I was let off at the Texaco ("tex-AH-co") up by the embassy, claiming I knew the buses left by there—and I did, sort of, and they do—but I was counting on Enrique answering the phone to tell me where, precisely, and he didn't. It was still early, so I decided to walk around until I found an internet cafe to try my luck with directions online. I walked back down the hill and up toward the Brazilian embassy, but took a wrong turn, sort of on purpose—I hate walking up hills in the heat. Up past KPMG, past the UN building—where at least according to one blogger 95% of the Honduran workers supported the coup and 95% of the foreigners opposed it—I started taking pictures. I realized as I was doing it how much damn work I was making for myself, but I couldn't stop. Billy Joya (original and reactivated Batallion 3-16 death squad leader), assassin:
On the corner across from the Peace Corps building, around the corner from the Nurse Union headquarters:
En las calles está el poder, the power is in the streets
Qué viva el heroico pueblo del Aguán Long live the heroic pueblo of Aguan
...and to the left of the above picture:
Alto a la guerra contra el pueblo URP, Stop the war against the people/nation
Peace Corps HQ. I haven't yet ascertained what they did with the coup. Did they pull all the volunteers out like they did when Hurrican Mitch hit? In that spectacular show of solidarity, with Hondurans drowning and dying of other horrific fates right and left, the PC evacuated all its volunteers to Costa Rica, where they waited it out in a fancy hotel. It's hard to see but there's some serious barbed wire on that building, and the guards have shoot-to-kill orders, or at least they did when they killed Matthew Sherman back in 1988:
Minster, Ohio, volunteer dies on Sept. 8, 1988, after night watchman at the Peace Corps training site in Honduras mistakes him for an intruder in an area of heavy crime and guerrilla activity.
To describe the posh area where the building is located, even in 1988, as one of heavy crime and guerrilla activity is a bit of a stretch. The local story (the one that circulates among PCVs) is that Sherman was drunk, and trying to climb the fence to get in...in which case it could hardly be blamed on the guard. Anyway...
Around the corner of the building:
El ALBA Vive!!, ALBA Lives!!!
Across the street, the popular slogan:
Cuando los medios callan, las paredes hablan, When the media is silent, the walls speak
I walked down the left side of the steep street toward downtown. I was clearly following the route that numerous marches had taken over the previous year. Again:
Alto a la guerra contra el pueblo URP, Stop the war against the people/nation
VIVA el ALBA, LONG LIVE ALBA
TIERRA y LIBERTAD, LAND and FREEDOM
I didn't ask the old woman what she thought of the graffiti. I wish I'd stopped to talk to her. She sat down around the corner.
Revolución o Muerte, Revolution or Death
VIVA EL AGUAN, LONG LIVE AGUAN
DICEN Q'MICHELETTY NO TIENE BOLAS SON DOS CHAPITAS DE COCA COLA [rhyming] THEY SAY MICHELETTI DOESN'T HAVE BALLS JUST TWO COCA COLA BOTTLECAPS
OSCAR MORAZ M. Gépeto Mierdera Vende PATRIA, Oscar [Morán Méndez, Radio América journalist who accused Félix Molina of instigating violence by critically reporting on the coup] Shiteating Geppetto [I'm missing the reference on that one...] who sells out his country
...and to the right of the above, an all-too-true statement...
Maxima Expresión Liberal, Maximum Expression of Liberalism (spelling out MEL)
Down the street a reference to Mario de Mezapa's song, Todo para el patrón, one of the theme songs of the resistance movement
ese Congreso NO es tuyo hombre! también es de tu PATRÓN, that Congress isn't yours, man! It also belongs to your BOSS
Turning the corner toward downtown:
Educación Pública o MUERTE, Public Education or DEATH
YA VOLVIMOS, WE'RE BACK
No amanece igual para tod@s, The sun doesn't rise the same for everyone (i.e., not everyone awakens to the same reality)
PATRIA LIBRE O MUERTE OPLN, A FREE COUNTRY OR DEATH LOS NECIOS
(although I really took this shot for the great FNRP fist)
VIVA EL PUEBLO HEROICO DE MORAZA, LONG LIVE THE HEROIC PEOPLE/NATION OF MORAZAN
EN LAS CALLES ESTÁ EL PODER!, THE POWER IS THE STREETS
Ejercito y Policia Asesinos, Army and Police Assassins
FUERA GOLPISTAS, GOLPISTAS OUT
El Socialismo viene y nadie lo detiene, [rhyming] Socialism is coming and no one can stop it
VIENE MEL, MEL IS COMING
This corner had been painted over poorly, which kind of makes the golpistas look all the more pathetic:
MUERTE AL GOLPISTA, DEATH TO THE GOLPISTA
PEPE TITERE, PEPE PUPPET
Okay, this one has nothing to do with graffiti, with the coup, with resistance, or anything other than my love for ghost marquees. Last movie: Dracula.
