Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Santa Ana, El Salvador

Santa Ana Theatre from Alcalde
Santa Ana Theatre from Alcalde

After leaving Atitlan on Friday, a boat, three chicken buses and a ‘first class’ bus later we were in Santa Ana, El Salvador’s second city. The border crossing was easy and aided by a 20 minute wait giving us the opportunity to get drinks or pupusas. For Georgia and me it also meant we could ask the migracion control for an entry stamp. They aren’t given between Central American countries who have an immigration agreement between them – but we both wanted some evidence in our passport for visiting a new country we have not been to before. It’s only fair.

Our first impressions of El Salvador were of another country of mostly friendly people. Buses were as crowded, brightly painted and driven to death as in Guate. People do look different, possibly looks or fashion. There’s a more Latin Caribbean look as made famous by Cuba and more personal energy. Also, frilly pinnies for anyone cooking or selling street food are big fashion items and highlight the sassiness that defines El Salvadorean women.

Santa Ana Cathedral
Santa Ana Cathedral

Santa Ana itself is a big, everyday city built around a central park bustling with street food vendors and fringed with historic buildings. We passed two mariachi bands tuning up on our walk to the central park from our hotel, Tazumal, outside of which were a cluster of prostitutes and adult-only bars. Historic in Santa Ana is not the 16th century colonial architecture of Antigua but late 19th/early 20th century Neo-Gothic and Neo-Renaissance. Three sides of the park are formed by he cahtedral, the theatre and the alcalde (Municipality).

Santa Ana Alcalde
Down the Alcalde

The Theatre is a restored gem of Edwardian Central Americana that still has boxes with padded wooden chairs that come straight out of a Western. If only there had been a play or concert on the weekend we were in Santa Ana we would have stayed to attend the elegant theatre in style. Instead, we had to be content with a look around and a visit to a good photography exhibition in the lobby.

Santa Ana Theatre Crest
Theatre crest with the Volcano known as the `Light of the Pacific`

Getting There
International buses between Guatemala City and San Salvador stop in Santa Ana on an anonymous street corner. It’s a long walk into the more central part of the city with hotels and definitely worth taking a taxi after dark.

The Hotel Tazumal is a very decent budget hotel. Clean, secure, with large en-suite rooms around a green courtyard. Rooms towards the back are quieter. The staff are very friendly and helpful. Cold water only showers but free coffee and biscuits in the morning.

Santa Ana Foodstalls

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