Marcala In an afterthought I had thrown a small flashlight in my bag. You never know. As Tim sings, “there’s the cowboy in us all,” and with me there’s still a boy scout deep down riding alongside I guess. Good thing. We had driven up the mountains from Marcala in pitch dark to where our team was being housed for the night. Arriving we could see the large porch of the recently finished brick and concrete structure until the car lights went out, then nada but the half-moon and stars. One lone candle was lit in the middle of the room where we enjoyed sweet tea – organico, as they kept saying – after plopping our bags on the bare concrete floor. A little later when we were led down a rough path to a cabin, the absence of running water and electricity faded next to the joyful surprise at finding a nice bunk bed with clean sheets. Hey, it’s the little things that count. I slept like a baby in the pitch dark until the predawn when I woke with the campesinos to see the morning light come over the green dotted fog of the mountain sides.
We had started the day at eight in a makeshift meeting room in the hotel chapel with many of our union brothers as well as several new companeros from NGOs and the University. For hours one after another listed the issues in and around San Pedro Sula that needed attention and organizational activity: water, remittances, housing, public services. It was a long list delivered in lengthy and passionate speeches listened to respectfully by all interrupted only by the appearance of a Channel 39 TV reporter who had heard the discussion was going on and that I was in town. At noon we drove through some of the colonias including one fascinating development some of my union brothers showed me where the union had built the houses and the school. This was only minutes away from a new highrise condo development abutting one piece of a small creek in San Pedro Sula. Another sign down the road indicated the future would be filled with these luxury developments, the first in the city. Another five minutes away and we were looking at a squatters development along a larger riverbank where families had been forced after Hurricane Mitch’s devastation in Honduras, as still remained. Driving away we could see children swimming as their mothers washed their clothes in the calmer pools of the stream
Next stop was a quick lunch and visit with a woman and her family who had graciously invited us over for pico gallo in the Honduran style with red beans. The reason in the interconnected world of organizing: her sister had been a member of ACORN in the Queens. Anything she could do to help, just ask.
Though there seemed to be no hurry to the drive, and it was a good thing since construction and 18-wheelers had us parking for long stretches as we crossed the mountains on the good highway from San Pedro Sula to Tegucigalpa, we parked in Marcala in one of the barrios and followed the noise and music into a giant structure just in time for a young political theater company to begin their presentation. There were several hundred children and a score of adults in the crowd, as the moderator shouted, “Silencio!” over and over to gain attention. Suyapa explained to me that this was part of a celebration for the women in the community, but the theater company brought much more to it.
This was a well acted and rehearsed production by a half-dozen enthusiastic late teen or early 20’s actors. In the beginning a “generalito” – small general – with his lieutenant wanted everything to be gray, gray, gray, and the three citizens, two women and one man, lived in gray huts in fear. As the play developed to great humor and passion from the actors and increasingly the crowd as they warmed to the theme, the caricature soldiers in the face paint of Batman’s Joker gradually lost control. Singing and dancing would erupt and pull the people off of their knees to find that they could walk and be happy again. At the same time their huts turned from gray to white, pink, and green. A giant bride dressed in white appeared on stilts and danced along as well. A toy cannon exploded and led the soldier to defect to the people until the generalito was deflated with the air escaping from him like wind from a bag. More singing ensued. Children were pulled from the crowd. Marching and dancing. My summary doesn’t do the play or the skill and quality of the actors justice for this hour long presentation, but it was one of the few times where one had the feeling people were staying for the action and not the frijoles and tortillas passed out to all of us with plastic cups of weak coffee at the end of the show.
There may have been a fake election in Honduras to try to rightsize the military coup, but the scars will wear deep among these people. When the elected president announced on my first day in country that he was agreeing to go into exile in the Dominican Republic there was no celebration about his volunteering to take the first step to “reconciliation.” It seemed hollow, and this children’s play with its well practiced themes and smooth presentation was hardly designed for this one show, but was traveling around the country.
All of these things were on our minds as our eyes closed in the dark last night. We were staying at the unfinished compound organized as a project to support the campesinos in this area.
It was an honor and a gift to have lived this day!