In the morning I was horrendously sick, but in a cleansing sort of way. Now I felt like I was in Honduras. I wrote for a little bit and then had to go off to the El Porvenir premier at Cinemark in Mall Multiplaza (not to be confused with Mall Megaplaza, although I do). The premier was very exciting. The whole movie theater filled up. I was happily surprised to see Julieta Castellanos there, along with a number of other people I'd invited. There was quite a fair amount of press. Oscar and Tulio seemed a bit nervous, but their speeches were smooth and confident. It's a movie I could watch over and over again, which is good, since I'll be doing that this summer. It says so much so well, so damn powerfully. There were a number of people in relatively important positions there. The first press to come out later that day was very positive. I hope that trend continues.
A journalist friend of mine was there, and told me and Suyapa after the film that it had been difficult for him to watch, because his son had been murdered by gang members just a couple years ago. I felt so sad for him, and told him so. He said that the authorities did nothing at all to find the gang killers, and that he felt like they sometimes did too much to protect gangs, and that gangs were at fault. I know it might sound crazy for me to have been sympathetic to this argument, if you've only been reading my fieldnotes, especially since there's basically been a genocide of gang members to which the state has turned a blind eye (and also collaborated in). But there also are numerous cases where cops have allied with gangs. Either way, the state is not working for the people. There are good cops and there are bad cops, you know, but they're all still cops. They're all still agents of a corrupt and violent neoliberal state. But for chrissake, the guy had just told us his son was killed. I didn't need to lecture him right then. Suyapa started telling him how he was wrong, how gang members are victims of the state too, how he had to blame the state and not the gangs. She was getting belligerent in the way you would in a regular old argument. I'm kind of sad that I didn't butt in earlier to come to his defense. I was being more of an observer than a participant. I did eventually try to get her to let up, but he seemed quite sad, and said goodbye.
It broke my heart.
So many people here have stories like that. They come out as just another tidbit of information, like when at a bar a couple weeks ago I asked L.C. how many siblings he had. He told me 2 or 3 living (can't remember exactly, tequila), one dead (reminded me of course of the way the mothers in the Alto do Cruzeiro tally their children for Nancy Scheper-Hughes). His brother got stabbed a few years ago by some guy. It took his mother a year to become anything close to herself again, he told me without too much emotion. Elena lost her eldest and most-loved son in a jealousy and/or drug-related stabbing some years ago. She has never talked to me about it, but Teto has. I'm pretty sure it significantly shaped him as a person, though I wouldn't venture to guess how. People have to move on and lead their day-to-day lives, but there's so much murder, just below the surface.
On my way out, I saw María Luisa Borjas. I went up to her and introduced myself again. I was too fried to ask for an interview, let alone do one. She had been talking with a friend about the new police law, trying to figure out exactly what happened with it. Even though she sat there for the full two days prior to the congress's vacation, there were so many changes that no one seemed to know what was going on. I asked if it was out in the Gaceta, and her friend said no, thank God, that would mean it was already law! María Luisa saw my book, my last copy which I had meant to give to Victor Meza but hadn't been able to reach again on the phone, and read the title. "You read English?" I asked. She said yes, so I gave it to her, and she seemed quite pleased. I am really happy with the people to whom I ended up giving my book. I think most of them will actually read it, and they're among the people whose opinions matters most to me (although there are many more in that latter category, such as Darío Euraque, who I was never able to reach, and Rodolfo Pastor Fasquelle, whom I met when I didn't have one on hand). So hopefully she'll get in touch and let me know what she thinks.
I walked with Vita to the street where we could catch our respective colectivos. At a big street I was getting ready to use the footbridge but saw her trying to find a way to cross in traffic. The cars were coming too fast, so she agreed to walk over the bridge with me, because we were two, and maybe we could take a thief out between us. "Hay que hacer el cálculo—o te roban en el peatonal o te atropella un carro." "You have to weigh the options: either they rob you on the bridge or they run you over on the street."
After dropping Vita off and crossing another peatonal I decided to all the way back to Plaza, not a very very long walk, but a significant one. I mostly did it because I wanted a picture of these signs outside the military institute.
Armed Forces: Integral to National Development
Armed Forces of Honduras
And to close with, another picture of this dirty swindler, whom I noticed my first day here and whose picture has been all over town, with a different but related caption on each one.
After uploading my fieldnotes at the plaza internet café and saying goodbye to the adorably nerdy guy behind the counter, I headed back to the house. I got fliered on the way out. It was pretty clear that they were gatting paid based on how many they handed out, not who they handed them out to. Otherwise I would have been flattered to be a candidate for getting a diploma in English as a second language. Mostly, I liked the mascot's picture.
I went back to the house just long enough to say goodbye and grab my stuff. I was still too afraid to eat anything. I talked with Elena about when we would see each other next: in Germany? Back in Honduras? She had been, as usual, so wonderfully generous to me. I really was sad to leave. I got a cab to the bus station, and finally got a chance to take a picture of that silly evangelical slogan:
In line for the bus at Hedman Alas, I wrote down notes to myself. "Limpieza. La limpian con sus palabras también…'ya no andan tan señalados.'" I was thinking about the violence of euphemisms. Genocidaires as cleaning groups. They clean with their words, too. The way the nurse had mentioned the other day that gang members were no longer señalados, no longer clearly marked (with tattoos), she cleaned away the "cleaning" that had happened. I don't think she meant to do it. But it wasn't that they were no longer "marked"; they were dead. It's like talking about friendly fire, or collateral damage instead of murder.
I started chatting with the woman waiting in front of me. She told me she travels a lot because she works at a bank, Banco Alemán or something. She tells me banking can be hard "porque la gente no tiene poder adquisitivo. Y si tienen, es por algo sucio, por el crimen organizado." ["because people don't have purchasing power. And if they have it, it's through something dirty, from organized crime."] "Y al banco no le gusta eso," she said. "And the bank doesn't like that." "Entonces hay que fijarse bien en el cliente." "So you have to look very closely at the client."
The woman in the seat next to me is so nice. She tells me about the organization she directs, CADEHS, Associated Consultants for Sustainable Human Development. She and her colleagues go to 45 different poor schools in all the municipalities of San Pedro Sula and hold ongoing workshops about composting, urban organic gardening, recycling and related issues. They take them to the city dump so they can see the kids who actually live there and connect their garbage to a larger system. She says they also do theater and other creative programs. She says it's important because "una mente desocupada es tierra fertil para el mal. Hay que darles oportunidades." ["an unoccupied mind is fertile ground for evil. You have to give them opportunities."] Also, "la falta de oportunidades es el caldo perfecto para la violencia" "lack of opportunities is the perfect cauldron for brewing violence." And something she said that I really liked, "Tenemos una gran deuda con la juventud. Perdimos toda una generación porque lo que deberíamos de haber invertido en ellos se los robaron." "We have a huge debt with the youth. We lost a whole generation because the resources we should have invested in them were stolen."
They collaborate with a number of different groups, one of which is called JAJA, a group working with ex-gang members. They are not affiliated with a church.
When we arrive back at San Pedro at 9:30pm or so, she offers to drive me to the Gran Hotel Sula on the square. I had been planning to spend the whole night in the airport, but she said this would be much better. I could eat at Café Skandia, and the lobby had really comfy chairs. I gave it a shot. Dinner involved more pigskin, unfortunately, which I think had something to do with my fragile digestive state in the first place. But I tried to pick it out of the sopa de frijoles, and the soup itself was pretty okay. I then moved to the lobby and whipped out my laptop, feeling liberated as I did it (wooo, taking a laptop out in public), but at the same time knowing it was my white privilege that allowed me to squat unbothered in this private exclusionary space.
A sign advertised a special breakfast for the International Brotherhood of Businessmen of total Evangelization.
I got free wireless (luxury!), and had the amusing realization that the hotel's ip address just might be influencing my ads when I was informed that I could check to see if I was eligible for an American Green Card:
I typed nonstop from 11pm until 4:30am, and then got my cab to the airport, buying my last newspaper while getting into the cab. At the airport, two and a half hours before the flight, the line already wound beyond the boundaries of the ropes. The airlines people weren't there yet. I plopped my stuff in line and put the newspaper on the floor to take pictures of it.
On the cover: Toncontín will remain closed for type C and D airplanes; Today another bus and taxi strike; and the big death porn shot, Three Men Who Were Looking for Drugs Kill Two Women
p.4: Details on the airport and the bus and taxi strike; the drivers are pissed off that the government transit ministry (SOPTRAVI) is blowing them off. The picture caption reads, "The most affected with this strike will once again be the passengers, who will not be able to travel around the country, and those who live in the major cities will have to walk."
p.8: According to the Honduran Association of Maquiladores, Honduras is coming up again in clothes. It could displace Cambodia as the seventh biggest exporter to the U.S. (Honduras is currently in eighth place).
p.12: The death porn spread, once again. The two pretty young women lie in pools of their own blood. Another, in the yellow body bag, was killed in a separate incident by her partner.
p.14: This one is about Altagracia Fuentes, the secretary of the CTH (Confederation of Honduran Workers) who was murdered this past April 24th. The hypothesis is that 12 people are tied to her death, which was carried out by gang members, among them one named "El Stoner." El Stoner was killed in Ciudad Planeta on June 1st. It's hard to imagine that her killing was just "random violence." But there's no mention of the numerous motives of the maquiladora industry to off her.
p.54: In July ballistic registration will start up again:
also p.54: Soldier in the armed forces is attacked and shot by two subjects while in his car carrying out a mission in the Cerro Grande neighborhood of Comayagüela:
still more p.54: In Brief:
A bus almost falls into the abyss; An ice-cream man decapitates a jeweler; Elderly man is crushed trying to cross the street (all with pictures)
p.55: Caught: two suspects in a quadruple crime; A man is killed right in front of the INFOP; info box about vehicle robbery and another (on bottom) with TODAY'S ACCUSATIONS, complete with cartoon pictures for each type of crime:
In line there were Honduran evangelicals going to the U.S., for a change:
And this very strange ad on the way to pay the exorbitant airport exit tax.