The Pyramid Structure (aka la programa familiar) – Part Two

Hola todos

Sorry for the abrupt end to the last update. Tiredness and a cold ran victorious, the latter of which has pretty much laid me to waste today as well. Lots of runny snot, coughing, tissues, tea and lazing around and complaining to my girlfriend about man flu.

I was hoping to interview someone today and put the transcribed chat on my blog. I won’t tell you much more until I have done it. It’s a little project I want to do on the blog, just giving you an idea of ordinary lives here in Honduras, whether they are rich, poor, middle class, golpista, resistencia, apolitical, a road sweeper, a banker, a craftsman etc. I spend a lot of time talking about random things on the blog, which is sometimes nice to empty my head and voice my opinion, but it would be nice to give the blog a bit more direction. Hopefully you will see this in the next few weeks.

Back to the pyramid structure.

As I said yesterday, I already had great suspicions of the job interview, but I’m not in the financial position to be turning my nose up at jobs. I’ve had misfortune with a couple of jobs so far, but thinking too much about it only brings wasted moments when I could be doing something productive.

I went along to the interview at a hotel I know quite well. The name of it isn’t important. It’s only a few minutes away, but even so, when the taxi drive sees a chele in a suit, he’s going to bulk up the price, and he did. When I got there, as expected, there was a queue of people giving their names, 50 lemps, their ID and their phone number to a young pretty woman. When I handed my ID over, she looked at it a bit funny, read out loud that I was British, and then absent-mindedly asked me, “What part of the United States are you from?” I reminded, like I always do to this question, “The British part, near Europe!” She raised her eyebrow, and I could tell that she was thinking the same think I was, “What the hell is he doing here?” She then looked at my name and couldn’t make it out too well on the paper, as the woman at immigration who handed me the temporary ID kind of scribbled it on half-arsed. I read my name out for the woman anyway, the English and Spanish way, and then she finally decided that because she could read nor pronounce my name, that it was no longer to be Rogers, but actually Roque. So, by force, I’m becoming more engrained and stamped into Latin American culture, meaning my identity is changing and it’s out of my controlThey will no longer accept or understand my English and slightly Castilian Spanish accent when I speak Spanish either. I must now mumble and say words in caliche Spanish to make it impossible for foreigners to understand. Here are a few examples of the different vocabulary, taken from good old Wikipedia:

  • Bolulo – bread roll
  • Trucha or pulpería – corner shop
  • Relajo – mess
  • Jura – police patrol
  • Pisto -money
  • Birria – beer
  • Maje – dude
  • Cipote(a) – kid (male, when it ends with “e”; and female, when it ends with “a”)
  • Guirro(a) – kid (male, when it ends with “o”; and female, when it ends with “a”)
  • Juco(a) – Dirty kid (male, when it ends with “o”; and female, when it ends with “a”)

Going back to my enforced name change, what is also quite amusing, as a “maje” on Facebook pointed out, is that if you mash my new Spanish surname with one of Pamela’s surname’s, you get something that resembles the former Manchester City and Blackburn Paraguayan superstar striker’s name, Roque Santa Cruz. Maybe we should get this man to one day be El Padre at our wedding.


The woman took my 50 lemps, and then asked me who I spoke to on the telephone a couple of days before. I said it was a man. She then looked at me funny, again, and then said I would be with Lobo, which was herself. Lobo, by the way, means wolf in Spanish.

I was then showed into an already full conference room of people. I sat down and joined in watching a presentation about a physical disabled man, with no hands, go about his work at home using just his chin and his toes. I must admit, it was only this part of the presentation that actually impressed me. The rest I really had to bite my tongue so I didn’t yelp “bollocks”, screamed from the heart.

The part began by reminding most of the people there that Honduras was poor, that they needed money, that unemployment levels were sky-high and that they would probably work until they were 80 years old. We all knew the problems Honduras faces, and I dare say, many of the people in the room lived in certain states of poverty that I would never comprehend. From looking around the room, I could see a look of slight look of panic and desperation on their faces, they felt tense and the man talking to them was, not as much as rude, but quite forceful and selective with his words. Nearly everyone did their best to dress in smart attire, such as smart trousers and shirt, but some were wearing beaten up trainers too, and I couldn’t work out if this was because of problems of affording smarter shoes or if this was generally accepted in group interviews such as this. I state through it all feeling patronised and wanting to ask someone, “What the fuck is this job?” But this part of the presentation I felt was distinctly cruel, and it was over 30 minutes relaying the same message, “You’re poor. You need money.” I felt the lad beside feel especially stressed, sighing and talking to himself about being skint. I saw him write something on a pad of paper on his lap and he could barely write well, mixing capital letters and small letters and getting basic spellings wrong. I remembered the advert, that this was an open invitation for an interview for everyone, which in practice is good, but it was also a reminder that many people, especially the poor members of society, receive a poor level of state education (that’s if they receive an education at all). Having lived in Las Colinas, not going to Casa Alianza for a few months and only occasionally leaving the apartment, it’s easy to fall into the bubble trap; you forget where you are. You read the newspapers, but they focus on the blood and murders like the English tabloids focus on scandal, tits and arses. All this social panic talk was transparent, not just to me, but a couple of other people too; raise their desperation levels and they will buy into anything!

