Sunday, May 30, 2010

OF MANY THINGS, revised

A lot has been happening in the last week - and so here's a disjointed blog entry.

RAIN, RAIN, GO AWAY…

It’s been raining here almost continually since Thursday – Tropical Storm Agatha. It’s been a personal inconvenience for me. From May 14 to 26 I was hosting people and on May 27 I went to Esquipulas, Guatemala, with an excursion of the staff of Caritas Santa Rosa. On May 28 I managed to wash a few clothes and hang them up to dry. But it poured and many of them are still wet, even though I’ve now hung them in a place protected from the rain.

But enough whining. The situation is serious throughout the Central American region with landslides, flooding and threats of dams breaking - as well as several deaths. A friend had to walk around a landslide to get through to a bus on the other side to get from Guatemala to El Salvador.

I saw a small indication of this yesterday on the way to Dulce Nombre to do a section of a workshop that morning. There was a tiny landslide at the place where the road to Dolores breaks off from the road to Dulce Nombre.


That afternoon I headed with Padre Efraín and Padre Julio to a celebration in El Progresso, Yoro, in the north of the country. As we passed over the Democracy Bridge over the River Ulua we noted how high the water was. (By the way, one lane of this bridge fell last May as result of an earthquake that hit the country.)

As we passed into town we could see streets flooded a few blocks from the river.


The situation is serious and there may be some emergency work that Caritas will need to do this week.


VIOLENCE AND CRIME


This area of the country is relatively safe, though I experienced a break in and robbery over a year ago.

But this week I heard a few disturbing reports.

The bishop’s secretary and her husband have a corner store (literally) in Santa Rosa, near the center of town. This week they suffered an armed robbery at about 6:30 Tuesday evening.

Monday, two of the St. Thomas visitors and I helped the Dulce Nombre parish agriculture project deliver about 19 sacks of fertilizer to the community of San Antonio, Dolores. The project bought them in quantity at a lower cost and is providing the fertilizer on simple and fair credit terms to help small farmers. I found out that five sacks of fertilizer were stolen from the church where they were stored.


The theft was reported to the police but I doubt they will make any serious efforts to investigate the crime. Some people in the village are investigating to see what happened but people are afraid to report crimes if they see them or to intervene in any way, since the justice system really doesn’t do much and people are afraid of reprisals from the criminals. This combination of the lack of a responsible judicial system and of a sense of responsibility to report crime is a major problem here.

I also heard that one of the motorcycles being used by the health promoters in the Caritas maternal and infant health program was stolen. The promoter was on the motorcycle when it was intercepted by a car who forced him off the vehicle and took it. Who did it? It’s hard to say. It’s in a zone where there is drug-trafficking but someone who had worked in that area with another aid agency knows of a case where the police were responsible for stealing a motorcycle nearby.

Which brings up another problem that plagues Honduras – drug-trafficking. Honduras is a transit point between Colombia and the US and a road in the department of Copán is one of the conduits for drugs to Guatemala and Mexico and eventually to the US. I’ve heard of involvement of political leaders and the presence of drug lords in some of the towns and villages there. But I have also heard recently that drug traffickers are moving into areas like Santa Rosa, buying some businesses as a way to launder drug money.
This could get very serious.

But in other parts of the country it’s worse. Thursday night eight people were killed in a brutal murder in Choloma, near San Pedro Sula. And there have been killings of at least six journalists here this year as well as threats and killing of some people involved in the Resistance to the coup and to the current government. International human rights groups are deeply concerned about these acts.


CELEBRATION in EL PROGRESO

But in the midst of this several groups from the diocese went on Saturday to El Progreso, Yoro, east of San Pedro Sula in the north of Honduras. ERIC-SJ, a research, reflection, and communication project founded by the Jesuits was celebrating its thirtieth year.

The celebration started with a Mass, with the local bishop concelebrating with about twelve other priests. It was a moving Mass, not least of all because almost all the Mass parts were from the Salvadoran Campesino Mass, a Mass with extraordinary lyrics written in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It is a real example of liberation theology and spirituality.

