Before the El Salvadorian girl spots me and turns away, or her father glances over his shoulder, checking on her, and frowns at my invasiveness, I shoot the photo. Although El Salvadorians genuinely are happy people, they do not have frequent opportunities to engage with Americans in smaller towns, so not much English is spoken. I move on as quickly as possible into the mass of people and don't look back.
When I return home and study my trip photos from Central America, this particular one refocuses on my love of capturing children's images, who are so unassuming.
The diminutive school girl observes passersby's outside the market in the late afternoon when life reawakens from midday siestas in Conception De Ataco, Ahuachapán. It's been an oppressively hot day, I recall, and while the heat is diminishing with the late winter sun setting, the community is taking advantage of it. There's a festive nature in the air from locals shopping for dinner and the few tourists searching local arts and crafts stalls. The street bustles with uniformed students and their parents. In many cases, it is multi-generational, too, and they weave in and out of shops arm-in-arm. Often a car or delivery truck beeps its horn, and the frustrated driver waves his arm out the window to get the attention of people in his way., There are no sidewalks, and careful footing is required to dodge the potholes.
The schoolgirl puts her backpack down and poses with her hands on her back, which pushes out her stomach so typical of kids anywhere in the world waiting patiently in the doorway. Her yellow bow in her ponytail gives the impression that looking one's best is valued in her home. On the other hand, the boots are for convenience, and her walk home is on dusty and muddy side roads accompanied by a stray dog or goat. Probably school sneakers or shoes is one of her backpack items, and hopefully several books. In El Salvador and other Central American countries, mandatory education goes up through fourth grade in public schools funded by the government. Looks can be deceiving, and determining age is difficult. Central Americans are short in stature, and unless you engage in Spanish conversation with them, your guess is as good as mine as to her age.