I barely made it on the DCA-MIA plane this morning. Trying to coordinate my carry-ons, I walked through the first-class section thinking my usual first-class section thoughts ("Who are these people and where do they come from?"), when I noticed Ileana Ros-Lehtinen sitting in the very back row, with two blackberries on her armrest as she furiously surfed a news site on some sort of tablet. Next to her in the window seat sat someone who looked like an aide- a younger women dressed in the boringly pert style of Congress.
I stared at her for a while while somebody ahead of me struggled to stuff their oversized bag into the overhead bin. Here was the woman who posed for the cameras with Micheletti and the Honduran constitution, smiling, while his police and military tortured and murdered unarmed citizens in the name of what she proclaimed to be "democracy."
Who are these people? And where do they come from?
All I managed to do was mumble "Ileana Ros-Lehtinen" under my breath, and sigh. I then spent several minutes, as I do on most flights, daydreaming about what would happen if we crashed. I imagined that unless there was someone who trumps a dangerously powerful Congresswoman, she would get first billing in the biographies of the dead. Some of the later, back-page reports would mention me, and maybe even touch on the irony that Ros-Lehtinen and someone who has strongly critiqued her in a variety of public fora were brought together in death. And then draw some trite conclusion about the coincidence that still managed to frame her (and perhaps even me) as a good person. I became annoyed at the press again, thinking particularly of the NYT coverage of the crash that killed us. Ros-Lehtinen's obit would of course mention her "hard-liner" stances and controversies in which she was embroiled, but ultimately—mostly because of her rabid Zionism—the New York Times would paint a picture of her as a hero.
Goddamn New York Times. The other day a friend from the Moskitia texted me, concerned because, he told me, a New York Times reporter was in town asking a lot of questions. What should he tell people? he asked me. I told him if it was the New York Times, these were the same reporters who had implied that all the residents of the region were criminal drug traffickers and who had been embedded with the DEA and served as a mouthpiece for the State Department. I sent him a translation of one of the articles. He was furious. I will tell everyone not to talk with him, he said. I responded that it probably didn't matter if they talked or not; the NYT reporters were intent on writing fiction to serve as DoD/DEA/State propaganda no matter what.
Then a couple days later I found out from someone else that it had actually been a reporter for the New Yorker, who apparently is a good guy. Sorry New Yorker guy. And goddamn New York Times. I wrote my friend right away, hoping there was still time to rectify the mistake. He replied only "I'm happy to hear that it wasn't yet another attack on my people."
The passenger got his bag in the bin and I walked past the congresswoman and sat down in my middle seat. It was a full flight. When the flight attendant asked the woman next to me in English what she wanted to drink, she hesitated and then said "jugo de naranja." She was served her orange juice, and then turned to me and remarked (in Spanish) that she'd thought we had to pay for drinks on flights. We struck up a conversation. It turned out we were both continuing on to Honduras. She was going to visit her husband, she told me. I said it must be hard to live in Maryland, so far from her husband. She nodded, and said all her family was in the U.S. I wondered what she considered her husband if not family. But then she told me he had been busted by migration, four months in an ICE detention center and then deported, only two months ago. So she was going to visit him because he was all alone. All their children are in Maryland too. She had been in the States 16 years, and he had been there for 10 before getting busted. I remarked on how disgusting the U.S. policy of destroying families is. But, she said with evident pride, he's already planning his trip back. He travels all of Mexico by himself, with only a map, she said. He's a smart one.
I barely made the connection to the next flight. My luggage did not. As I settled in, the guy across the aisle asked me where I was headed. Tegucigalpa, I answered. In response, I asked where he was going, imagining his answer would be Ceiba. "To Olancho," he said. "I bet you thought I was going to Ceiba." I grinned sheepishly. "Not a lot of black people in Olancho," he chuckled. "I was one of the first." He lives in North Carolina now, he told me. I wondered how he gets identified there.