Happy Birthday, El Salvador!

September 15th is Independence Day here in El Salvador. El Salvador shares this day with Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. All of these Central American countries declared independence from Spain on September 15th, 1821.

Image source: CIA World Factbook

Salvadoran schools do a great job of celebrating this day with their students in the days leading up to el Dia de la Independencia. They call their assemblies, “actos civicos” or civic acts, where the students participate in presentations of the national symbols, traditional dances, and readings, among other traditions. The Love & Hope kids have always been enthusiastic to participate in the “actos civicos” at their schools. This year, Vanessa, Jacobo, Esau, and Irene participated in a traditional dance and Moises represented the Central American country of Belize as part of a mock delegation. Jeremiah recited a bit about the national bird, the torogoz, in front of everyone! Brenda also performed a traditional dance at church. Today, we thought we’d explain more and share a little about the traditions and culture surrounding Independence Day in Central America.


Actos civicos usually begin with the National Anthem of El Salvador and a group of students who walk in with the flag. Later, the students present the national symbols and their meanings:

The Flag: The Salvadoran Flag boasts two large blue stripes, which represent the two oceans (the Pacific and Atlantic) that border Central America. The center white stripe signifies peace.

Image source: CIA World Factbook


The Coat of Arms: The coat of arms in the center of the flag contains several representative images. Five volcanoes and five flags represent the five Central American countries that were united in their independence from Spain on September 15th. The 14 leaves represent the 14 Salvadoran departments.

The National Flower: Flor de Izote is the national flower of El Salvador. In addition to being a national symbol, Salvadorans often use it in cooking!

The National Bird: The torogoz is a beautiful multicolored bird with long, unique tail feathers. Here in the city, we rarely see them, but at our old house in Los Planes, we saw them all the time!


The National Tree: The maquilishuat tree is known for its distinct and beautiful pink leaves.

Actos civicos always include a few different traditional dances and songs as well. The participants dress in traditional clothing that would have been worn by indigenous farmers and coffee pickers in El Salvador. Some of the popular dances and songs are:

Las Cortadoras: This song and dance are about beautiful women cutting coffee cherries.



El Carbonero: This song is also known as El Salvador’s second national anthem. It is about a charcoal merchant selling charcoal on a volcano.

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El Torito Pinto: During El Torito Pinto, one child wears a fake bull head (sometimes with fireworks attached!) and runs around. The “bull” is surrounded by other children who are trying to escape from it!

This year at one of the schools, we also had the pleasure of “meeting” El Salvador’s founding fathers and watching a mini-drama of the famous Salvadoran folklore (and mischievous) character, el Cipitio:


There are many other special events that happen during the month of September. The Love & Hope kids come home from school every September asking for blue and white crepe paper and balloons to decorate their classrooms. They learn to do artisanal artwork at school and play traditional games. Many of the kids also take in typical food to share, like pupusas and Salvadoran hot chocolate.

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The whole country also seems to get pretty excited about Mister Donut’s (a popular chain) independence month promotion: 2-for-1 doughnuts for the whole month of September! We’ve enjoyed a few doughnuts here at Love & Hope this month.

September is a fun month in El Salvador, and for our children, it is a time when they learn and participate in the traditions of their beautiful little country! Salvadorans are a proud people, and we are happy that the Love & Hope kids are learning to appreciate their roots.

Welcome back, Kevincito!

If you’ve followed our blog for some time, you know that in addition to Antonio’s adoption last month, we celebrated another adoption over a year ago. Kevincito came to us at three years old and lived at Love & Hope Children’s Home for about seven years. He was eventually adopted by a beautiful family in Ohio, the Boyles.

Kevin Swinging Kevin as big as cavs players

Since moving to Ohio with his forever family, Kevin has experienced tremendous progress physically and emotionally. Here is an update from his mom, Christine:

Kevin is using both hands to bring his sippy-cup to his mouth, almost independently. He has even begun to bring bites of food to his mouth like Nutrigrain bars and goldfish crackers! He is learning to chew. He loves to eat almost anything and his appetite is HUGE! He uses his surgically placed feeding tube for only 7 ounces of water overnight – otherwise, he takes everything by mouth. Kevin is now almost 40 pounds (he came home as an 18 pounder) and he has grown 5-6 inches taller. He is getting contact lenses, because he has a lot of sensory issues, he will not keep glasses on and we found out that he has a significant visual impairment.

