Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A few days outside of Honduras

Monday I left to meet a student from St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Ames who will be with me for two weeks. Cody LeClaire will be studying in Costa Rica this semester but wanted to visit and see what is happening here before his semester begins.

So much is happening especially in Caritas that I had thought of just spending one night in San Salvador and returning to Honduras on Tuesday. Thanks be to God that I stayed until Wednesday. A little time away can provide a bit of perspective.

Although El Salvador is poor, it has a much better infrastructure than Honduras. One example: The road from San Salvador to the Honduran border, though full of curves in the mountains, has very few pot holes. In contrast, the road from the Honduran border to Santa Rosa is a disaster; it is only a slight exaggeration to say that there are more potholes than paved highway.

But this time another thing struck me. During both this visit and when I briefly passed through El Salvador earlier this month, when I mentioned I was in Honduras, people asked me openly about the situation.

In early January a taxi driver and I had a civil discussion as he spoke in favor of the Honduran coup. But then he went on to praise a Salvadoran president, General Maximiliano Hernandez. He insisted that he was one of Salvador’s best presidents and would not admit that he was responsible for the 1932 massacre. It was bizarre.

This time I spoke with a night watchman who proceeded to compare the Honduran situation to El Salvador in the 1970s and 1980s. I told him that I don’t think it is that serious. He then revealed that he had been a soldier in the Salvadoran army in the 1980s. During that time, he said, they were told that El Salvador was in danger of being invaded and controlled by “Martians, Venezuelans, and Cubans.” He had playfully replaced “Marxists” with “Martians” but his remark was pointed. How many times in the last seven months have I heard from coup supporters and the coup regime that that was what was threatening Honduras!

Today Pepe Lobo was inaugurated president of Honduras and outgoing President Mel Zelaya flew off to the Dominican Republic.

Many people are saying it’s all over, that Honduras is returning to normal. In a December blog entry I questioned what was normal. Today Bloggins by boz also questioned whether a return to normal was enough.

Normal is not enough for normal is unjust. It is not the will of God that Hondurans continue to suffer injustice, that a few control the economic and political sources of power. And it is not just that the poor struggle so hard to survive.

I was reminded of this on the bus ride from Ocotopeque to Santa Rosa de Copán. There was a young kid in the seat next to Cody and I. We were talking and the kid seemed really curious. Cody sat back for awhile to relax and I decided to initiate a conversation with the kid. He was born in Tela, grew up in Quimistán, Santa Barbara, and was now working in a car wash in the San Pedro Sula area, in a town this side of Choloma. He’d been in SPS for six years.

Life is hard he said and told briefly how he had been robbed several times by gangs. I asked him how much school he had - four years, he said. I urged him to go back. The line I used with him was what I use with others – so you don’t get taken advantage of. He mentioned he was going to try to go to night school.

I asked about his family. Two brothers are in the US. Others are still in Honduras except for one sister who was killed by her husband.

He also mentioned that today had not been a good day for him. He had lost his wallet or it had been stolen. His id and the money for his trip back were gone. However, the bus driver or the fare collector had agreed to give him a free ride. (That really surprised me!)

I also asked him his name – Selvin – and his age – 14. Working away from home since he was eight years old.

That’s injustice. That’s abnormal. That’s not the will of God.

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