I finally found an internet school, which advertised "Perfection of my world." Sadly, perfection was, as usual, not in reach. The internet was down.
So I continued walking toward the centro, where :
LOS MARTIRES AÚN VIVEN! THE MARTYRS STILL LIVE!
Over a much repainted wall was a graffiti that made me laugh at how different left discourse is in the U.S.
muerte a la burguesía, death to the bourgeoisie
I have no idea what this one's about:
I'm Father NO a la amnistia, I'm Father No amnesty
URGE Mel y yo, urge Mel and me
Fuego a las árabes, [Set the] arabs on fire
HONDURAS en REVOLUCIÓN, HONDURAS in REVOLUTION
el pueblo al poder, power to the people
I've posted pictures of this before...it's funny to see all the images I've been looking at for the last year. So I took my own picture of this one. Kind of like all those people who go to Yosemite and take that same picture from half dome...I never really understood that.
ARABES FASCISTAS ASESINOS, FASCIST ARAB ASSASSINS
This wall had a lot to say...
Some easy to translate, e.g.,
Patria o Muerte Venceremos, Fatherland or Death We Will Win
Ricardo Ladrón, Ricardo [Álvarez, mayor of Tegucigalpa] Thief
...and others more complicated. Basura is used as an insult here for people, and although we have variations of that (e.g., white trash), they don't carry the depth of disgust and repulsion of basura. So,
YA VINO MEL BASURAS, MEL'S BACK DOUCHEBAGS
el pueblo al poder, power to the people
Rendicion o TRAICIÓN ¡Jamas!, Surrender or treason, NEVER!
I had seen similar graffiti in the morning, in reference to the former head of the Central Bank and de facto Minister of Finance. And ha! She's also a member of the Inter-American
Dialogue Monologue. Small world of dirty dirty DC think tanks and corporate coup capital.
Gabriela Nuñez Golpista
And in the original font from his presidential campaign,
The newspaper vendors get blow-up versions of the front page to advertise the day's paper. In this case, the death porn wall stayed behind after the vendors were gone.
Finally in the centro, some newspaper vendors counting their day's take directed me to a internet café down the Paseo Liquidambar off the central park. On the way I saw this gem:
Nadie ama a Cristo como el cardenal ama el PISTO, [rhyming] No one loves Christ like the Cardenal loves cash
At the internet cafe I sent Enrique a FedBook note, and he turned his phone back on and called five minutes later with directions, so I set off walking again.
At Plaza Valle, on the old convent that upon nationalization was split into a church (orange) and a military museum/headquarters (green), the church has been more thorough about repainting. This is thanks in part to the university student volunteer groups from the Catholic University (founded, no surprise, by the Cardemal) and Unitech, the two most expensive private universities in Tegucigalpa. Brigades of gray-shirted (symbolizing "neutrality") young oligarchs went around painting and repainting the city's walls. But I've heard that the Diocese has actually contracted with a group (can't remember who) to repaint any of the church buildings immediately. LOTS of yellow paint. Although here it's still (barely) legible.
VIVA MEL NO A LAS ELECCIONES SI A LA CONSTITUYENTE, LONG LIVE MEL NO TO THE ELECTIONS, YES TO THE CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY
Vamos pueblo por la constituyente, Let's go, people, toward the constituent assembly
...and then there were these. Banana hammocks, always in style.
But seriously. When I saw this, my heart sank. But I've been asking around, what I've heard is that the swastika, which I used to see here and there in gang graffiti and tattoos, is not used by people who identify with the resistance, but rather by soccer gangs (barras) here—the same ones who killed Carol Cabrera's daughter. I don't know what 14/88 means, but I saw it several times along with the other symbol.
Down towards Barrio Guanacaste, I saw an old-school business sign. So practical!
...and noticed one of the few circle A's around. The symbol hasn't become popular here like it seems to be in Mexico. Kind of looks like someone's personal tag.
