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This is What a Shithole Country Looks Like



Fordham University


This is What a Shithole Country Looks Like

Madilyn Grey


President Donald Trump has recently denied describing certain nations as “shithole countries” at a meeting earlier this year regarding the Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals program. However, multiple sources have stepped forward to confirm his remarks, and in particular, his choice vocabulary.

Shithole; noun; vulgar slang: An extremely dirty, shabby, or otherwise unpleasant place. Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”

Albert Einstein once said, “The only source of knowledge is experience.” Therefore, if one were to so blatantly refer to entire nations as shitholes, it would be assumed that that same person possesses this knowledge from firsthand, personal experience, no?

One would assume.

However, people have been subject to making unaccredited assumptions for centuries. The only way to move past this is to further educate yourself about matters that beg for our attention, particularly in today’s society. Considering that many people have not had the opportunity to see a “shithole country” for themselves, I would be glad to share my knowledge of what this looks like, having first-handedly experienced one this past month on a Fordham Global Outreach trip. This is what El Salvador, a shithole country, looks like:

It looks like Nicholas, a veteran and survivor of the Civil War. This war, which tore El Salvador apart and almost destroyed the nation entirely, forced his family to flee to the mountains of Arcatao and hide in man-made bomb shelters as an attempt to survive. Hundreds of his loved ones died, including his older brother and father. It looks like Nicholas spending two entire days educating American students on the city, its history, and why change is so essential for progress to be made in the country. His shithole country.

It looks like UCA El Salvador, a private Jesuit-run university with nonprofit purposes in San Salvador. It looks like El Salvador’s 9,000 students working for degrees in areas such as Economics and Business, Human and Social Sciences, and Engineering and Architecture. This institution has evolved into one of the best in Central America for higher learning. It allows for students in El Salvador to further educate themselves to better understand and even work to reverse the implications of the current issues arising in their country. Their shithole country.

It looks like Shicali, a ceramics cooperative run by people with disabilities. Shicali works to hire those who may be looked down upon as a result of their appearances or handicaps. It is a place filled with beauty and handmade art shaped by Salvadorans from clay taken from the ground of their country. Their shithole country.

It looks like the National Assembly: the government center and legislative offices of El Salvador. It looks like the members of the FMLN party who work tirelessly for equal rights and opportunities for the poor and oppressed by pushing for laws that will better distribute the wealth of the country. It looks like their efforts to reduce crime rates and the nation’s incarceration percentage by introducing educational and occupational programs. It looks like their devotion to incite positive changes in their country. Their shithole country.

It looks like the National Cathedral: a church where hundreds gather every day to celebrate mass and pray. It looks like the parishioners, even the elderly, dropping to their knees and crying during the ceremonies because they are so overcome with emotion. It looks like the people of this community holding hands in solidarity with each other because even though they are different or even strangers, they are still one united under a common love for their God and their country. Their shithole country.

It looks like Alejandrito: the two year old boy whose smile could break your heart. It looks like his potential to achieve whatever he wants to in life, despite the fact that his options are so incredibly limited and scarce as a result of the cycle of oppression that is so blatantly obvious in the country. It looks like his mother’s fear and uncertainty of his future, because poverty is not a romanticized issue that can be fixed by GoFundMe campaigns or prayers. And as Alejandrito and the 25 percent of children under five living in El Salvador that suffer from poverty continue to go through the seemingly never-ending cycle of neglect, we watch comfortably from afar, thinking, “Someone should really do something about that.”

The United States government played a major role in the civil war of El Salvador. More than 75,000 people lost their lives during the twelve year war. More than 85 percent of those killings were the work of the government and their army units that had been trained by the United States. Our direct involvement in the war is a reason why it was so severe and why the repercussions of it continue to affect the citizens of El Salvador today. Although America was ready and willing to assist them in bloodshed, it is now nowhere to be found to help rebuild a nation that needs its support. We shut them out, we cut them off, and we mock them while we’re at it. And that’s what a shithole looks like.