April 2000
s m u g
field recordings
by Scout Finch


JG: He wasn't tortured, actually. They just kept questioning, questioning, questioning. But I think it was because we weren't considered regular civilians. We were, but we weren't. We still had family that was very much involved. So that caused a lot of tension [in] my family. My grandfather was very angry that my uncle, knowing damn well who we were, had allowed this whole charade to go on. He was pretty high up in the rankings.

Who was?

JG: One of my uncles. I mean, I guess he wasn't my uncle, as far as - yes, I guess he was my uncle. My grandfather's brother.

So he was a great-uncle?

JG: Great uncle, yeah.

Your dad's uncle.

JG: My dad's uncle. One of my great uncles.

He was in the military.

JG: Oh yeah. He was like a main cheese head.

Cheese head! (laughter)

JG: You know? When you hear about corruption, he was one of those guys who definitely...when the US sent provisions down there, he would end up with a lot of it in his yard. Things that went directly to the military, for the most part, the people only got the leftovers. If there was cool shit like tents, things like that, they would have the tents set up and throw parties, use the provisions for themselves. They would split it amongst the other military heads.

Makes it kinda tough to survive.

JG: There was a bank that was actually funded by a company in the United States, and it was opened in El Salvador to give small business opportunities to people who wanted to start their own business. Take out loans, you know, and try to start your own business and pay it back slowly. They wanted to give a little boost to the economy. What happened was they ended up having to close because the military went [in] and pretty much wiped it out. They took out all these loans - you couldn't say no to them, I mean, if you say no to them, it's pretty much like saying, "Hey, come to my house and kill me." So the bank kept saying yes, and then the [military] never paid it back. So they went bankrupt.

When your family left, did you come straight to San Francisco?

JG: Well, he came first.

Your dad did?

JG: Yeah. For the most part, I was raised by my grandparents. I stayed with them because [of] the whole issue of money. They could provide a better life for me, and at the time my mom was on her own and my brother was [a baby]. She was having a hard time dealing with two kids and having to work. My dad's family comes from money. They're supposed to do pre-arranged marriages. My grandparents had already picked somebody who my dad was supposed to marry, [although] they would have accepted somebody [else] of his own stature. But they didn't accept my mom because she didn't come from the capitol, from a family with money. My mom didn't have shoes until she was 13 or 14 years old. At the time, my grandfather told them that they were forbidden to get married. He said, "If you get married to her, you're on your own and you're out of the family." So my dad said okay, and he went on his own. He was actually not in touch with my whole family for quite a while.

Then how did you end up living with your grandparents?

JG: [My parents] were struggling so much, they would go [through] times when they didn't have any food, and when my grandparents learned of this they kind of made peace. And they asked my dad why he hadn't come back, and he said, "Well, I wasn't going to go crawling back when you wouldn't accept my wife." To this day, she isn't really completely accepted.

How did your parents meet?

JG: She was somebody who you would consider a country girl. Very na´ve to the whole city thing. But my dad was in a band that traveled [around], and they met at one of the concerts that he was playing in her little county.

That's cool! What kind of band?

JG: It was kind of like salsa, I guess. And they used to play things from the Beatles. They used to play a lot of covers. And they did some of their own stuff as well. They actually had a record in El Salvador, believe it or not.

Do you have the record?

JG: He has it in El Salvador, we don't have it here. I used to listen to the record when I was down there, when I was a little kid.

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