Karla Lara, Valle de Angeles, and Informal Worker Unions

ACORN International

karla lara honduras(1) Tegucigalpa The highlight reel of this year’s annual meeting of ACORN International’s board and staff is rolling out now.  The Mexican and San Pedro Sula delegation were on a morning bus Saturday for the journeys home.  At 4 AM I saw off the first five from ACORN Canada heading for their 24 hour journey home.   A universal assessment from one and all was “bueno reunion!”

Saturday was the wind down day.  Dilica Zavala, ACORN International’s organizer in Tegucigalpa thought the folks might enjoy a short trip to an old colonial village 30 kilometers up the mountain, Valle de Angeles, where we ate pupusas in the rain and any interest in souvenirs could be easily handled.

Mildred Edmond, Local 100 United Labor Union’s president, sat next to me in the van and told me that “I couldn’t even imagine how much the meeting and the visit meant to her,” and I felt like she was speaking for me and probably everyone there!

I thought of this often the night before at Cinefilia, a mutli-purpose bar, restaurant, video rental, and meeting space popular with the resistance crowd.  For an hour I had enjoyed sitting on the window sill listening to the great Honduran singer, Karla Lara, sing South American protest songs and romantic ballads.  Her voice was full, robust and gorgeous as she swayed to her songs.  The power of the singing and music was fascinating because it transcended language itself.  I could fall bits and pieces of the verses, but eventually would almost not try and instead just connect to the power and passion of the singer, the singing, and the music itself.  Several times Karla Lara dedicated individual songs to me and to ACORN International’s staff and leaders, which was humbling.  Karla was a singer from the feminist wing of the popular resistance to the golpe de estado. I had googled her later and she had toured Europe and the USA to build support for the resistance through her song.  I was sorry so many of our team were outside chatting and missed some of the dedications.  I was proud of Dilcia for having been able to convince Karla to sing for us.  I could imagine some of these songs as background for the documentary that Toronto filmmaker Nick Taylor traveling with us this week for his “Citizen Wealth” film.  It was a great time.

The last session was a make up event at the end of the day where we discussed the essay I had written in Social Policy (www.socialpolicy.org) on the “Maharashtra Model of Informal Worker Organizing.”  For an hour and half we quietly talked about Local 100’s experience with these kinds of workers and organizations and how various initiatives and legal opportunities might evolve in Canada to allow us to pilot some of these programs.  It was hard not to feel excited at the prospects even as momentous as the obstacles to success seemed.

Every meeting is always defined by how the meeting is defined later, and this one has set the stage for great work in the future.  It was hard not to be both exhausted and hopeful!