In Honduras, Lots of Issues, Little Money

ACORN International Honduras Organizing School Lunches

            Tegucigalpa      There were six of us in the ACORN delegation.  The president of ACORN Honduras Raul Rodriguez led the group, along with Erlyn Perez, ACORN’s head organizer, followed by two school principals who were ACORN members, Jany Montoya, the translator and Erlyn’s niece, and me.  Our mission was to try to meet with a representative of the mayor of Tegucigalpa and to go to the capitol and meet with a high official of the national government.  Erlyn had prepared two clear-covered, multi-colored folders with text and pictures on our fight to get more school lunches for children.  There had been many promises made by the new, more progressive government when it came to power, but so far, little progress.

We weren’t starting at the top, but we weren’t at the bottom either.  Javier Portillo, the head of the city’s tourism and culture department was close to the mayor and a gatekeeper of sorts, who might be able to move our agenda forward.  He and his aide couldn’t have been more agreeable and solicitous, but he also repeated the refrain that would become common in all the meetings we had with anyone throughout the country.  The former president who had gained his position through a coup over the elected president had also stripped the cupboard bare, in addition to now having been indicted and extradited by the United States for assisting drug trafficking through Honduras, to join his brother, who had already been convicted.  There was little money and the first year in office the national government had been trying to rebuild the finances, but not much had trickled down to the city, leaving them unable to expand school lunches.  In short, they were willing to do anything, but it was unclear in the current situation what they could do.

            The setting for the meeting with Roy Barahona, the director of international promotion, was in the new foreign affairs building on the national capitol grounds.  From the conference room, we could see vast expanses of the mountains and valleys of the city.  Barahona, a former Olympic swimmer, with degrees from Honduras and Spain and business experience in Miami, was smooth as silk and his portfolio was wide ranging from foreign investment to art and culture, anything that promoted the country.  He didn’t poormouth and his offers of assistance were generous and broad, but his hands seemed empty.  He referred us to the UN, believing they would be sympathetic to our issues and having heard that they were interested.

Having earlier met with others in San Pedro Sula, it was easy to understand the dilemma, even if it was unacceptable.  The economy was better, but security still suffered in our neighborhoods, migration was still huge, and there were more problems than solutions.

ACORN has been working in Honduras now for way more than a decade.  We’ve made great progress on some issues, but a very basic level, we’re stuck.  In the first meeting with the city, I mentioned that school lunches had been one of ACORN’s first campaigns in Little Rock, Arkansas, and now more than 50 years later we were still fighting in Kenya and Honduras to get school lunches.  This is what our members want of course, and this should be every child and parent’s desire, but that doesn’t make the fight easier.