If you happened to glimpse the televised Rose Parade on New Year's Day, you might have noticed the performance of the Banda El Salvador. If so, here's the rather amazing back story of the marching band.
Southern California is home to the greatest concentration of Salvadorans anywhere outside of Central America. For many of the 147 high school age members of the band, the overland trip to California was as much about family reunion as performance.
They almost didn't raise enough money to go. Once they arranged transportation for the four-day overland journey, they didn't have enough for lodging. So they camped out at Duarte High School, a little to the east of Pasadena, site of the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl. Here's what KPCC public radio said about their conditions (click here for a slide show of the band, too):
Money for flights and hotels didn’t materialize. So 147 teens are sleeping and showering in the high school gym and taking their meals in a large, very drafty vinyl tent.
Away from the parade, band members found themselves in emotional family reunions.
Twenty-year-old clarinet player Nelson Hernandez saw his older brother for the first time since he came to the US to study and work 12 years ago.
“It was perhaps one of the most beautiful experiences in my life,” he said.
Hernandez says his brother is more like a father to him because he sent money to pay for Hernandez’s college tuition.
Andres Trigueros plays saxophone. His father left El Salvador 14 years ago to look for work in Los Angeles. This trip’s only the second time he’s seen him since.
“I’ve felt his absence a lot,” Trigueros said. He keeps in touch with his father through social media.