One of the feelings that struck me most during our time in the Bajo Lempa was an understanding of the community passion for the mangrove ecosystem upon which everyone depended. As Laura mentioned in her blog, Horácio, guardarecurso from Los Calix, accompanied us on most of our visits to the communities of the Local Plan for Sustainable Extraction (PLES). During this time, he continued to impress us with his knowledge of PLES, his insight into the current state of the ecosystem and community opinion of the plan, and his passion for the wellbeing of the mangroves.
On one particular occasion, we visited Las Mesitas to make our observations and interview representatives of the community regarding PLES and their resource use. During the morning, we went on a walking tour of the local access points to the mangroves. This included El Horno, named for its former use in charcoal production, and El Llorón, the site of the most extensive restoration project in the area. At El Horno, we walked to the edge of the canal, where we spent our time asking questions to the guardarecursos and community members who had joined us. We then hiked back to the microbus and drove to El Llorón. There we assumed that there would again be no hike, so we spent the next 30 minutes asking questions on the bank of the canal.
We had assumed wrong. When it came time to return to the community center for our interview, Horácio informed us we had spent too much time asking questions and would miss one of his favorite hikes! In spite of his stoic demeanor, the disappointment in his voice was obvious, and we felt terrible for letting him down. We returned to the community center and interviewed the Las Mesitas representatives, saying goodbye to Horácio for now.
In our last week, we joked with each other about tracking down Horácio and making up for missing his hike. Unfortunately, it just didn’t seem feasible. And then, after our final presentations to Asociación Mangle on Thursday, Horácio reminded us we still had one more chance – the following morning, before flying home. In the waning hours of our time in El Salvador, we rode the micro back to El Llorón and explored the mangroves with our passionate guide and friend – just the goodbye we all wanted.