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  • Anna Welscott

Family and friends visit El Salvador: We learn the ancient indigo and textile processes

The months were flying by in El Salvador and we had been enjoying our time. We had some visitors lined up to come see us and we had many fun adventures planned.

El Salvador is quite convenient to fly in and out of from the United States, so our first visitor was my mom from Colorado. For weeks we had boat parts sent to her, along with a warrantied stand up paddle board. My mom sure knows how to pack, as we still can't believe she was able to fit everything in her bags and successfully get everything to us!

After missing her connection flight due to a blizzard in Colorado, my mom finally arrived to El Salvador. She decided to rent an Airbnb house on the island near Karuna as we thought it would be nice to have the space, kitchen, and a pool. The grounds were beautiful and we had a dock where we could land the dinghy, which made going back and forth from Karuna very simple. We felt spoiled living on land for a week with air conditioning and a bed we could walk around. We also spent hours swaying in the multiple hammocks on the property while chatting, relaxing, and laughing.

We had a full schedule of things to do which consisted of showing my mom our favorite restaurants (including our free soup Sunday tradition), our day-to-day routine on Karuna, beach walks, going to Bill and Jean's happy hours, and of course eating pupusas.

We took a dinghy trip to Herradura for some groceries and took a walk thru the local market. Many local women of El Salvador wear a waist-apron, called a delantal. These aprons are very elaborate and the women wear them everywhere, not just in the kitchen. It was fun for my mom to see all the different designs and colors as we walked the streets and market. We looked in the local market in hopes of finding some delantals, but I didn't find the perfect delantal for me that day, but I will continue to keep my eye open.

With our Airbnb located on an island, only accessible by boat, the house came with an 8 person lancha that was available to take us around. We coordinated with Jean to have the boat take us 30 minutes up the mangrove-lined estuary to La Colorado. La Colorado is a tiny island community where there is a group of women who formed a business named Perlas Del Mar, they make and sell handcrafted beaded jewelry and satchels as a source of income. While we were there some of the young girls wanted to show us the English school along with many of the different plants and flowers on the island.

During my mom's visit we were unable to take her out sailing in the ocean, but we needed to test our recent autopilot repair, so we took Karuna around the bay while my mom enjoyed some hammock time at the bow. We anchored near the sand-bar as it was low tide and we dinghed over to enjoy some beach time before the tide came back in. We enjoyed some artichoke dip that we made in our solar oven and to give my mom the full authentic experience, when it was time to leave, we had an issue with the dinghy motor and had to be towed back to Karuna by a passing panga.

To round out my mom's visit, we rented a car and headed inland. We decided on two different adventures. First we headed to the small town of San Sebastian which is known for its high quality textiles. After a scenic drive we arrived to San Sebastian and we meandered through the streets to the well known weaving area. The rhythmic sounds of the looms was almost hypnotic. The men of the community work the looms, while the women prepare the thread. It is a true artisanal process. I hope the community can continue passing on the tradition to the younger community members to keep the handcraft process alive. We all bought some textiles and appreciate the hard work that was put into making them.

Next we made our way to Suchitoto which is a quaint mountain town, towards the Honduras border. We had an amazing lunch at Hotel Los Almendros and we could have stayed there all day, enjoying the European inspired hotel and grounds, but we had scheduled a indigo dye class with Irma Guadron at Arte Añil.

Indigo is a natural dye extracted from the Xiquilite plant and was a precious dye used by the Mayans. In the late 1800s a German chemist created a synthetic dye and the demand for natural indigo disappeared. Fast forward to current times and the demand for natural and organic dyes has resurfaced and Salvadorian indigo is making its way back as an exported good. To start off the class, we were treated to a shot of Chaparro (the local corn-based moonshine) to get our creative juices flowing. Next we were introduced to the history of indigo, and received an explanation of the dye extraction process. Then we were able to dye our own piece of cloth using a tie dye method. We all enjoyed the class and it was fun to see how our creations turned out. My mom is working with Irma to possibly have her come to Colorado and teach an indigo workshop to her weaving group.

On our way back to the Bahia, we hit some traffic and we decided to follow the alternative route, which took us over a volcano, forging streams, winding hair pin turns, and insanely narrow roads. That was an adventure in itself.

We had an incredible visit from my mom and we are looking forward to having her back soon and hopefully incorporating some sailing.

Just a couple days after my mom left, our good friend Shane arrived. We haven't seen Shane in years, so it was great to be back together. We shared a million laughs, stories, and created new memories.

It was fun to share life on Karuna with Shane. Doug and Shane spent hours fishing and we even attended an air show in San Salvador with Bill and Jean. It was fun to meet the famous El Salvadorian pilot, Carlos Dardano, between his crazy stunt flights. We will also never forget the multi-hour car ride to the air show. Goodness, San Salvador can have some horrible traffic! We had lots of quality time in the van that day and had some great laughs as we slowly made our way through the city.

We had an amazing visit from Shane and we look forward to Shane's return to Karuna, hopefully it will be sooner than later.

Next up we started missing tacos and tequila, so we decided to sail back to Mexico and spend a few months before returning to El Salvador for hurricane season.

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