Letter from Honduras: Fear
This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 14, 2011 - Doenis, a 20-something on a drunk, snuck into the house and threatened Chemo with a hammer (MY hammer!) to steal the VCR/DVD player, but ran out when Chemo screamed. Eating supper over at Alba's, I was blithely ignorant of the episode, wondering at Chemo's lateness, till he called from Dora and Elvis' phone, his voice trembling. "I'm scared!" I rushed home at once, berating myself for failing at the most basic duty of a parent, to keep your child safe. Chemo's had enough scares in his life without another one.
Santos, Alba's husband, tracked Doenis down and told him, "You mess with Chemo, you mess with me. Got it?" No one's seen Doenis since.
Nevertheless, Chemo got another blow when his sister Rosa called from Tocoa to say that their mother Rufina and her companion Fidel had been beaten up in a robbery at their house. Robbery? They don't have ANYTHING, much less a VCR. The beating was probably frustration, and apparently another drunk or druggie. I thought I'd take Chemo right up there, to his mommy, but even that seemed scary to him, so I dropped the suggestion. I did wire some cash, to replace a cell phone and pay for medicines.
Meanwhile, May started with the annual patronal feast of the Holy Cross, a week-long religious observance, tinged with unsavory elements like the four all-night "dances" that attract folks like Doenis. But this year was a garden compared to last year, when there were three murders. The highlight of the week is the procession through town, with children carrying crosses decorated with flowers. We say the rosary, too, and some of the little ones are still learning the words; one tiny boy said, instead of "Hail, Mary, el Senor es contigo" (the Lord is with you), "el Senor es abrigo" (the Lord is an overcoat!). Now, really, is that so wrong?
Speaking of miraculous births, Manuel and Marta had their baby. When Lito finally called at 1 a.m. with the good news, he knew I would still be up because I was actually at a wake. I was hoping to match this mourning with a new, little life. "It's a boy!" Lito cried. "We're naming him Manuel." Another Lito. Normal birth? "Yes! We're coming home tomorrow!" Normal! That enormous belly, that little woman, that big baby -- THAT is "normal"! Women are incredible. No wonder even God wanted a mother.
I am a big baby. I proved that with my latest tooth-hurtee. The biggest molar in my mouth, back and to the (lower) left, had been giving me fits for months, sometimes literally doubling me over in pain from my jaw to my feet. But then the pain would dull and disappear, and I thought I was in the clear.
At Dr. Juan Handal's clinic in Tegucigalpa, he put me in the capable hands of Doctora Yvonne. I told her I've got a godchild Yvonne back in Las Vegas, "So I know this is gonna be OK." But I did make a Perfect Act of Contrition.
When she finally made a move I never even saw, and says, "That's it," I thanked her like I'd been Raptured. I could scarcely believe I was still alive, I wasn't gushing blood, I wasn't having a heart attack. I'm sure Yvonne thought, what a baby!
I got out of the dentist in time to attend the funeral of Honduras' pre-eminent poet Roberto Sosa, who had died the day before at the age of 81. Sosa's best known line is so simple you barely notice its genius:
"Los pobres son muchos y por eso es imposible olvidarlos." (You can't forget the poor, because there are so many.)
The poor are indeed many, yet always a surprise. Little Anjely's parents from Guachipilin up in the mountains brought her to me, for help getting to Tegucigalpa, where she already had an appointment for open-heart surgery at the public hospital in Tegucigalpa. "How old is she?" Seven months, the size of a newborn, her lips already blue. I was afraid to look any closer, lest it break my heart right there and then, because I knew she would not survive, not a Honduran heart operation. About a week later, the mother called. "We just brought her back." I did not even have to ask. To bury her.
I see the burials have begun for the victims of the Joplin tornado. This is another thing I had to force myself to look at, so miserable are the views of the devastation of what amounted to a flying tsunami.
New statistics show that Honduras would be better off with tornadoes than the man-made mortality we suffer. There's a murder every 43 minutes, or about a thousand a month, mostly young persons, teens and twenty-somethings. We are doing our part around here to keep the average up. Up in a mountain village some guy killed a family of four, the parents and two babies, one a 2-year-old, the other seven months, to avenge his own brother's death. No one's saying a word. Well, why would you report what you know to "law enforcement"?
When Chemo finally got his grades, he was passing everything, with grades in the 70s and 80s, except math, with a 60, passing but just barely and probably a little gift from his nice teacher. But good enough! We leapt on the opportunity to make a quick weekend trip to El Progreso and Morazan.
In Morazan, Fermin, Maria and daughter Esly were working on a big Sunday lunch spread; my contribution was to load 'em up with a "six-pack" of 3-liter Pepsi's from the supermarket. Then rumors start we're going to the "beach," the river outside of town where there are nice swimming "pools" that folks have made by stacking rocks around. It was wonderful. Of course, I, the wet blanket even when I'm dry, very prudently limited myself to just a 30-minute "dip" before I went to the shade on the shore and read my book, a commentary on the prophet Isaiah ("Comfort ye my people").
Mel Zelaya made a triumphal return Saturday, May 28, greeted at the Toncontin airport in Tegucigalpa by his faithful "Resistencia" (resistance). Mel was ousted in a coup, you may recall, in June 2009, with Roberto Micheletti holding place till elections later that year put in office Pepe Lobo, whose major concern ever since has been to re-establish Honduras' credentials in the world community, in particular the Organization of American States. Pepe is of the conservative Nationalist Party, but he enthusiastically pursued amnesty for Mel's record-breaking corruption and lawlessness, even running roughshod over court proceedings along the way. But he reasoned, we gotta do this, to get this all behind us. It was politically astute, because it left Mel without a target.
Mel was a Liberal, but with his ouster, the new, radical "Resistencia" was born, and Mel played them just like he plays his guitar, thus dividing the Liberal Party, whose mainline members recognized Mel's toxic brew. And Pepe is jumping on the opportunity to extend his own party's power. The latest is a bill he's pushing through the Nationalist-controlled legislature to grant the Resistencia status as an official political party, which would divide the liberal vote and guarantee Nationalist domination in perpetuity.
Hillary Clinton is lavishing praise on Honduras' for our "maturity" and "return to democratic forms," ignoring the fact that, besides Pepe's toothy smile and buttery diplomacy, he's been beating the hell out of the Resistencia, literally, with police, military, goon squads, you name it every time they gather for a protest.
The rains are here. Folks are planting. That's the hopeful part. Meanwhile, we still need each other. The tornado "season" is ending, the hurricane season is beginning. Hang on. If we are blessed, we can be poor.
About the Author
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.
For years he has been sending reports back to friends and family in St. Louis, and the Beacon is proud to become a part of his circle.