El Salvador; A different image of a troubled nation

Since the strife in El Salvador first came to world attention, the image of a war-torn, bombed-out nation has been engraved on the public eye.

The civil war has taken a heavy toll on the 5 million people in this tiny, Central American nation. But little has been said or shown of the El Salvador beyond the ''bang bang'' of shootouts between leftist guerrillas and government troops so desperately sought after by many television crews and journalists.

For most Salvadorans, life - though not easy - goes on as normally as possible. The streets of the capital, San Salvador, are thronged with cars, diesel buses, and people shopping, strolling, or selling goods. Here, too, the air is filled with the smell of corn tortillas cooked by street vendors and pungent smoke from brush fires on the slopes of the dormant volcano above the city. The city's covered central market is jammed with people buying vegetables, dried fish, cheese, or roasted chicken.

Life is not as pleasant for the Salvadoran refugees who have fled from violence in other provinces. They live in and around the capital in primitive huts of mud, wood, and corrugated iron. Sometimes there is despair in the faces of children who have suffered hardships. But there is also hope in their smiles.

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