Clinton St. Quarterly, Vol. 6 No. 1 | Spring 1984 (Seattle) /// Issue 7 of 24 /// Master# 55 of 73

Michael Salvadorans in Seattle T nr TPT? J jX x IL Alonso the Photos by Leo Gabriel ne is sitting in the overstuffed chair in the lobby of the hotel. He rises when he sees me through the picture window and comes to meet me at the glass doors. It is dark, eleven-thirty, and the streets around the hotel are filled with screams and cries of small wars, betrayals, the uprushing traffic on First Avenue, the drunken crowds on Second Avenue. Alonso, I think, is glad that I have come to talk, to listen to his brothers. He has been waiting. We liked each other upon meeting this afternoon in the lawyer’s office. For a few hours we talked about El Salvador: the military, the survivors, his home. Now he is taking me down Stewart Street to a tavern where he thinks his brothers might be. We pass people who always, this late at night in the downtown “combat zones” of cities, make me anticipate instant stabbings. I’m worried now and walk rigidly alongside Alonso, who is comfortable and greets everyone: those with scars across the cheek, thin Indian faces, Northwest Makah? Salvadoran? I’m beginning to see the resemblance. Alonso’s features are very Indian and I wonder if this war, like the war in Guatemala, is also genocide. He tells me to wait inside the tavern door while he looks around, so I sit with my small pack and watch the waitress tell a large Indian to leave. She tells him highest rate of death by starvation after Bangladesh. The poor can only do seasonal work on the coffee plantations. They live on $135 a year. CORREOSDE EL SALVADOR,C. A. , E1 r ^ E B L° SALVADORENO DEFIENDE LA DIGNIDAD Y LOS DERECHOS HUMANOS UNIVERSALES even before he sits down. He is drunk, he stumbles away. The man in front of me is talking to himself. I recognize him from this morning when I stepped off the Picking up the gun is just a sign of the loss of patience. bus. He was talking to himself then too. He is very tall and his pants are too short. However, he is formally dressed: he wears the scraps of suits he found in the street. The most noticeable thing about him is his swollen ankles. Now he sips coffee as if he were in school, a ripped paper bag at his feet. I remember what I had been told earlier; Salvadorans who are not under the protection of the churches, but on the streets, have a double problem: They are a “refugee on a refugee.” All the people on the streets, this man with swollen ankles, are refugees. And the Salvadorans, many who have come from families and educations that could never have prepared them for this, have had to learn not only how to live in a strange land, but also how to live on the street. Alonso comes back shaking his head and I follow him out, relieved there is no one to talk to. Now perhaps I can get back on the bus. As far as I can tell I am the only middle-class white wanderer on