By Barb Arkwright
In the city of Berlin Usulután, El Salvador, Don Miguel Aparicio lives with his wife and his 15 year-old grandson. Their home is the very small and consists of a single room with dirt floors divided into a kitchen area where it has its wood-fired oven, a bed, and a worn hammock. Their bathroom is a mere outhouse. To one side of their home is a small work area has been designated for Don Miguel. Starting each morning at the first crow of the roosters until late afternoon he works making hammocks. One or two days a week he travels the streets of Berlin assisted by his grandson to sell his hammocks.
Don’s wife oversees the household chores and is in charge of changing the thread colors for the hammocks. The family’s income is based solely on the sale of the hammocks. The sales provide sufficient funds for staples for the family with some left over for new materials to make hammocks.
In January 2017, our St. Boniface delegation visited the humble home of Don Miguel and his family. As we entered the small home we were greeted by his wife who led us in small groups of four to his work area. He greeted us with a beautiful warm smile and welcomed us to his humble home. As we viewed his home, Don Miguel stood by the hammock he was currently creating. He works with speed and accuracy intertwining the beautiful colored threads. His work is awe-inspiring for a sighted person let alone for someone blind.
During the tour, Don Miguel shared the story of his loss of sight. In 2009 Don Miguel was working as a laborer making paving stones by cracking boulders with a pickax and with dynamite. The day was extremely hot, and sweat ran down his forehead into his eyes blurring his vision. The dynamite ignited prematurely sending shrapnel into his face. He miraculously survived, but was blinded by the flying debris. Wondering what was he to do, he prayed to God to show him a new way of life.
Prior to the accident, Don Miguel made hammocks with the aid of his wife and grandson. Unable to return to work in construction, he began creating hammocks with the aid of his family. Although, his attitude could have been one of despair, that was not Don Miguel. He is a man of strong character, willing to work long tedious hours. His beautiful smile radiates a man who has not allowed an unforeseen accident to dampen his spirit. His last statement as we left his humble home said it all, “Being a maker of hammocks requires much patience and time. Both of those things God has given me.”
People often compliment delegates for our good work, my reply is “I simply receive the gift I have been given to travel to a beautiful country with beautiful people. They are no longer strangers, they are now family and friends.”