I don't usually take pictures of drunks. For the same reason I had qualms about posting the photo I took of that guy huffing last week. So for every one I post here, keep in mind that I've passed a dozen others and kept my camera in the bag. That's not to excuse posting them, just to give a sense of the reason why public space is so laden with symbolic danger in Honduras. Luckily, this fellow helped me out by hiding his face. What was particularly attention-grabbing about this man was his perpendicularity, requiring the young men looking back at the camera to step over and around him to pass by on the sidewalk.
The young man looking at me in the picture and his friend would have been identifiable as a marero 7 years ago. Marero symbolism has changed significantly since then, and I haven't caught up. Most of those surviving people with tattoes went into hiding, for example, because Maduro & Pepe Lobo's bastard child, Mano Dura (made legal by Lobo's 2003 ley antimaras), was—as I argue in my book and elsewhere—genocidal. And the new generation of mareros has avoided tattoes for the same reason. Meanwhile, the music has changed (Helloooo Reggaeton!), and so has fashion. So I can't tell you what someone else would have said, but I have a gut feeling they'd be labeled mareros. Mostly because of their dress and their manner of speaking—caliche, callejero. And their prominently missing teeth. I liked them right away. The one looking back in the photo kept looking back. "Y ¿qué va hacer con esa foto?" "And what are you going to do with that photo?" he asked. "Pues...I'll probably upload it to the internet," I said. "¿Para enviar a la yusa?" he asked, laughing at his exaggerated pronunciation of USA and repeating it, "yoosa." "To send to the yoosa?" Yes, I said, chuckling back, "to the yoosa." He told me he was headed that way, any day now. "cualquier día nos vamos palla." I asked him if he'd been already (he seemed quite young to me- late teens or maybe early 20s), and he told me no, but he'd been to Mexico. Veracruz. How was it, I asked. He made a face. It was too dangerous in Veracruz, he said. More dangerous than Honduras? I asked, somewhat incredulous, giving its reputation. "Muchos narcos" he said, nodding his head. And I remembered just how much gang-identified kids and adults I spoke with in the early part of the last decade were immersed in the same discourses of fear that the rest of the population repeated unceasingly (and of course with more reason than the latter, since they were getting killed in higher numbers). And this kid, whether he was dangerous or not in some sort of "real" way and regardless of whether he was in danger, was symbolically dangerous, but only within his symbolic field. In Veracruz, he was way out of his field. He agreed with me that it was getting more dangerous here, too, since as I mentioned, the Mexican narcos have set up serious operations here, in Olancho, for example.
He seemed really psyched to talk with me. As usual, not to romanticize. I'm just so bloody sick of the dehumanization of gang-identified kids through the inane U.S. asylum court process, and the perfectly despicable smug corporate lawyers trying to purchase back their souls by taking on a pro-bono case to save some poor individualized Honduran victim from the menace of gangs. It may sound like strong language, but believe me—as José Manuel Capellín put it to me in an interview a couple years ago, joden y joden. As somebody who's harrassed by young attorneys (there are, of course, exceptions who prove the rule) week after week to be an expert witness on their most important case ever, I grow weary of their savior complexes, their attempts to get me to turn the Hondurans I know and love here into caricatures, into monsters, when it's the policies of the United States government and international lending institutions that are so often to blame for the violence that their clients are (indeed) legitimately running from. I've written an article about this, which for over two years now I've been meaning to touch up and submit, but it just sits there, needing to be formatted, needing to be updated...I'll try to make that one of my 3 thousand August projects. But just to give you an idea, here's one of the two requests that came in last week, from the firm of Ken Starr and Robert Bork:
Dr. Pine --
I'm an attorney in ____, working on a pro bono matter and representing a young man who fled Honduras a few years ago to escape the gang lifestyle and is now seeking asylum in the United States. I received your information from the National Immigrant Justice Center, specifically Ashley Huebner, who had wonderful things to say about you and your work. Ashley informed me that you have provided expert affidavits for asylum applicants in the past, and I'm writing in hopes that you would consider lending your expertise to an affidavit on the gang conditions in Honduras for my client, something that would be of great help as he goes before the asylum office at some point this summer.
I'm happy to speak with you at your convenience and pass along whatever information you would need, in addition to discussing compensation for your expert services. I can be reached at this email address and at the phone number listed below.
