Bridge on the Border


On Christmas Eve day, I stood with my father on the bridge over the Rio Paz. It was no–man’s land—a gap between two nations—but children swam in the glittering brown river and birds flitted back and forth, from El Salvador, to Guatemala, and back again. We were nowhere and everywhere.
Actually, my whole family was visiting, my parents and my two younger siblings, both still in college, and my best friend. I had been finagled into hosting the holidays.
“I’m picturing a quaint little white church,” my mother imagined aloud. “For midnight Mass?”
My mother never goes to Mass, midnight or otherwise, and she had never been to El Salvador. I tried to stifle my exasperation. What was white was the wall outside my window: two stories tall and trimmed in razor wire. She might as well have been asking for a chance to dance around a ten–gallon sombrero.
Exhausted merely by the idea of their visit, I had decided to resolve the problem of what to do with my flock in El Salvador–of–all–places by whisking them out of the country as quickly as I could. Maybe it was a cop–out, but at least pretty, touristy Antigua with all its quintessential bougainvillea and tejas roofs might have something that could pass for a quaint little white church.
Read the original publication of this essay on Perceptive Travel: