Again, too pressed for time, can't edit. If you see any embarrassing grammatical or factual mistakes below, do please let me know: adrienne at quotha dot net. On Sunday I get up and write and write. But I don't come close to finishing before Jairo calls. He's the anthropologist I met the previous night. Mostly because I feel so behind, I dread the visit. He brings his very sweet son along, which is a nice touch. The kid is reading a Jules Verne novel and tells me as Jairo goes to lock his bike that he can read 100 pages in a day. We go to Café Skandia in the Hotel Gran Sula on his insistence. It's a place that has an aura of high class about it for many San Pedrans, mostly because it's a very expensive third-rate diner in a hotel lobby. There, he scolds his son for turning the book page improperly. It seems to be mostly for my benefit. He explains to me, "I try to teach my son, the pages of a book are like the hands of a woman." "Give me your hand," he orders. I do as told, and he caresses it, making me want to throw up. "You see, this is how you touch the hand of a woman, not like this [grabbing it firmly]."
He tells me that a lot of gringo archaeologists in Copán are bad to Hondurans, mistreating their workers at the sites and neglecting to cite Hondurans who have helped them in interpretive work. "But not Rosie," he said. "She treats Hondurans very well."
We go up to the archives, because I've been looking at my watch. I actually find them quite interesting, and despite my aversion to the man, am grateful for the chance to have a peek. There are three separate areas. This is the first:
It's mostly municipal records, but some go way back, as far as 1843. He shows me their microfiche-making facility, an improvised darkroom. He explains to me that many people have asked for a catalog of what's there, but he doesn't want to provide one because if people knew what was there "vendría la posibilidad de robo y esta puerta facil se abre." ["that would bring the possibility of theft and this door can be easily broken in to."]
Above his desk, Jairo had pictures of Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, and other luminaries of U.S. and Honduran history (but mostly the former). The most interesting thing of all is an old poster under the glass of his desk:
EL PASADO QUE NO VOLVERA
6 DE JULIO
[And in the center picture:]
EL 6 DE JULIO DE 1944
WE WILL NOT FORGET!
JULY 6 1944
Below it, a poem titled Agonia de San Pedro Sula; Agony of San Pedro Sula. Jairo tells me about the massacre, which I have read about but without really focusing on details. He says that although only seven are shown here, there were officially 16 dead and then 34 counting those who died soon after of wounds, and some estimate the fatalities are up to 100. The 6th of July was a follow-up march to an action on the 4th of July aimed at- you guessed it, the gringos in Lima (bananeros) and their independence-day party in an occupied country. The July 6th march was called La Marcha de la Paz de Brazos Caídos (contra el continuismo de Carías) The march with arms down [I'm missing something in the translation here. Help?] against the continuation of Carías's rule. Anyway, the army got frisky and started shooting at people. Actually, the whole thing was planned in advance. Reminds me of accounts of Tlaltelolco. And a whole bunch of people who just happened to be coming out of the market at the wrong time got shot too. After the matazón the firemen came to clean the street of blood and this angered people even more. Y si los Estados Unidos hizo algo fue callarse. And if the U.S. did anyone it was to stay quiet.
Jairo says the kids in grade schools do a mock march, an historical recreation every year, with 60 kids shouting "¡Fuera los gringos!" and "¡Fuera Carías!"
He shows me pictures from his fieldwork in Copán, which is indeed quite interesting, dealing with folk Catholicism and resistance to evangelical imperialism. He comes to a picture of breast-shaped mountains. "These two hills," he says, "if they were to look like a part of, of, let's say, a woman's body, what would they look like?" I tell him I get it. "But what part?" he insists. I tell him, yeah, I understand. "What part?!" "¡YA!" I shout, "¡Entiendo!" He finally lays off. At least I get out of there more or less on schedule. He wants me to read his thesis, which he is having all sorts of problems with, and send my recommendations. I tell him I'll take the file but can't promise him anything. I get annoyed just looking at it.
Before leaving for Progreso early Monday morning I make sure to take a picture of the handmade hangers in the closet:
I also took a picture of evidence of an event I just missed, the thirteenth national women's conference of the medical sindicate Sytramedhys. It was on a table in the hallway outside my room.
On my way out, I got some vague walking directions to the Catisa bus to Progreso. It was quite a few blocks but I decided to walk anyway with my heavy mess bag. A couple blocks past the tracks and across the street from a clearly fallacious sign advertising Progreso Buses from an empty lot, I asked a young man in a baseball cap where the buses really were. He too, turned out, had come here looking for them. He asked a man who gave directions I didn't understand, so I followed my fellow traveler as he walked brskly down the road, block after block. We had a minimal conversation, e.g., where am I from? He told me he's going past Progreso. Then I saw this wall painting, an old favorite which appeared to have been redone recently. With my totally malfunctioning camera, I managed to eek out this one partially obscured shot:
Don't let this happen to you! [click, click] Visit us.
When I caught back up with the young man, he asked me, "You know this area?" I told him it had been many years. "Ahora ya es peligroso," he warned me. "Now it's dangerous." It turned out to be a very long walk, with my heavy bag and all. A few blocks beforehand we could tell we were close because of the people streaming towards us coming from the bus stop. "¡Directo directo directo!" I heard the cobrador's shout about a block away, and was relieved to finally collapse onto a seat. I opened up the Tiempo I had bought somewhere along the way.
p.6: Violent assault on bus leaves one dead and five injured. Turns out it's the exact same route I'm taking. Happened the day before. Corpse in bottom shot. Oh well, already on the bus.
On the t.v.in my hotel room, ads from the president played continuously explaining why Toncontín can't be reopened and promising a functioning airport at Palmerola in three months or something like that. Meanwhile, also p.6: the San Pedro Sula airport without power for six hours.
p.12: Eye for eye. The best thing Central America could do is not subscribe to the agreement of the europeans, in vengeance for what they did to us, and declare them non grata. That is how the diputada bailarina (a derogatory nickname for Doris Gutierrez) reacted to the fact that the old world doesn't even want to see the faces of mojados from here. We should imitate those barbarians, Doris Gutierrez fired off.
p.16. More on the marathon for Hospital Escuela. They're hoping to get 15 million lempiras to be able to rebuild the failed hydrosanitary system dating from the hospital's original construction, 40 years ago.
p.20 Interesting editorial about the new annti-immigrant law in the EU that's causing such a stir here. Hugo Chavez is up in arms about it, and this guy thinks he has a lot of good points—principally the hypocrisy of their denial of economic opportunity to Latinos while making themselves rich off of Latin America, now and historically.
p.21 DEXTROUS AND SINISTER with Doumont
"One cannot serve two masters" -Jesus-
Pastors and Politicians
"Vote for me and go to heaven!"
p.23 Wow. This one sums it up:
CRITICAL SPACE by Luis Chavez
WARNING: THIS PROGRAM IS JUST AS UNADVISABLE FOR A MINOR AS A VIOLENT OR TRIPLE-X MOVIE
"Welcome to your daily news show; today there were many more killings than yesterday…"
p.23 also: The demons of Honduland let loose: Here in Honduland logic met its maker and the long cycle of the dead lights began. [am I missing something in translation again?] Another long editorial about how Honduras is fracked. Just a sample: "Vice, the demon of players, drinkers, drug users, prostitutes, gays and all types of subjects with a proclivity toward worshipping Dionisis, Belial, Belcebú [I don't know the translation of these gods names] and other deities that cast a spell on the senses, trash brains, and distract you from reality with spells, dreams and visions."
p.28: the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the republic says Oscar Alvarez (nephew of Gustavo, minister of security under Maduro, asesino) still hasn't resigned from his post as vice consul in Houston to dedicate himself to the political campaign of Pepelobo, another big Mano Dura nationalist party figure.
p.30: Alba interviewed about the CPTRT's demand that the Ministry of Security evaluate the administrative personnel of the prison system because it has functionaries who participated in death squads. One such person in particular, whose name is not revealed, not only pertained to Battalion 3-16, but has also been formally accused of sexual harrassment and abuse of authority.
p.32 The US pledges to donate $82.5 million to help Honduras with food production. Along with CAFTA this should help a lot, says ambassador Charles Ford. Not a little ironic, since the U.S. is directly responsible for such a big part of Honduras's food scarcity, not just with CAFTA-related grain-flooding but dating back to expropriation of peasant lands for banana companies and beyond.
pp.74-75 Two more pages of massacres and death porn.
Putting the newspaper down, I realized that it had thoroughly bled onto my sweaty white linen shirt, which was now also black and aqua like the cover. I didn't know if I'd have access to a bathroom before meeting the padre, so I managed to switch into something else on the bus.
We arrived in Progreso in less time than I had remembered, for the pretty good price of L.19.50 (about a dollar for quite a long distance). Right by the central park I bought a greasy tamale. The police man who was hanging out and flirting with the tamale vender was talking about tamales they sell in Copán that are so big they could feed five people. "They cost 20 lempiras!" he said. I was an hour early and felt this desperate need to check my email. I walked all over with my heavy bags, and didn't find any internet cafe that opened before nine. It was a good exercise in patience and electronic dependence.
So around 8:45 I walked over to the radio:
Just on the wall I saw evidence of…well, I'm not sure what, exactly. A wheat-pasted flyer from the socialist workers party proclaiming support for the fight of maquiladora workers. Interestingly, though they mention both male and female workers (in that order) they revert to masculine in the plural generic throughout. I say this is interesting because people on the left in Honduras go the extra mile in their everyday linguistic usage to challenge the masculinist bent of Spanish, almost always ignoring the masculine generic and mentioning both normative gender categories, and in writing using the @ charater where o would be male and a female. I'd especially think they'd make an effort to incorporate a bit of gender awareness in talking about maquila workers. But it's the Partido Socialista de los Trabajadores, after all.