I was especially moved receiving Communion as we sang:

Hoy, Señor, tenemos hambre
de trabajo, techo y pan.
Danos ya tu cuerpo y sangre,
danos combatividad.

Today, Lord, we are hungry
for work, for a roof over our heads, for bread.
Give us now your Body and Blood,
Give us combativeness!

During the offertory of the Mass, many symbolic gifts were brought up with the bread and wine for the Eucharist. To remember those who have been killed since the coup, a group of women presented a banner of a young woman with the Resistance who had been killed.


After Mass, the celebration began – with six music groups. But before they started one of the MCs noted that Father Ignacio Ellacuría, the rector of the Salvadoran Jesuit university who was killed in 1989, said that while, we suffer, we must celebrate. Suffering should not define people as victims but, in the midst of this, they must (and they do) celebrate life and hope.

And this was a celebration of hope.

Father Melo Moreno, the Jesuit director of ERIC-SJ and Radio Progreso, who has been the target of death threats, spoke. He talked about the importance now of a continuing peaceful struggle.


The first group was Café Guancasco, a group of young Tegucigalpa guys, who played quite loud and rhythmic music, combing jazz and rock and who knows what else. The crowd responded spiritedly – wildly and rhythmically jumping up and down as they joined in the chorus of a song called “El club de los idiotas.” I couldn’t get the words, but I’m sure it was very critical of the coup and the current government! (I later found the words of this song: it's a biting critique of bourgeois society and the "high life style" of the rich and powerful!)

Between the acts the MCs talked about ERIC’s work and also warmed up the crowd by doing types of “call and response”interchanges with the crowd that is common here (and in other parts of the world). The most common one is “El pueblo unido, jamas sera vencida” – the people united will never be defeated.

But the one I found fascinating was, in my translation, “When we listen with the ears of the poor, we become a people – el pueblo.” The word used is not “la gente” which seems to me to mean something like a group of individuals, but “el pueblo,” a people with an identity (and therefore a common purpose and a mission.) Listening from the standpoint of the poor can give us deep insights into the reality of the world and lead us to solidarity, becoming a real people who care for each other and work together for a world of love, freedom, and justice.

I ran into all sorts of people there - a Spanish Passionist priest from the department of Santa Barbara and a young man I'd met at a Caritas workshop, the brother of my neighbor across the road, a teacher at the school next to the kindergarten where I go, a worker with Caritas in Yoro, and Adrienne Pine whose blog Quotha has lots of great information on Honduras. Her most recent blog entry tells a little more about the celebration in El Progreso.

I left about 11:45 pm with Padre Efraín and Padre Julio; we got back to Santa Rosa about 2:30. Though I was exhausted it was for me an energizing experience.

The Mass was a highlight for me which was extended into the evening by the music. I was particularly moved when Carlos Mejia Godoy led the group in singing a song from the Nicaraguan Campesino Mass, “Vos Sos el Dios de los Pobres” – You are the God of the Poor. (The Mass was written by his brother.) It is a song that emphasizes the identification of Jesus with the poorest, with the folks who sweat in the streets, sell lottery tickets, or work changing tires. Jesus identifies with the worker!

As I looked around I saw men and women, young and old, singing the song which they knew by heart.

I was especially impressed by the presence of young people – late teens and early twenties – who were obviously part of the resistance. In our area the Resistance is a lot less militant than in Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, and other places and I have not seen many young people here connecting with it. And so it was inspiring to see them there – many of them quite involved in the first song, but also some of them singing with gusto “Vos Sos el Dios de los Pobres.”

What signs of hope!

Incidentally, as the concert began the rain stopped. The rains resumed about 15 minutes before the concert ended. It rained all the way home to Santa Rosa and throughout the night. Today it's only been raining lightly on and off.

1 comment:

phoenixwoman said...

I think the connotative difference between "pueblo" and "gente" is that "el pueblo" literally means "the town", so it connotes a small community. "Gente" comes from Latin "gens", which means people descended from a common ancestor. It is rendered "race" or "nation". So, "gente" has a more political feel, while "pueblo" speaks more of civil society.

IMHO, of course.

--Charles