I look forward to hearing from you and hope to have the pleasure of working with you on this case.
This might not look offensive to you. But here are some of the reasons why I bristle. "Gang lifestyle"?? What the hell is that? Now it's a lifestyle? What kind of bourgeois scum...why doesn't he just call it a "culture of poverty?" People don't join gangs because of the "lifestyle." Or, if they do, it's still a piss-poor analytical category. No structural violence, no neoliberalism, no rapacious corporate greed and concomitant feminization of labor rendering young men as society's waste products, certainly no U.S. imperialism. And no coup d'etat...which, by the way, is another topic I've written about, and have been meaning to write more about in relation to gang-identified youth. But moving on. Second thing. I have no bloody idea who Ashley Huebner is. I've never met her, I've never spoken with her, and I never authorized her to distribute my name. I don't really mind that she's giving my info out—after all, it's freely available—but it doesn't impress me in the slightest that a corporate attorney is using someone I don't know pimping me out as a selling point.
And of course, corporate attorneys aren't intrinsically evil (some of my best friends are corporate attorneys...). But what they do generally is. And of course, the ones who actually pour their heart into it and do a really good job on asylum cases are generally the ones who went into corporate law to pay off their school debt, because social justice law doesn't pay, "just until the debt is paid off." Structure, structure, structure. No public education=no justice. No justice=no peace. Justice of the peace=oxymoron. Educación Pública o MUERTE.
I stopped to take a picture of some graffiti that particularly interested me about profesoras golpistas (golpista professors), and the young man stopped with me, curious about what had caught my eye. Wondering what his everyday looked like to the gringa Other? He seemed happy that I was taking pictures of resistance graffiti.
EL PUEBLO VENCERA, THE PEOPLE WILL WIN
Evelio Reyes golpista pistero cabrón Evelio Reyes golpista moneygrubbing asshole
El pueblo no tiene nada que perder solo las cadenas que los atan, The people have nothing to lose but their chains.
The young men were at their destination, the basketball court that for years has been the site of the best late-night baleada stand in town. A pickup game was already going on and they waved happily to me from the inside (already having said goodbye), as I took a picture of the graffiti on the outside of the court:
TU VOTO NO VALE TU VIDA, YOUR VOTE IS NOT WORTH YOUR LIFE
Up the hill a bit in the Mas X Menos supermarket parking lot one of the ads caught my eye. Gabriel (most-likely Hispanic Christian name) Kafati (Palestinian), Indian logo—implying local Mayanized identity, but with some kind of Plains Indian war bonnet. Selling coffee. Which originated from Yemen.
It has taken me over a day to write this damn entry (covering less than half of yesterday), and I've not saved and lost certain sections and had to retype. And I'm pissed that Helen Thomas is being victimized by the ADL, and by the vile coup propagandist Lanny Davis, among others, for one careless remark after a lifetime of journalism that outshines anything, anything coming out of the mainstream (and most of the alternative) media today. Paul Jay wrote an excellent piece on the topic. And what I have left is so little...
I climbed up past the USAID building (on the left) and US embassy (right):
...impressed as usual at the vast security apparatus protecting USAID, reflecting the hatred so many Hondurans have for that organization, seeing it as they do as an agent of imperialism.
Evelio Reyes Cardenal pisteros golpista 666, Evelio Reyes Cardinal moneygrubbing golpista 666
Morazán Héroe Nacional, Morazan National Hero
Romeo Vasques [presumably something contrasting with the above]
I finally made it up to where the buses where. I caught the rapidito, which cost waaaay more than the bus (oops). Just as we were leaving, I saw Pavel, the adorable lead singer of Cafe Guancasco along with a small group of people, some of whom looked like they might also be band members. Seeing him answered my nagging question: does he always wear that goofy cap? Apparently, yes! That was my second Guancasco siting of the day, as I walked past the other Pavel (Cruz) on the way toward the bridge to Choluteca on my tour earlier on (which I also plan to lay out, in more detail than the jaunt outlined here).
I got off, crossed the kind of scary main road to the dirt side road, and was thinking about how little graffiti there was in the monte when I saw that I was actually in a ZONA ALBA—ALBA ZONE (all As circle As). BOOM.
And an interesting bumper sticker, with so many possible interpretations. I also liked the barbed wire plate protector. I photoshopped the plate, btw. I'm not sure why—I don't know there'd be any risk to the owner if the real number was on it. Just so you know.