Inside I sat down in the reception area and waited for Padre Melo to arrive. This poster was up in a couple places:
PROCLAMATION OF DIGNITY AND JUSTICE
After 38 glorious days of this hunger strike
We call on our pueblo, the most beautiful, the most honest, who has only dignity, who has raised the voice of justice and against corruption…We call on you to continue its organized struggle using all the peaceful methods; [you are] the only ones with the full capacity to destroy the plans of this violent and corrupt political class.
Press without censorship
Because you can't block out the sun with media [a play on the popular saying, "you can't block out the sun with a finger"]
The radio is playing in the reception area, and the deejay says, "We're opening the lines. What do you think of homosexualismo?" I am shocked. I would never just pop that question to a potentially horribly homophobic audience—never again, at least. I learned that lesson teaching introduction to anthropology at AUC last fall. I've found I need to give such explosive topics a little bit of direction in order to not let them get carried off into idiotic discourses of hatred by the critical mass. But the first caller, a young woman or girl, speaks up and says she thinks it's normal and common, and everyone deserves to be loved by God and by other people.
What a contrast from this crap, which I just found while doing an search for ERIC: http://www.filmehd.com/view.php?id=982905. I despise making people sing for their supper, and the way that evangelical doctors get to pat themselves on the back for their generosity and "see Jesus in these people". It reminds me so much of all that's wrong with the asylum system in the U.S., actually. The way it's set up to make Americans feel good about ourselves, when we are actually responsible for so much of the problem.
About 20 after nine, I got called into Padre Melo's office. In the window facing out into the central patio were four of those pretty painted Salvadoran wooden letters spelling out AMAR. Padre Melo greeted me warmly and apologized, he had to finish an email. When he was done, he came over in front of his desk where I was and sat down to talk to me. He told me that in ERIC (Equipo de Reflexión, Investigación y Comunicación) they're focusing on the theme of social vulnerability nd the politics that compromise local authorities. Since Mitch, he tells me, the condition of the region has been getting worse and worse. Every rainy season people lose more and their health gets worse. He tells me they just finished a work called: Mitch, 10 years after. I am sure I've seen a book by that name in a store, but didn't pick it up. They're also working on the theme of migration, in four principal ways:
They do this together with the SJM, Jesuit Services for Migrants, which is in Central America and beyond. Here's a video I found in the same search (above) of him. Unfortunately for me, it's dubbed over in French and hard to hear the Spanish, and it's too hard for me to listen to both languages at once. But maybe you'll do better than me.
Another thing that they are focusing on in ERIC is the anticorruption fight. "Who are the corrupt [people] in this country?" This work is being carried out by a journalist, a sociologist, and an attorney, and it's a way to support the popular struggle and the hunger strike.
I ask about whether they're doing maquila-related work still. He says they do some stuff as part of their human rights work but are not doing research on it right now due to a shortage of personnel. He tells me about a pan-Central American research group that had been forming. They (ERIC) were contacted by USAID to carry out the Honduras portion "but we weren't able to reach an agreement with them." He tells me they were interested in working with USAID even though they never had before (rather, they had been in confrontation with them) but they reasoned that the name would give their work greater weight and credibility. But ERIC wanted to do a serious investigation about labor politics of the maquila and how the laws are being suppressed in the internal practices of the maquila, but [USAID] just wanted monitoring. Clearly, USAID was also looking to enhance its credibility. If they could have bought off one of the few independent honest voices about labor abuses in Honduran maquilas and the complicity of both the U.S. and Honduran governments, what a coup that would have been.
On other fronts, he tells me that the bishopric of San Pedro and Radio Progreso have filed a lawsuit over the massacre in the San Pedro Jail (I'm not sure if he means the more recent one, or the huge one a few years ago). He explains that it's hard to find people to do the work they want to do because "qualified people [researchers] don't come here. They get all excited about the capital. They don't want to be out in the boondocks." He tells me their current research team is made up of an historian (Marvin Barahona), a sociologist and a social worker.
I then ask about private security groups and that's when we get into (for me) the most interesting part of our conversation. I wasn't tape recording, which is a little bit frustrating because he was so concise and poetic in his speech that it would be great to have it absolutely verbatim; still, I have found transcription to be something I just don't get done on my own due to time constraints, and when I pay to have it done, I lose the best part, which is all the thinking I do in the process of transcribing. Oh, gods of time, rain your riches down upon me! Please! So anyway, I was scribbling down his words exactly as he said them as fast as I could. All that verbatim note-taking in bargaining meetings has served me well. And he was very patient and waited for me to finish each time. So here goes:
Los grupos de seguridad privada son los que definen la seguridad del país. Hay más seguridad privada que policia públicas. Y los altos de la policia están más interesados en la seguridad privada que con la pública.
