Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Beans at $1.58 a pound

In July beans were between 8 and 12 lempiras a pound – between 42 and 62 cents. Monday in Pinalejo, Santa Bárbara, the stores were selling beans at 30 lempiras, $1.58. But generally this past month the prices have been about 22 to 25 lempiras.

At dinner during a diocesan workshop on Catholic Social Teaching being held here in Pinalejo, someone remarked that meat is cheaper per pound than beans – and beans are a staple of life here, a major source of protein when combined with corn tortillas.

People here plant beans, mostly red beans – sometimes more than they can store and so they sell them at a low price to the intermediaries (sometimes called “coyotes”). And so, as one person at the workshop lamented, campesinos – people of the countryside – are buying beans, instead of eating what they produce and producing what they can eat.

What are the poor to do? That’s another post – and perhaps a project for the next five years. Since, if all goes as Padre Efraín, the pastor of the Dulce Nombre parish, and I are thinking, I’ll be working with three of the poorest villages in the parish – not just in faith formation, but also trying to work with them for the total and integral well-being of the villages. I’m looking forward to this opportunity.

But I also want to share some interesting stories I’ve heard during this workshop.

The mayor of one municipality, an evangelical pastor, regularly consults with the Catholic priest. He once asked him what he should do with some money that had come in, whether he should give each family 1000 lempiras (about $52). The priest suggested that the money should be put into the infrastructure of the 30 some villages in the municipality. Now these villages have electricity and water.

In one rural village someone planted a few hundred coffee plants in the land set aside as a reserve to protect the water source. The water committee of the village found out and investigated the matter. They consulted with a nearby village, also dependent on the water source. They met and decided what to do. The situation was rather tense for while – with some threats being made. But the water committee met with the person violating the reserve. He agreed to respect the reserve. A few days ago the two communities and the person affected met and reached an accord. This is a clear account of the people organizing and acting very responsibly, avoiding the violence that such a conflict could generate.

Another young farmer told me of the water situation in his community. There is a source several communities use for their basic needs, but a very wealth cattle rancher (who also owns a major newspaper and lots of land) is taking advantage of their source to water his cattle. There was some talk with his reps but they still have a hose siphoning off water.

A wide variety of experiences, but a little of what life is like here for the poor – yet very competent – campesinos in western Honduras.

-----

In the afternoon the groups listed various examples of corruption which they knew of. Here's their list:

Examples of corruption
  • Political fanaticism – political parties have their members who defend the leaders and receive favors, jobs, etc., for being active members of the party
  • Falsification of projects – a projects that cost 50,000 lempiras get paid 200,000 for the work; works that are only on the books, but are not ever finished; fictitious valuation of projects.
  • Mayors who have robbed funds for the Eradication of Poverty
  • Police ask for money from criminals and let them loose.
  • Teachers who do work but are paid.
  • Local authorities selling timber – or looking the other way when it’s being taken out of their municipality.
  • Authorities who ask people to sign receipts so they can get money even though no services were rendered.
  • Judges who take bribes and don’t promote justice.
  • People being paid off to keep silent in the face of crimes or corruption.
  • Giving out the “bono 10,000” – a gift from the government of 10,000 lempiras for poor families – as a political tool – at times only to members of the parties in power in the municipality.
  • Teachers being fired for political reasons.
  • Large businesses having their debts forgiven.

-----

Finally, another interesting story:

A project called Lempira Sur offered a priest a monthly stipend, which he refused.

2 comments:

Tim Malone said...

John,

You set a great example of what it means to live and work for justice, in spite of the levels of corruption in Latin America, and the occurrence of violence such as what happened to the man from your diocese. It is encouraging to know that we can have some impact, even as individuals, but as to a greater vision for a renewal of the grand scheme of things in Honduras and Latin America at large, I really like the book called "Will it Liberate?" by Michael Novak. Very interesting some of his points, and the thought that many of the countries to our global south need to open their minds to a redefinition of the political and economic structures in order to provide the poor and underprivileged with the means necessary to improve their living conditions. I would be interested to hear your opinion on this man's work. If you do not have it, I would be more than willing to send it to you. Again, I am but a novice to the whole field of liberation theology and the like, and am grateful to have you as a mentor and guide. You have inspired many of us John. Not the least of which are Laura and Tom in Bolivia. Thanks for this, and I look forward to more chats in the future!

God bless,
Tim

John (Juan) Donaghy said...

Tim,

Thanks for the note.

I've read a few articles of Michael Novak and heard him speak at least twice.

My major critique is that he is too tied to the US and to the free market economy. His remarks at one meeting on El Salvador really troubled me because they seemed to justify the land reform of 1980 which was not really a land reform and which was accompanied by so much bloodshed on the part of the government military.

He also was a strong supported of the Iraq war, even going to Rome which looked like an attempt to lobby the pope to favor the US position.

Be well. God bless.