Sunday, June 21, 2009

Godspeed and Hopeful

I’ve been thinking about Godspeed and Hopeful, the two Olive Ridley turtles we released into the Pacific early this week. The eco-resort* we stayed at on the Pacific coast of El Salvador at Barra de Santiago is home to a cement pool full of toddler and adolescent Ridley turtles. Their mothers swim ashore 1 to 3 times a season – this is often precipitated by a strong offshore wind - and lay about 100 eggs in the sand, kiss their unhatched offspring goodbye, and go back out to see. Then a couple of local residents take the eggs and rebury them in a somewhat protected area behind the gate of the eco-resort. Once the turtles hatch 50 to 60 days later they are kept in the pool until the next guest comes along. Then he or she carries the fluttering flapping deep- breathing omnivorous young turtles to the beach and deposits them about 2 meters from the water line. (I read that turtle release was included in the cost of our room.)
We named our turtles Godspeed and Hopeful, because given their 1% chance of survival once they are in the ocean, they will need both.

We gave them a pep talk and rubbed their scutes (my new favorite word; I will be seeking every plausible chance to use it) in an effort to increase their chances of survival to 2 %.

If you think there is something ironic in the efforts made to save sea turtles in a country where the income gap is wider than the Grand Canyon and where the poor are plagued by violent gangs while the rich live with their colonial silver saints and retablos behind high walls topped with broken glass, I would have to concur.
There is nothing wrong with saving sea turtles. It is a good thing. But it feels like part of our fractured lives. One week we are celebrating a wedding with dear friends on an old coffee farm in the hills above San Salvador, and then we come home and work with our garden helper, Oscar. He inhabited the other, the far side of the income gap in Salvador; Oscar's options there were so bleak that his family all pitched in and gave him money to pay corrupt coyotes, and even then he walked the Mexican desert to the US. He has already paid back all the money and regularly sends money back to Salvador. Further irony: because so many Salvadorans have come to the US to work and are sending back dollars to their families, there is disgruntlement in the higher echelons that the much-vaunted work ethic is being corroded. Because the gap between what they are paid in Salvador and what their relatives send them is also large.
It is easier to think about Godspeed and Hopeful and their journey to the bottom of the Pacific.

* Apparently market research led the owners to determine that an eco-resort was the way to lure in customers. Not that there is anything wrong with the resort. Au contraire. But I would suggest you take the “eco” adjective advisedly.

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