Kevin is full of energy! No naps for him! He is full of crazy, silly, joy! He giggles all the time and loves to play.

Last month, Kevin and his mom, Christine, came to visit El Salvador for the first time since the adoption. We’ve seen pictures and videos of Kevin via Facebook over the last year and were following his progress. But nothing compares to seeing the change in person.




Everyone was ecstatic to see Kevincito again, to see how healthy and strong and content he looked. There were many, many exclamations of, “¡Juela!” (Wow!) and “¡Es increible!” (It’s incredible!). Probably most excited was Tia Larixa, one of Kevin’s prior caregivers. She ran out to meet Kevin, and it was clear that he was happy to see her as well.

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After visiting Love & Hope, Kevin also was able to see his grandfather and his family, and Tia Mila, who also cared for Kevin in our home. The pictures explain it all:

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Unfortunately, Kevin and Christine had to leave early due to I.G. bleeding. We are grateful that Kevin is in an environment where he receives the attention and medical care he needs

God works in amazing ways. Here’s one of the best parts of this story: Antonio would often say that Kevin was his best friend. Kevin’s caregiver was also partly responsible for Antonio and they spent a lot of time together. Though separated for just over a year, Antonio and Kevin now live just 5 minutes away from each other in Ohio! Kevin even got to greet Antonio at the airport to welcome him.

We are rejoicing along with Kevin, Antonio and their families. Adoption is beautiful, and even more so when we consider that God adopted us as his children!

Special Talents

Even though it is popular to label homes such as ours “institutions”, we have always seen Love & Hope as a family. And just like any family, we love to explore and share the talents of our kids. Each one of them is full of ideas, tastes and opinions that make them unique. Today we wanted to share a few of the “hidden” talents that make our kids special.

Jefferson is an artist. He is able to draw incredible images freehand, from memory. Jefferson keeps a notebook just for drawing, but his school notebooks are also full of doodles. If a homework assignment involves drawing, Jefferson takes great care to go above and beyond and loves to show it off.

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Michell is a soccer star. She gets excited just to go to practice, and her dedication is obvious; she works harder and hustles more on the field than her teammates. Last year, Michell had the opportunity to practice with the national 17-and-under team. She loved watching the FIFA World Cup and kept careful track of the bracket and collected stickers for her World Cup sticker book.


Ezequiel is a bookworm. He loves, loves, loves to read. Ezequiel often needs to be redirected during homework time because he has a novel sitting on top of his textbook. He constantly raids our bookshelf for more books to read and asks Kirsten when she’ll get more books from his favorite series: Percy Jackson.


Moises plays the recorder. He started learning to play in music class at school, but has made it his own at home. Moises likes to play with Tio Henry, who has taught him more songs, and we often hear him practicing by himself in his room. The sweet, little melody carries itself through the whole house.


Eliseo is a storyteller. If one child in our house has an imagination, it is Eliseo. When he gets into storytelling mode, he entertains everyone around him with his elaborate tales that span the spectrum from animals, to soccer, to lightsabers and more! His adorable little voice makes it impossible to stop listening. We ask him questions and make comments and he deftly weaves each one into his story!


Raquel is a singer. As she moves throughout the house or sits in the micro bus with her headphones, Raquel is always singing or humming something; her talent is amazing! It is clear that Raquel likes to sing, but she is very shy and humble about it. We are hoping that one day she’ll realize how uniquely beautiful her raspy voice really is!


The support we receive from you makes it possible for our children to shine. Love & Hope is able to maintain a great adult-child ratio, send our kids to good schools, and allow them to participate in extra-curricular activities because of your generous donations. Thank you for helping us create a family-like atmosphere for the Love & Hope kids, rather than an institutional-like atmosphere. We love spending time together and celebrating together, just like your family. Providing this family-oriented care wouldn’t be possible without our donors.