Graduation Needed Everywhere
9:29 pm
Tue March 11, 2014

Commentary From Honduras: Four Choices Or What Is A Young Man Without A Diploma To Do

You’d have to say, the odds are in his favor. In fact, it looked like a lock, when he talked me into signing him up for Maestro en Casa in Morazan, where he would spend weekends with Fermin and Maria and their kids. They have a very professional program there, directed by Fermin’s brother-in-law Javier, including actual classes on Saturdays that cover the material the students will be working on during the week at home in their “cuadernos” (combination text- and workbook).

Eduard, Fermin’s son, would be able to coach him along; and another buddy, Hansel, was eager to help, too. Hansel even invited Chemo to attend Confirmation classes with him on Fridays, where Chemo could also prepare for First Communion. I loved the idea, the whole big picture, and just put the question of how we’d finance weekly trips on the back burner. Like Scarlet O’Hara, “I’ll think about that tomorrow.”

Things fell apart very quickly. Fermin, who had already on previous visits chased Chemo into the house after late-night sessions in the street with Hansel and Eduard, warned Chemo that he would have an early curfew. Well, that very night, the day we signed Chemo up, Fermin woke me about midnight, scolding Chemo outside my window. As I told Chemo, “You already failed your first test!” and I promised Fermin there would be no more episodes. The next morning, Javier very kindly refunded my money, and Chemo, a little shaken, packed up to return to Las Vegas.

Looking back, I guess the failure was inevitable; Eduard and Hansel were as easily distracted as Chemo. Fermin and Maria would do anything for us, but I would have been on pins and needles the whole year, worrying about the imposition.

The current Maestro en Casa class in Las Vegas, Honduras.
Credit Michael Dulick

So back to the drawing board. The ball was still in Chemo’s court. He decided to try Maestro en Casa in Las Vegas, joining a couple buddies, Elder and Carlitos, also not stellar students but we’re not setting the bar so high anymore. Elder and Carlitos dropped out of seventh grade last year BEFORE they flunked, and went to work with their uncle Marvin the mechanic, who repairs everything from bicycles to dump trucks, though nowadays the largest portion of his business are the moto-taxis, those ramshackle three-wheeled modified motorcycles reconfigured for transporting passengers. From the money they’ve earned, Elder and Carlitos are paying their own way for Maestro en Casa, so that provides some extra motivation to carry them, and maybe Chemo too, along to a successful conclusion.

And Chemo has a back-up if Maestro en Casa fails. He’s learning to be a tailor from Ostin, who’s been sewing for 20 years. Ostin is a very patient, engaging teacher. He even gave Chemo a “test,” after a few lessons, to make a proper back pocket. Chemo got it on the second try.

Ostin works to teach tailoring to Chemo (right).
Credit Michael Dulick

Of course, Chemo barely understands the importance of having a marketable skill, especially one so domestic, so he’s “bored.” Bored? What about Ostin? His “real” job is at a sweatshop in San Pedro Sula, where he works 4 12-hour shifts a week (he prefers the overnight slot because it pays more), and returns to Las Vegas for a few days off. He showed me a little video on his cell phone: he sews one seam on a tee-shirt and passes it on to someone else who sews the collar, who passes it on to someone who sews a sleeve, etc., 500 dozen a day. The clothes are exported to Canada. Are there even 500 dozen people in Canada? But it’s good work if you can get it. Could Chemo get a job like that? Ostin warned that they’ll take on look at Chemo’s open-heart surgery scar and turn him down, too risky for their “insurance” plan.

A Moto-taxi at work
Credit Michael Dulick

So, Plan C? Moto-taxi! Chemo rides with drivers (some as young as 13, unlicensed of course) all over town, including trips to Victoria and also to some villages toward the hills. I’m supposed to buy him one, you see, and his future would be set.

“I’ll charge a little less, and I’ll get all the business!” I can just imagine the “business” he’d get! But the things are on display at a store in Victoria, and at car shows at the malls in Tegucigalpa. Bright, shiny red ones and green ones and yellow ones, even purple ones, no hint of the wrecks they become after a few turns on our “roads.” 

Plan D? That would be me, Dulick, till death do us part.

Miguel Dulick has lived in Las Vegas, Honduras, since 2003. There he has no projects, no plans, no investments -- only to share the life of the poor. His letters back to his hometown of St. Louis give a glimpse of the life there and frequently chronicle the life of his adopted son, Chemo.

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