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La seño (my grandmother)


Nadia Ivanova, La Zacamil

My memories of El Salvador are broken and fuzzy blurs. Somehow, though, they still feel so close to me. My experiences before I moved to Canada define me in ways I’m unsure how to articulate. 

There are so many stories I could tell you, so many small antidotes of love and happiness. Because the memories I have of El Salvador are related to a child’s land, it’s my Narnia. 

I could tell you about:

  • countless afternoons spent running around La Zacamil, long before the maras overran it

  • climbing the lemon tree in my Seño’s (grandmothers) backyard

  • looking over the wall at the entire colonia

  • climbing up onto the roofs of the buildings

  • running away from boys garnishing snake carcasses

  • secretly eating golosinas in the stairwells of the buildings

  • how the smell of wet cement is the best smell because it reminds me of those stairwells. 

  • how much I miss relámpagos from Mr. Donut

  • how more delicious the mango sold by ladies in the street, outside my school, was than the ones sold at the school store. 

I think it’s hard for you, reader, to get why El Salvador hurts in the sweetest way inside me 

I remember being in my early 20s when the first Starbucks opened where I live, the suburbs of Toronto. Where I live the main coffee shops knowns are either Coffee Time or Tim Horton’s.

One dark and rainy day, my two besties and I were seated at a wooden table in the back corner of this newly opened Starbucks. I ordered a latte. At that time they still served them in ceramic mugs. I buried my face in the steaming mug and the strangest thing happened: I was instantly transported to El Salvador as if I was actually there.

It was an evening and my brother and I were seated on my Seño’s dining table. The air was cool and I think we had just finished dinner. My brother and I had having leche con café. Hot milk, boiled with vanilla and a little bit of café listo that was added for colour. I saw my seño’s smile. It was wide and easy, it crinkled her eyes. It was the smallest flash of a memory, like a small GIF of happiness. 

It lasted an instant but it flooded my whole system with a warmth and happiness I haven’t known since we left El Salvador behind.