They then presented the company behind it: Herbal Life. If you are not familiar with it in the UK, when Beckham played for LA Galaxy, it was the main sponsor on his shirt. They are a big LA-based corporate company that sell herbal tablets to promote healthy living. They gave us the life-story, the dream, the sob story, the American dream gobshite, with pretend staff smiling and cheering and celebrating everything about Herbal f–king Life (and you know they’ve brought in actors to pretend their happy, because the people who actually work there are probably poisoned from swallowing the crap they sell). It was about as tasteless, criminal and irritating as Piers Morgan (his own American dream seems to be going tits up from what I’ve heard). While watching all this, they handed out some drinks, made from Herbal Life products, that tasted like grainy, warm ice-tea and I wanted to vomit it out. in front of them, right there, and then sue them for making me ill. It seemed that, if you want people to sell a product, at least make the people have confidence in the product you want them to sell. If you want to be healthy, boys and girls, eat a f–king orange, eat real food, have a balanced diet. That’s part one of the rant over.

The next thing was the sales pitch. The pyramid structure, which before I had come to Honduras, knew nothing about. In Youtube, I have seen a few videos and now want to put a good yard stick between me and them. In this structure, they get people to buy into the scheme, which costs $114 and the Herbal Life product they have to sell, at a huge, huge expense to many of the people which were there. They then have to sell the same product, or idea of the product, to get a return on their investment, so you literally pay them to be employed! The money you earn obviously then depends on the amount of sales you make, and the gets trickled down from the top, so the people at the bottom get little return on their investment when they are making few sales. They don’t tell you how to make the sales; they just get you to buy into the scheme. Those who are desperate to sell often try to recruit friends and family, so you end up getting people struggling to survive pushing it on to their loved ones, and it spreads like poison ivy.

I’ll be quite honest, how much this has to do with Herbal Life, I don’t know. It could just be crooks selling the image of the company. I don’t know if Herbal Life would risk their integrity and push this type of dodgy scheme on a poor country. It doesn’t make sense to me. But, it explain why the job advert was so ambiguous, not clearly detailing the job role, nor did they have Herbal Life’s name in the job advert. All in all, the whole thing has made me very wary of the scheme. I don’t really understand how it works or if a big company like that would become embroiled in stuff like this. Some big American companies do have very few morals or very little care for society in poorer countries like Honduras; take the company HB Fuller that sells Resistol glue. They know that it goes up kids noses, and they know there are chemicals they can add to the glue which act like a nasal deterrent. But they just don’t care. I don’t know if it’s the same case for Herbal Life, but the presentation which sold the “American dream” was tasteless.

After they stopped the presentation, they called people into groups, and almost immediately the Lobo wolf woman, who saw me being “that strange British, kind of American dude” in a suit and tie, thinking that I would most definitely have the capital to buy into the scheme, came running up to me with a very false smile ready to brown nose me until I was in excruciating pain. Unfortunately for her, I quickly interrupted her and said, “No es para mi. Me voy.” If you don’t speak Spanish, I think you can make out what that means. Within one minute, I was in a taxi going back to my apartment, wondering what the fuck I had just seen: one of the nastiest types of pyramid in the world.                       



About Nicholas Rogers

I am an English journalist/copywriter living in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and I have been here since 2011. I originally came to work with Casa Alianza, which supports street kids and vulnerable youths. I then stayed on, after meeting Pamela Cruz Lozano, who calls me her adopted Catracho. I work freelance journalism and I have my own translation business. Why did I come here? For the challenge, to open my mind and get out of my comfort zone. I love literature and I've written a book with street kids. I write novels, short stories and poetry, all of which you will find on this blog, as well as a lot of information about Honduras. View all posts by Nicholas Rogers

One response to “The Pyramid Structure (aka la programa familiar) – Part Two

  • jmarshall19

    Hey Nick,

    I have a guy at my project who I’m sure would love to speak to you – he’s very frank about life in Honduras and says really philosophical things sometimes!! He compared Tegus to Gotham city the other day! Let me know if you would like to interview him, I’m sure he’d be happy to get involved.

    Jess x

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