A young woman who is grieving

How a Salvadoran market became the soul of a community — and now fights to survive


As I sit on a porch in a small Salvadoran town, a young woman opens up her arms to welcome me home. As we embrace, I feel her sadness. She has given me her condolences but she doesn’t know why I am here.

I have been here for three days.

One of the reasons I am here is a young woman named Alma.

She is the founder of a community for girls here in the town of Nueva Concepción in El Salvador. As one of the founders, she helped me meet the other founding members of the community. We will meet again in two weeks.

Alma was only 15 when she joined a small group of mothers and girls, who would meet twice a week to sew. They sewed to keep themselves and their kids busy, but also to share their experiences and their culture with each other.

A year and a half ago, Alma left the seclusion of the community and married a man. She and her husband have two daughters, aged seven and four.

Her husband is a taxi driver. He earns about $10 a day, the equivalent of $300 in American dollars.

Alma is not an average Salvadoran woman. Her family is one of the wealthiest in El Salvador.

She has always been “outgoing,” as her brother says. Alma’s family has lived in this house for 12 generations.

She has always supported her family with her work as a seamstress.

The first time I met Alma, she was in her 80s. She greeted me with a hug and whispered that she was happy to see me.

She has been struggling with a failing health.

The community

Alma, her husband, and their two daughters moved to Nueva Concepción a few years ago.

Nueva Concepción is a village of just 1,250 people. About 20 of the young people who live here have joined the community. They are all members of the community, as Alma describes it. But there are also many women who don’t join the community formally.

To join the community

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