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El Salvador's Slow Recovery

El Salvador has technically been in peacetime since its civil war ended 17 years ago. But as photographer Juan Carlos says, it "has come a long way but has not moved forward." For many Salvadorans, postwar recovery has been almost as devastating as the war itself: The country is plagued with violence, drugs and a stagnant economy — not to mention the various natural disasters that continually impede development. Carlos, currently living in El Salvador, has documented the country's postwar struggle in his series "Duro Blandito."

"Duro Blandito" (hard soft) is a type of cheese and, in popular Salvadoran speech, an oxymoron expressing the ambiguity of life. For Carlos, the phrase also conveys the difficulty of defining peace in a postwar era. The country had been defined by civil unrest for several decades, culminating in the 1980s and '90s in a civil war to overthrow a repressive government. Peace accords were finally signed in 1992, and with that came hope for the Salvadoran people.

But El Salvador is still among the 10 poorest countries in Latin America. "In various parts of the country," Carlos says, "one can still catch sight of the stillness of time." That is, those regions have remained socio-economically stagnant for the past three decades. While things are changing slowly for Salvadorans, daily life is a struggle for many. The photos in this series say more.

Juan Carlos, like many other Salvadorans, moved to the United States in the mid-1980s and settled in California. He has since returned to El Salvador to live and work. He offered to share his story with The Picture Show, hoping that it might reach those unfamiliar with El Salvador's situation. View more of his work on his Web site.

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