Secrets and Lies in El Salvador: Shelly’s Journey


In “Secrets and Lies in El Salvador: Shelly’s Journey,” a young woman seeking solace from personal tragedy travels to El Salvador on behalf of a ministry to take photos of its citizenry. Shelly is warmly welcomed by her host family, the Gonzales, soon becoming a part of their close-knit but secret-keeping family. As she takes pictures of each member, they reveal those secrets and draw her deeper into their world, the struggle of the Salvadoran people, and their personal struggles related to generations of secrets that have molded their lives to its current state.

This is a firsthand journey into perilous El Salvador in the early 1980s, when the country is torn by a war between a rich landholder-controlled government and the guerillas that are fighting for the everyday people who are systematically abused, disenfranchised, and often killed.  Shelly has a family relationship to a poet who was a national hero, and as she spends time in the country, she evolves to feel a deep bond to its people and anguish for their sufferings.  The narrative is emotive and involving, drawing the reader into what Shelly sees and feels.  While the reader is spared gratuitous descriptions, there are moments and happenings that a sensitive reader will find disturbing, and the continual assault of horrors is wearying.  This story will make readers feel the anguish and righteous anger at the plight of Salvadorans, as it opens readers’ eyes to the situation in El Salvador in the latter part of the 20th Century.  

Danielle Hill