Tegucigalpa On Sunday morning I had awaken again on the COMUCAP mountain properties in one of their cabanas. After dawn I had walked down along the gladiola lined pathway to see not only the aloe vera fields but also the truck garden of sorts at the base with its radishes, squash, and whatever. It was surprising how steep it was getting back and how out of breath I seemed compared to the children I had seen scampering up and down the mountain sides.
By noon the magic of the mountains with their cool, fresh air was gone as we came into the Valle de Los Angeles leading into the smoke generated smog of the capital, Tegucigalpa. To say the city is built on the mountain sides does not really describe the reality, because a lot of cities are built that way. Rather it seems that the 1.3 million people were dropped all over a series of hills, most not visible to others with the streets winding around and plopping us elsewhere. A church tower rose there, Christ rose there, high rises were in the distance, slums were set many since Hurricane Mitch along the outer hills, and orientation was almost impossible.
The city seemed arid, especially in contrast to Marcala, a sort of hot, dusty Delhi on hills. It was a pleasant surprise to find ourselves meeting at length at our companera’s house with her husband and children and feeling the breeze from her back porch and the shade of the mango and lemon trees. But water was the issue raised quickly and repeatedly. There’s not enough of it, it’s highly contested, and expensive. Washing is still done by hand here in a large concrete “tub” of sorts, which I had also seen in Marcala. When possible, conservation is critical. In the barrios the issue is even more intense.
This will be big for our organizing, and the discussion seemed to deepen the consensus that ACORN International needed to move forward on a real organizing plan for Honduras. Furthermore the thinking seemed to settle at two operations with strong candidates for training in both San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa. It will be interesting to see if we can put these pieces together.
Politics and political discussion was everywhere with the last president going into exile on Wednesday and the new president coming into protest from other Latin American countries. Sunday evening we were driving down a wide avenue near the center of down, and I heard a window roll down and someone in the back seat yelled “Viva Mel and La Resistancia!” A salute to the former president still staying at the Brazilian embassy on that street. A minute later and the American flag was waving over the huge embassy building downtown. Another minute later and the new shopping center anchored by Pais,reportedly owned by Wal-Mart, was right there. More than smoke was in the air.
There was one more area to be seen this morning, so we met at six with another campanero and his 4 WD pickup truck to head up the mountain. I was confused since we were surrounded by mountains, but we headed out and up. Within a kilometer on the other side of our friend’s house there was an endless wall and wooded space which turned out to be the US Ambassador’s residence. We passed a squatters colonias and then one rich home after another almost next door to each other.
We were going to a national forest area called Tigre from the signs, but once there we found that we were also in a farming community and cooperative that had existed in one form or another at the top of the mountain since the 1880’s. We met at length with Juan Lopez, a weathered man with many years on this mount and president of the 2000 member campesino organization there. I ate a delicious strawberry from his field as they were coming to ripening. There are 10000 people who live and work on the mountain with his group being a large force there. There concern was that the government was going to take the mountain for tourist development and displace them. We talked about federating his organization into an alliance with ACORN Honduras and a part of ACORN International and Community Organizations International. I tried to talk to him about how he could manage to irrigate his fields as I watched the water spread out along the rows. Senor Lopez complained that the government wanted that water, and I could tell water was going to be an issue everywhere. I tried to explain in my inadequate Spanish the treat of seeing orange double hisbiscus growing next to his hut, just as it used to grow next to our house in New Orleans before a hard freeze several years ago.
He knew I was no farmer and the story bored him quickly. He was interested in my skills as an organizer, and that was fair. He didn’t want to lose the chance at a ride in the back of the pickup part way down the mountain, and we moved back down the rough pig trail of a road until hitting the pavement nearer to the sights of the many hilled city and the heat rising with the dust and smoke as we made our way to the airport and our hopeful and temporary goodbyes.