The community of Montelimar is south of San Salvador, near a town named Olocuilta. The road near Montelimar, which leads to the airport, takes you past a scene that appears desolate. Even though the community has brick houses, electricity and potable water, the desolation of the surroundings and the distance from every other community make it feel almost like a batey or a slum.
The community holds about 2,500 homes, with an average of five people per home, according to the last census Rosario’s church conducted. (Rosario is a Compassion-assisted child in this community.) Most of the families rent space as they cannot afford to pay between $8,000 and $10,000 for a home. Most of them work at factories called maquilas, earning the minimum salary — about $170 per month.
Rent goes between $40 and $50, depending on the condition of the home. For some families, who earn their income as street vendors or have large families, their income barely covers the basic staples, and their option is to inhabit an unoccupied home, with the risk that someday an owner will appear and kick them out.
Sometimes a house will suddenly be empty. The reason lays in the comunity’s biggest problem — gangs.
In poor communities like Montelimar, gangs are a constant threat. Nobody comes in or out without them noticing. In fact, the commercial activity in the community has gone down, and small businesses such as pupuserias (little and simple dining places where they sell a local dish called pupusas) or convenience and staples stores are gone because the gangs ask them for “rent,” which means business owners have to pay a weekly amount of hundreds of dollars to receive “protection.” Otherwise, the gangs will do as they wish with the store and the owners.
In Rosario’s case, her family rents and her father, who sells sandwiches on a little cart on the streets of San Salvador and earns the minimum salary, supports the family.
Rosario is a quiet 12-year-old girl, very shy and organized. She is the oldest of four siblings. Even though she is very quiet, Rosario has many friends at school and at the child development center she attends.
The one thing that makes Rosario stand out from her other classmates is her creativity. Rosario discovered her creativity through the piñatas workshop her child development center offers. She has been able to develop her art skills, elaborating piñatas of all shapes, colors and sizes.
“She has a natural creativity” says Sister Roxana, a tutor at the child development center.
Rosario has the ability to reproduce the traits of cartoon characters, giving the piñatas the exact same look. From a total of 10 children that started in the piñatas workshop, she moved quickly to a new group of five children because their development was a lot faster than the rest. But Rosario did not stop there.
Taking into account the resources she had available, she started to experiment with new products. She used whatever she had at hand, such as cardboard folders and colors.
For the piñatas to be made exactly the same, she needed paper, colors and wire. With the resources she had on hand, like her own colors and folders, she made little piñatas about the size of a soda can. She took her first creations to school, and she sold them for 15 cents each.
“When she saw how quickly they were gone, she raised the price to 25 cents” says Sister Roxana with a smile, as she sees how smart Rosario is. With the money she got, she took some and gave it to her mom and asked her to get more materials for her, and the other part she shared with her little brothers.
Rosario’s classmates are now her loyal customers, but she did not stop with them. For a festival in Olocuilta, the main town in the area, she asked a neighbor if she could go with her to take some of her products and try to sell them at the fair. She made small and medium piñatas, and at the end of the day, she had sold all of them.
Rosario is always innovating. The afternoon I had the opportunity to meet her, she appeared with a new product in her line: she had made a puppet with the same materials as a piñata. As soon as she appeared at the church with the new toy, all of her friends made a circle around her. They all wanted to take a look at the new product and give it a test.
Rosario is not only receiving an education and the support and tools she will need to become a financial support for her family in the future, but she is also being raised to become a businesswoman. She is learning that honesty and excellence come first in her business and her life.