I spent many extra hours in the airport on both ends. I found myself inside Tegucigalpa customs short the 9 suitcases that didn't make the transfer in Miami (the airline neglected to inform me there was a temporary embargo on boxes to Tegucigalpa, so I missed my first flight) and waiting for a veterinarian to come sign a form in triplicate (USD$100 to her, $20 to agricultural inspection) promising to give my cat a shot in a few days. At about hour three, after the throngs of missionaries had left, a sympathetic worker said to me and the man who was complaining next to me about his horrible day of travel, "pero gracias a Dios ya están aquí en Honduras." Through my exhaustion, I sped through a mental list of worse things that could have happened, and it was pretty long. "Sí," I agreed. "Gracias a dios."
Outside, bargaining with the taxi (I had promised a panicked friend to only take the airport taxi, because "they're assaulting in the other ones"), the fare was an exorbitant USD$15 (quoted in dollars). When I raised my eyebrows, the negotiator said "It's worth it, because of the security issue." So elite private taxis are using an inflated fear stoked by golpista newspapers of taxis whose drivers are often part of collectives and unions, to increase their own profits. I sighed and agreed to the price, distracted by fatigue, by keeping track of the bags and small mammals accompanying me, and by the big anti-human trafficking ads (save the sexy young girls!) sponsored by a police force that
kidnaps and murders journalists.
I paid attention to the drive, which is important to do, because you always forget first impressions once things become normal. The traffic had us going pretty slow, which meant I saw every little "Papi a la orden" sticker on the signposts and walls on the side of the road.
Tegucigalpa mayor Ricardo Álvarez, who likely lost last November's internal elections to Juan Orlando Hernández through fraud, somewhere along the line decided he was Tegucigalpa's little daddy (Papaíto). I posted about a truly unfortunate campaign choice of his based on this theme, last October. Álvarez's propaganda campaign "Primero los Pobres" remains in full swing; billboards that certainly cost more than the things being touted as his great successes all have the punchline "It's only fair" ("Es lo justo"). As in, "Free marriage certificates: it's only fair!" "Running water: it's only fair!" "The bono de diez mil [a voucher instituted with great political fanfare by Lobo to provide limited funds for poor mothers]: it's only fair!" His light-skinned, wrinkle-free smiling face creeps out from the slogan on each billboard.
But "Papi a la orden" ("Daddy at your service") turned out to be from a different "daddy." It's the campaign of Nasry Tito Asfura, another diputado golpista aligned with Juan Orlando Hernández. (Side note, searching around for info on daddy Nasry led me to this Frikipedia page, which was a pretty fabulous diversion).
Tegucigalpa doesn't feel all that different to me, although everyone I've run into (five friends just on the street yesterday, more today) remarks on how bad things are. Yesterday morning all my favorite vendors were still at the mayoreo, and the prices, as usual, were fair as I stocked up on local mangoes, oranges, pineapples, cheeses and bacon. The taxi driver on the way home mentioned that the streets were going to get crowded by the afternoon. It was "One Nation, One Day"—a day of absurdity and national prayer planned by Evelio Reyes and the president of this secular [sic] nation Pepe Lobo (with even more US missionary help than usual) to end violence. Go ahead, click on the link, and cry until you laugh. Here's a picture of Lobo, Reyes, and other "political, religious and civil society leaders" from El Tiempo's coverage yesterday:
...and today's cover page from El Tiempo:
I'm curious about how Rosenthal, a devoutly secular Jew, has come to espouse this kind of nutty evangelical propaganda in his paper's editorial line. But politics and bedfellows and whatnot...
So my taxi driver was talking up the big day. (Later that day when I went to retrieve my luggage at the Tegucigalpa airport I indeed saw more missionaries than I have ever seen in one place). He said that we have to pray for this country, that things just keep getting worse. Had I heard about the last journalist they killed? he asked me. Aníbal Barrow, I answered. "Yes, they dismembered him," he said. "It's chaos, this country." "The police and military are sending a message by killing journalists, and it's that there is no freedom of speech. And lo peor—the worst—is that the U.S. government keeps sending more and more money to the police and military when they are murdering us. They say they care about Hondurans and want to help, but then they sponsor and train the police and military who kill their own people. What kind of support is that?"
I feel like I have to point out that I am used to having conversations like this in Honduras, usually (as in this case) initiated by strangers. If I decided to write a book, Elena Poniatowska-style, made up of only collected quotes, it would be far more eloquent than anything I could say myself. People really say these things in daily conversation—not just at political rallies, and not just when talking to journalists or human rights workers. (Although it's fair to assume that some people could mistake me for someone belonging to one of those categories, it doesn't seem that such conversations would be so consistent over the years, especially coming from people who are not used to talking to journalists or human rights workers).
My driver continued, "and that is why I am voting for LIBRE. It's the only hope in this country, which is falling apart." I asked if he thought it could win with the inevitable fraud, and he said he hoped so. I was struck by his strategic combination of alliances and analyses. One Nation, One Day; a strong critique of U.S. funding of repressive state security; and the Fourth-of-July-celebrating LIBRE [side note- I was sure I'd written about the heated controversy between different sectors of the resistance on social networks over Zelaya's attendance of the party at the ambassador's residence, but can't seem to find it here].
Is it contradictory to promote golpista-led prayers for a country whose imperialist occupation you oppose while voting for Resistance leaders who celebrate the liberty of the empire?
I think it's not. At least not more contradictory than my own strategies for survival and revolution.
We have never been modern, and we all hedge our bets. Or more generously perhaps, we increase our hopes for survival, happiness, democracy, revolution, or whatever it is we strive for by employing every and any tactic that gives promise. It is good to be back in this wonderful, welcoming country, with the friends and colleagues who have taught me so much.