas, a uniquely Salvadorean dish in which tortillas are filled with cheese, beans, or pork. In several Canadian cities, restaurants, some owned and managed by Salvadoreans, feature this cuisine. With respect to leisure activities, soccer is a popular sport among men in Canada. Members of the community play on several mixed teams in the Hispanic soccer leagues of the major cities.

A number of Salvadorean artists, musicians, and intellectuals in Canada have used their work to convey the refugee’s perspective on the history of the homeland and to express solidarity with the struggle for justice there. The social and political relevance of Salvadorean artistic productions, especially those intended for public display, are evinced both in their content and the way in which they are presented. Events held in support of grassroots organizations in El Salvador commonly feature Latin American folk and “protest” music; the latter was especially common during the civil war. Numerous groups specializing in this genre have emerged in Canada since the early 1980s. One of the most durable was formed as part of the Movimiento Cultural Akatún (Akatún Cultural Movement), an umbrella organization that originally included theatre, poetry, and folk dance. Created in Hamilton in 1983 by Salvadorean refugees, the association aims to familiarize Canadians with Central American culture. The musical group Akatún, comprised of six Salvadorean men, dedicates money raised at its performances to ADEMUSA, with which it works closely, and to other Latin American organizations in the Hamilton area.

The financial assistance of humanitarian agencies and the unpaid help of translators and typesetters have been crucial to the publication of Salvadorean literature in Canada. One of such works is a bilingual collection of remarkably outspoken and passionate poems by María Luisa Villacorta, a woman who came to Canada as a refugee. Villacorta was seventy-seven when The Grandmother’s Poems/Poemas de la Abuela (1989) was published jointly by the Workshop of Popular Salvadorean Literature and Write-on Press Publishers in Vancouver. Most of her poems openly celebrate the FMLN as the champion of peasants, workers, and other oppressed groups.

Francisco Rico Martínez is a Salvadorean author of two books published since his arrival in Canada as a refugee. Both deal with the conflict in El Salvador. He conceived of Una Región Llamada Verdidulce (A Land Called Sweetgreen), published in 1993 with the help of the Ontario Ministry of Culture and Communication, as a tool for intergenerational communication about the experiences of Central American immigrants in Canada. Based on interviews with children in Toronto, the book tells a fable whose main characters are animals native to Central America. Poverty, repression, and political exile are symbolized by flying monsters, rainbows, and other fantastic natural phenomena. Rico Martínez’s book has been translated into English for the benefit of children who, although born in Central America, no longer speak their native language.

Salvadoreans in Canada have found a modest forum for cultural and political expression in the alternative media, principally as guest speakers and volunteer announcers on the Hispanic programs of community radio stations and through (usually unpaid) contributions to the Spanish-language press. Perhaps one of the more notable achievements is the weekly, hour-long Latin American Program, broadcast live from McMaster University radio station CFMU. Managed since 1988 by the Akatún cultural movement, it features information and analyses of major events in Latin America, music from the region (with Central American folk music predominating), regular children’s, health, and literary features, interviews with social activists, and announcements oriented to the Hispanic community in the Hamilton area.