Thursday, May 26, 2011

Reality check

Lots is happening in Honduras. The exiled former president Mel Zelaya is returning this weekend after an agreement  between Zelaya and the current president, Lobo, facilitated by the presidents of Colombia and Venezuela. There is some concern in the Resistance that the agreement was done without their input.

I have concerns that the agreement is papering over the real problems of Honduras – the poverty, the corruption, and the need for a new political system that doesn’t reward the political and economic elites.

Others can analyze this better than I can, but a sign I saw Wednesday as I rode out to  a rural community says it all.

The road from Santa Rosa to La Entrada is a mess. They did fill in some potholes about two months ago but new ones have appeared. But what they did do recently was set up road signs announcing “Falla en la carretera 100 meters,” warning about faults in the highway. (There are a good number of geological faults in the area.) But someone painted over them so that it reads “Falla Miguel Pastor” – "Miguel Pastor fails (to meet his obligations)."

Miguel Pastor is the secretary of SOPTRAVI, the government ministry for roads and transportation. he is the one who promised the people of Dulce Nombre last December that they would re-start work on the road from the highway to Dulce Nombre in February. Need I say that NOTHING has been done. There are other concerns about his failure to fulfill projects that have been promised. 

One of my pet peeves is that they always put up signs touting a project that a government ministry is doing - but often don't do the job. A sign appeared at the turnoff to Dulce Nombre about two weeks  after the meeting Pastor had with authorities in the area, that said this was a project of the Government of National Unity. About two weeks ago I noticed that someone had pulled down the sign.

The Honduran people have suffered unfilled promises for all too long or the promised projects have been completed only because of political machinations that help preserve government officials in power.

Who suffers? The poor.

I had a reality check visiting Piedras Coloradas yesterday to do a census so that together we can help the community begin to work at how to better their lives.

I visited 9 of the 14 houses in the village with two of the pastoral workers. Most people have a little land for coffee but no land to grow corn and beans. And so they have to rent the land at about $37 a manzana (1.68 acres). For most people the only sources of income are selling a small part of their crops and working in the November to February coffee harvest.

Visiting one house, I was profoundly affected by a 15 year old girl who was watching her two year old little brother. The one room house was bahareque – sticks and mud, with a dirt floor. Her father had left them and they were without support. I found that disheartening. But then she told me that there are six people living in the one room house – her mother, four brothers (from 2 to 12 years old), and she. Yet despite that sh shared with me that she is not yet baptized but is going to religious education, planning to be baptized. Also, she is not going to school but is taking part in a special afternoon class for adults that the teacher offers.

While visiting another family, we heard a shout and ran to the neighboring house of Georgina, a 75+ year old woman. She had fainted. As I entered to house it was obvious why – the house was an oven: small, with a low tin roof.

We stopped the census and took her by car about 30 minutes away to a free clinic. She was very dehydrated and they had to put two bags of dehydration liquid in her.But still her blood pressure was low. Her grandson stayed with her while we returned. 

When we got out of the car in Piedras Coloradas one of Georgina’s daughters offered me 100 lempiras (about $5) to cover the costs of the trip. I had no choice but to refuse. I suggested that the get together and fix the house where Georgina and her husband live with three grandkids – raising the roof, adding a window, and putting clay tiles over the tin roofing to cut down the heat. As I left another member of the community said they needed to get together to raise the walls. I hope it happens.

Before I left I met the grandson of one of the older families in the older. He is 11, in sixth grade, and very bright. He told me he is thinking about becoming a priest. We talked a bit and I told him how much study it would mean. I mentioned that his middle name is Jerónimo, Jerome, and told him a bit about Saint Jerome. I urged him to read – but, of course, there are few books available for kid like him. His grandmother is sharing the bible and a book on Catholic teaching with him. I encouraged him to read the bible aloud and told him about a sixth-grader in Vera Cruz who is a very good reader at church celebrations. So much potential – but what will come of it.

That’s the reality! 

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