Dangerous big cities: San Pedro Sula, San Salvador, Managua

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I have a love-hate relationship with big cities of the developing world. On one hand it’s true what they say. “(Insert name here) is chaotic, big, dirty, dangerous, smoggy, and why would you ever want to go there? There’s nothing to do there but get stabbed.”

My answer usually goes something along these lines of. “It’s the real Honduras/El Salvador etc…” Before I can finish, that statement usually results in a friendly debate of what “the real” actually means. I fully admit, those assumptions many of us make have quite a bit of validity. Truth is these cities are in many ways really fucked up. There I said it. But, that is just one side of the story.

The reason I visit these cities is due to what they represent to the people that inhabit them. Millions of people in these countries clamour to the outskirts of these cities in shanty towns with hopes of finding new opportunities, a better life for their families and each day they fight to hang on to these hopes.

At the same time wealthy elites cruise around in luxury cars in the day and quarantine themselves behind steel gates and razor wire at night.

Inbetween these contrasting worlds is very much an alive and I (ever the optimist) like to think a growing middle class with hope for the future. Business people, intellectuals, artists & entrepreneurs push through the climate of fear to make their dreams a reality. In San Pedro, I met a professor glad to see me travelling through, yet quick to caution me of the city’s reputation as the murder capital of the world. In the same breath he described a city where good people vastly represent the majority. A place where good will eventually defeat evil. Prior to arriving in San Salvador I met a college student in El Tunco from San Salvador working hard to start her own fashion label. Aside from her place of origin, her dreams and enthusiasm to achieve them is no different from those of twenty something’s in more developed countries.

Central American cities are pulsating, breathing, perspiring organisms and to miss out because of news headlines is to miss out on an opportunity to find out what it really means to scratch, claw and fight for your country but above all for your dreams.

So, with that said I invite you take a day or two, leave the valuables at home, grab a bag of coca cola, your guide book and go see what all the fuss is about. With some common sense and caution of course.

That’s my opinion. What’s yours?

Travel well amigos!

-Felipe