Launch of the Mayor’s Vision for the Historic District of Downtown San Salvador
Ambassador Jean Manes
Tuesday, April 2, 2019, 5:00 P.M., Teatro Nacional
Remarks by Ambassador Jean Manes at the Launch of the Mayor’s Vision for the Historic District of Downtown San Salvador
April 2, 2019
* This is a courtesy translation. Only the original Spanish version should be considered authoritative.
It is always a pleasure to visit places like the Historic Center of San Salvador and see how, little by little, the history of this city resurfaces. There is no doubt that historical centers and old city neighborhoods maintain immense power when it comes to building identity for their inhabitants. We see it in many countries around the world, where an effort has been made to maintain and recover this legacy.
Cities tell stories and are a reflection of our culture, our values and also our beliefs. The center of San Salvador I think is particularly fascinating, because there are still facades marked by the styles of their time, as we saw in the video, and we have buildings that have colonial elements along with others that have details of Art Noveau.
And there is also a building in the historic center and maybe some of you remember this building. La Dahlia. How many people here remember the Dahlia? Almost everyone. And how long has it been since you last visited it? It may be some years already. Recently we went to a cultural event to La Dahlia, and upon entering that historic place, you could see the charm of the city in this building. And certainly needs restoration, but the atmosphere of the place was impressive. The architecture, the original ceramic tiles. The challenge is to restore it without losing the essence of the place.
I think it is time for Salvadorans to take the next step to recover the spirit and pride of past eras that we see today reflected in buildings like this theater that is more than 100 years old and create new moments and memorable events. They have the opportunity to build a legacy and leave something much bigger for future generations.
There is a link between access to public spaces and security, because it is in these spaces in which citizens can live together. This is where families, young people, and all citizens can have fun, get to know each other, and seek a shared future.
We have seen examples of other cities that have used architecture to transform their communities. Medellín in Colombia is a clear example, which once had the highest homicide rate in the world and that is now one of the safest cities. It is also a model of innovation and a flourishing culture. And I can already imagine in a few years people from other countries are going to travel to San Salvador to study your model, and see what you are doing here in San Salvador as an example to follow.
These transformations do not happen overnight. They require a vision. A long-term vision, a concrete action plan, and the commitment of institutions to execute this vision for the good of all its citizens. Because it’s not just about starting or implementing the project, it’s about working together to protect it and feed it with ideas, energy, and effort.
It is a pleasure to know that actions are already being taken to continue the work that has begun. We must recognize what those who preceded us have achieved, and add our work to what has already been achieved. It also shows a degree of maturity in your democracy in continuing to advance in the projects. Any achievement to be sustainable has to be maintained, and the recovery of the Historic Center of San Salvador is no exception.
It is an ambitious project, and it requires the will of all Salvadorans. It needs the support of the municipal and national government, and of course it requires private investment, and above all civil society.
For the Government of the United States, it has been a pleasure to be able to support these efforts. Through our international development agency, USAID, we have granted $7.4 million to Glasswing International, to promote citizen security through interventions in the public space, including the transformation of Parque Cuscatlán. I will mention here the inauguration of the park on July 10, so that you mark it in your calendars.
A theater is just a building. What gives it life are the actors and the audience. And parks need families, children and adults, so they can thrive. Just as a city is nothing without its people.
El Salvador needs people committed to working together, leaving ideologies and individual agendas aside, and focusing on what is best for everyone. And I have witnessed what can be achieved when there is a willingness to work for change.
I encourage you to continue, to continue demonstrating this commitment you have with your citizens, and on behalf of the United States, we are willing to continue supporting you in this noble mission of building a safer country with opportunities for all to realize their dreams.
The historic center has a lot of history to tell. But even more important, it has a lot of history to create. And I have confidence that San Salvador will be a beacon to the entire region if we all join forces.