On a beautiful Friday, I approached a group of friends who fraternized around a barbecue in the Henri-Julien Park curious to know what united them. They said speak to Ricardo. He animates an association of Salvadorians that regroups natives from the town of San Vicente and their friends. On this occasion, they were receiving visitors from Boston also linked to San Vicente. For many years these people have been meeting for a friendly game of football. This year, a first one took place in Boston early in the summer. The second was to take place the next day at Jarry Park. This is a tradition that goes back to a game played in 1997. For the last ten years it has become initially an annual meeting, and, in recent years a Montreal-Boston round trip.
Much of the Montrealers in this group also meet other Latin American Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Henri-Julien Park to play soccer on a friendly basis. These fraternal meetings have been happening for over three decades in this park.
Ricardo left Salvador alone in his early twenties. After arriving in Québec in the early 80s, he was granted a refugee status. He had fled the civil war between the extreme right forces and the rebel guerrilla as nearly a million displaced citizens did over that decade. The assassination of Archbishop Óscar Romero has shown the world no one was safe between these two camps. The mere fact of being in your twenties could associate you with the rebels.
He had learned the trade of electrician in El Salvador. His background served him well. After he was refused access to examinations for a permit to pratice this profession here, he completed technical courses at CEGEP level and labored many years as a technician in controls and instrumentation. He also completed a certificate in English.
Ricardo has two children who were born here and are now in their early twenties. One of his brothers also joined in Montreal in the late 80s.
Seeing he still has strong ties to El Salvador I asked him if today the country is pacified enough for him to consider going back to his roots. He said he also likes Quebec and explained that despite the return of a certain level of democracy, the country remains one of the most dangerous in the Americas. The homicide rate is very high. Violent criminal gangs, the Maras Salvatruchas (MS-13) in particular, dictate their rules. There are unwritten laws that must be followed to ensure one’s survival.
Aware of his roots and the precariousness of the lives of refugees, he has been offering for a dozen years, on private terms, assistance and translation services to newcomers. He rents for a small fee a modest office at the Scalabrini Centre for refugees and immigrants. He also finds time to volunteer for this organization located on Sauriol street East. Scalabrini Missionaries have bought the Sainte-Rita church in order to house the Scalabrini Centre in its presbytery, basement and parish hall. Ten rooms are home to the poorest immigrants. Although the church hall no longer serves a parish, it remains open as a temple for prayer.
We briefly discussed the wave of immigrants seeking to leave the Middle East to reach Europe. Ricardo points that many of the people seeking refuge have paid significant sums to organized criminal smugglers would have happily paid those amounts to legally emigrate to the West had its doors been open. Those arriving by the thousands at this time in Europe are not all destitute. The poorest unfortunately remain forgotten in their country and suffer of the shooting and bombing without recourse. In the master plans of the warmongers, there are always harmful consequences that have not been foreseen at all.