The private security groups are what define security in this country. There are more private security guards than police. And the high-ups in the police are more interested in private security than in public security.
La mayor y más importante compañia de seguridad privada es de un antiguo oficial del ejército y un oficial alto de la policia
The biggest and most important private security company is owned by a former army official and a high police official. [I ask, and Padre Melo says yes, they can legally hold both jobs].
Billy Joya tiene la compañia de seguridad más importante en el país y fue encargado de la seguridad del alcalde anterior de Tegucigalpa, Miguel Pastor. En San Pedro Sula, Eric Sanchez, un colonel ¿verdad? tiene una compañia grande de seguridad privada y él fue encargado de la seguridad de la alcalde anterior de San Pedro Oscar Kilgore.
Billy Joya [one of the worst torturers from Battalion 316] has the biggest security company in the country and he was in charge of the security for the former mayor of Tegucigalpa, Miguel Pastor [as his security advisor]. In San Pedro Sula, Eric Sanchez, a colonel, right, has a big private security company and was in charge of security of the previous mayor of San Pedro, Oscar Kilgore.
A related aside. I did a search on Billy Joya trying to figure out which private security company he owns, something I really should know already. What I found before I had to move on (TIME!) was that he had been involved in the formation of Sepror along with former Armed Forces chief Gen. Mario Hung Pacheco, but all that info is dated. Anyway, in the search, I came upon this piece from the International Press Institute's 2004 World Press Freedom Review for Honduras.
Rodolfo Montalbán of the radio station STC Noticias reported that he had received death threats. He believed that supporters of Miguel Pastor, Tegucigalpa's mayor and aspiring presidential candidate, were behind the threats. According to Montalbán, anonymous telephone callers threatened to physically harm him if he continued to criticise Pastor. Montalbán's harassment began on 6 October, when two unidentified individuals filmed him and several other journalists while they were covering a story about an alleged complaint against the municipality. The licence plate number of the vehicle the individuals were using was traced to an advertising agency that produces public announcements for the Municipality of Tegucigalpa and is linked to Billy Joya Améndola, a retired military officer. Joya, who is Pastor's security advisor, has been accused of having belonged to Honduras's "death squads" in the 1980s.
Whatever I write, it's always just the tip of the iceberg. I'm almost afraid to spend too much time in Honduras studying (and doing my part to provide solidarity in the struggle against) violence and corruption, much as I now want too. It can make an anthropologist go crazy. I know of one or two. But then I'm of course operating under the presumption that I'm still sane…
So anyway, to continue with Padre Melo:
Y toda esta gente estuvo inmediatemente vinculada con el 316. La seguridad privada define la seguridad del país y está en manos de los más importantes encargados de la inseguridad dentro del país o sea el crimen organizado.
And all these people were deeply involved with 316. Private security defines security in the country, and it's in the hands of those who are most directly responsible for the insecurity in this country—organized crime
…porque la inseguridad es un negocio. Cuando más haya miedo dentro de la población hay más demanda para los servicios de seguridad privada y cuando más desconfianza hay en la seguridad pública, más demanda hay para las compañias de seguridad privada.
…because insecurity is a business. When there's more fear among the population there's more demands for the services of private security and when there's more mistrust in public security, there's more demand for the [services of] private security companies.
Padre Melo defines four types of organized crime in Honduras:
He also mentions (I'm not sure if this was part of the above list) that huge sums of money are invested in political campaigns, he's got data on it.
La corta suprema está en manos del crimen organizado fundamentalmente. Eso es seguro pues. Hay decenas de alcaldías donde el alcalde no puede ser elegido sin el respaldo del crimen organizado. Es difícil hablar del juego limpio de la democracía aquí en Honduras ¿verdad?
The supreme court is fundamentally in the hands of organized crime. That is a certainty. There are dozens of localities where the mayor can't be elected if he doesn't have the backing of organized crime. It's difficult to speak of a clean democracy here, right?
Entoces digamos que sí parece que uno puede aventurarse a decir que el crimen organizado es el partido político más importante del país.
Padre Melo gave me my friend Alicia's phone number. I had lost touch of her when yahoo erased my old email account (frack you yahoo!) and was worried I'd never find her again. I thought she was still in Peru. But it turned out she'd been back for two years and had only stopped working for the radio recently, when she took a well-earned break to rest and spend time with her new husband. I promised to send Padre Melo the link for El Porvenir, which he's in. Like Manuel Capellín, he didn't remember being interviewed for it. These are men that get interviewed a lot. He had to go, so he gave me a big bear hug and said goodbye.