Saturday, May 24, 2014

An Unfortunate Show of Force

I am fortunate enough to live an idyllic life in a beautiful country in Central America.  I am ever mindful that I am a guest in this country, and that I could be asked to leave at any time.  I rarely ever criticize the government here.  I frequently tell you how safe I feel with the military/police presence.  But this time, I just cannot keep my mouth shut.

We have had some civil unrest here in Trujillo over the last week between the residents of a small village, Castilla, and the combined forces of the National Police and the Honduran Army.  Castilla is a small Garifuna village just outside Puerta Castilla, the deepest deep water port in the Americas.  

The Garifuna are Black Caribs.   They are the descendants of Africans who escaped slavery and the indigenous Indians.   They depend on the land to grow food, and they are primarily fishermen.  They have their own language and their own culture.  They hold all land as community tribal land, and it cannot be sold to outsiders without the approval of all the villagers. They are also second or third class citizens, and they are frequently taken advantage of.

About five years ago, the Government decided to expand Puerta Castilla.  They made a deal with the Garifuna that included 250 new homes for the villagers, parks, and other improvements in exchange for the land.  The Port got expanded, but the homes, parks, etc., well, the village is still waiting, and not the first spade of dirt has been turned over.

This past week, after years of not being listened to, to being ignored, the Garifuna decided on a course of action, including civil disobedience, and they blockaded the port.   On Wednesday there was a confrontation that lasted about 2 hours, it ended without injuries, even though there was some tear gas involved.

The National Police and some  of the leaders of the demonstration

We demand that the government repair Highway CA 13.  We demand it pays for potable water.

The blockade
On Thursday the Port Authority, the Mayor of Trujillo, the Senator from Trujillo, the leader of Castilla and a committee of community leaders met at the Port to discuss solutions to the problem.   Apparently, the Garifuna did not accept the solution, or maybe they just didn't believe the Committee was going to do anything, because .....

The Committee

On Friday, all hell broke loose...

Note  He is not firing at the barricade, he is firing into the village

You can see the tear gas

Some of the victims were elderly

Some were babies

Most  were innocent bystanders.

Some took to the water with their children

All photos are courtesy of Trujillo Noticias, Marvin

There were no winners here.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

One of the Joys of Living in the Third World...Or Not.

Life in the Third World is always an adventure.  Every day is different.  You never know what even the next hour will bring.  The Honduran government recently passed a law requiring the two cellphone/wireless/internet providers to block all signals within one km of any prison.   Since they have not been able to control the possession of cell phones and computers within the prison walls, they decided to block access.  Their intentions were good; the results have been a disaster.

There are twenty-five prisons in Honduras, and they are miserable places.  Except for the gang lords and the narcotraficantes.  They live a life of comparative luxury, and they continue to run their organizations from behind the prison walls.  Not hard to do if you have a smart phone or computor.  The government decided to block all signals going in and coming out of the prisons.  The result has been no service for anyone in the twenty-five towns near the prisons.  Except for TV and radio, they have been held incommunicado since February 10th. 

We were promised the problem would be fixed by midnight of the 14th.  Not so.  Then the government said it would be fixed by Monday, the 16th, or TIGO and Claro (the only two providers) would pay a fine of L 2,000,000 (approx. $100,000 USD) per day until they are up and running.  On Tuesday, the 17th, the government extended the deadline for two additional WEEKS.   Now, the government officials can be seen wringing their hands every day on the news, but not doing much else; and TIGO and Claro stand mute.  Can you imagine what a field day the First World conspiracy theorists would have with this?

So, what does this mean?  It means that business has almost come to a standstill.  We cannot call for emergency help.  Banking choices are limited, unless you go to the next town.  We drove 15 miles Sunday to call our daughter and wish her Happy Birthday and to reassure her we are okay.  I saw people actually talking rather than texting.  That's notable because even the adults here are in love with texting.   Macho Man and his brother are in total withdrawal, because they are used to talking to each other several times a day, and Pablo lives in Tocoa, so we can't go to visit.  I am suffering greatly because I can't get to FB, or play Criminal Cash, Candy Crush, Wors of Wonder, or do the Washington Post crossword puzzle.  I miss my FB friends, even those who insult my intelligence on a daily basis.

When will we be reconnected to the rest of the world?  Quien Sabe? Could be before the two weeks are up, or not.  This is Honduras.

We are still blessed.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Moradel and the Pech Indians near Trujillo

I thought I would start getting back into the habit of blogging by introducing you to the Pech Indians around Trujillo.  First, a little history.  The Pech are found in the Northeastern areas of Honduras.  They were at one time one of the larger of the indigenous people.  Today, they number less than 2,000, and live in about 9 small villages.  There have been Pech ruins found that date back to 300 CE.  They are traditionally hunter-gatherers, but they are rapidly being assimilated into the Latino culture as their hunting grounds and general habitat is being destroyed in the name of progress.

The leaders in the local village of Moradel are Doña Juana Martinez and her son, Profesor Angel Simeon Martinez.  Profesor Angel is certified to teach the Pech children in their own language, in an effort to keep the language from becoming extinct.  Doña Juana and her family are trying to keep alive the old crafts that they make from natural resources, such as gourds, grasses, flowers, etc.  She also makes medicines from local plants.  She is the village curandera and uses her medicines to provide for the village.  I can attest to the fact that some of them work better than traditional Western medicine.

Doña Juana Martinez, leader of the local Pech village, in her little souvenir shop. Behind her are some of the  crafts she and her family make.  The  bag is of a fiber made from local grasses.  It is dyed with natural colors derived from plants.  The natural color is the light ecru color.  The little bowls are made from various gourds, and are used for dishes and cups.  Just over her head is a hanging basket for storing foods, or anything else, that you want to keep critters out of.  The things made from fiber are woven together in a technique that can best be described as crocheting just using the fingers, with no crochet hook.

Pech Ángel Simeón Martínez representing his people at a conference at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Honduras.

The village of Moradel is hidden in the forest just off the main highway.  There is a sign at the turn-off, but it is difficult to find the village unless you know where to look.  When you get there, each family has their own little plot, and they are not easy to see from the road.  They build for privacy, and they do it well.

This is Doña Juan's kitchen.  It is made with clay and laced bamboo reeds.  The outside is a skim coat of mud that is smoothed by hand until it is almost silky, then whitewashed.  The roof is made of pine thatch.  Behind it is a similar structure that is the bedroom.  That building has an overhang which provides a cool place to sit, and essentially is the living room.

This is the inside of the kitchen.  The white structure is the stove, where Doña Juana cooks the family meals.  It is wood fired.  The lower part is the oven.  She is a good cook, but let me tell you, Pech food is VERY spicy. She cooked food for me when I visited one time, and my mouth was on fire for an hour. She also makes a low alcohol corn beer here. It is is so mild that even children drink it.  It is suppose to give you strength when it is hot.  It is an acquired taste.  The little woman in the door is Doña Paulina, Doña Juana's 85+ year old mother.  Eight people live here.

This is just one of the indigenous peoples in our area.  They are among the poorest, but I have never been to Moradel that I wasn't offered something to eat or drink, if only cold water served in a cup made from a gourd.

We are blessed.