San Pedro Sula It was a coincidence that we were in Honduras almost exactly a year after the elite coup that toppled the populist, democratically elected President of Honduras and installed an illegitimate puppet government after fierce opposition and international condemnation of the process. The story is well known by now. President Zayla was extricated from the country, tried to return along the border, eventually was ensconced in the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa, and finally exiled after an equally condemned rump election installed a new president, who because of this flawed coup has still not been recognized by other countries in the region. The United States role in all of this has been consistently bad, and a surprising blemish on Secretary of State Hilary Clinton from start to finish. A year later we could not help noticing that feelings are still raw and protest seems only a scratch beneath the surface.
In an important meeting not long after we arrived in the municipality of Cholomo, abutting San Pedro Sula to install provisional officers to facilitate the process of legal registration of ACORN Honduras references to the last painful year kept coming up as various members spoke of issues in their community and their hopes for what ACORN International might be able to accomplish. A widely represented group was proud to accept the responsibility, but the discussion of democratic process in the registry laws were raw concerns. One woman gave an impassioned speech after the appointments were completed that was clear in its passion and disappointment over the political dispossession of so many people and their voice during the last year.
After a meeting much later with the head of the university sociology department where we were arranging for volunteer placements in the fall to assist our organizing, we all jumped in two cars to see if we could still catch a new documentary movie that was on everyone’s tongues about the last year called Quien Digo Miedo? Who Said Fear? The movie was playing in an open space in a huge room in the central part of the city for free. In the dark when we arrived there were more than 300 people sitting on plastic chairs, standing along the back and sides of the room in the sweltering heat, and following every word. Frequently various comments and scenes led to outbreaks of applause throughout the crowd.
The movie was powerful in a way that news reports had never been. To be looking over the cameraman’s shoulder as he founded and filmed a dead protester, shot by Honduran soldiers, as the President tried to return to his country at Paradiso from the Nicaraguan border was devastating. Weeks later as marchers in the narrow streets of the capital were attacked by tear gas and arrested and beaten, senseless and without reason, by soldiers and police was shocking. Rage was steadily trumping fear, and both were still deeply embedded in the room, and now tinged by the sadness of defeat and the small hope for a more democratic future.
It was hard not to be humbled as we begin our organizing as servants to such a dream.