Archive for July, 2010

These colors don’t run

Happy Independence day to my beautiful, clean, efficient nation! I hope you all are celebrating with good beer, burgers, bacon, bratwurst, potato salad, watermelon, and of course, fireworks. Of course, Hondurans don’t need an excuse for fireworks, and today was the only day that I was actually grateful to hear them exploding in the morning.

I celebrated the fourth this morning with a friend, drinking a bottle of champagne while watching Bill Mahr berating religion in his documentary “Religulous”. I ended the day to all-american Johnny Cash’s “America: A 200 year Salute in Story and Song”. I have to say, I got a little emotional. To sum is all up in one photo, this is why I miss my country so much:

Yes, this photo was on the cover of the Honduras map that I had bought before I came down here. I should have known what I was getting myself into. They couldn’t have picked ANY other picture? The serene Bay Islands? Copán Mayan Ruins? A colorful macaw? No, instead they chose a machete-wielding campesino on a horse, sporting a ropa Americana muscle tee with a dead chicken in hand. The truth is that this picture pretty much sums up Honduras. I wondered if all of Central America was like that, I asked. So I decided to do some research.

My partner in crime, Hannah, and I cruised down to El Salvador for a long weekend. Conveniently located about a 2 ½ hour bus ride south of us, we left early in the morning and found ourselves in San Salvador a little after lunch time, amazed by the efficiency of the bus system! As soon as we crossed the border, we were whisked away by a colorfully painted school bus, complete with a route number and a schedule. It felt as if we had crossed into the states, literally, as Salvadorans use the American dollar as their currency. I whipped out my little bag of quarters and threw the ayudante some change for our fare. Nobody threw trash out the window. There was no trash on the streets. There were brightly painted murals on walls and light posts. No piropos from dirty men. Where were we, we asked?  Hondurans still think the world is their trash can, and haven’t really harnessed their potential creativity. After hopping off one bus and getting on another in the capital, we arrived at the famous black sand beaches of the pacific coast in 45 minutes. 45 minutes! I couldn’t believe it. Our little hippie bungalow was right on the beach, complete with hammocks and a bar. We were happy.

The beach was gorgeous; fine black sand and scattered with perfectly round volcanic rocks. Added bonus was the rather attractive tattooed Salvadoran surfers. I was in heaven. We met interesting folks, drank the local beer, ate ceviche and coconut shrimp and whole fish until we passed out, literally. One night we slept from 7pm to 7am.

After gallivanting at the beach for a few days, we headed back up to San Salvador for some culture. We treated ourselves to a museum and an art gallery, and managed to find an Irish pub.  Somehow they were out of Guinness, but we drank good dark German beer, and all was right with the world.

Honduras and El Salvador are incomparable. El Salvador appears to be light years ahead, having less poverty, more industry, arts, education, environmental awareness, and superb infrastructure. There exists a huge rivalry between the two countries, stemming back to a four-day war in 1969 over a soccer match, but really had to do with Salvadoran immigrants working over the border in Honduras. In addition, El Salvador had a violent civil war from 1980 to 1992, pushing more refugees over the border. Every Honduran or Salvadoran that I have spoken to never had anything nice to say about the other.

Some say that El Salvador’s civil war was a catalyst for their recent success. Another interesting fact is every country in Central America with the exception of Honduras has had a civil war. Salvadorans seem to have a passion for life and work that moves people to do things. When the Honduran coup happened last year, although CNN was reporting riots in the capital, the rest of the country went about their daily lives as if nothing happened.  Most were apathetic to the political situation, complaining but not acting. No one has faith in the politicians, believing all are the same and corrupt. They don’t think change is possible. They are OK with the ways things are here and don’t see their potential, or see it and don’t care to realize it. They are used to foreign handouts and money, and NGOs and volunteers coming in and telling them what is the “right” way to do things, so why bother to think for themselves?

And so, that is why a campesino with a dead chicken debuts on the front cover of the Honduras map.

July 4, 2010 at 9:24 pm 4 comments


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