Friday was my birthday, so suffice to say, I had a hangover. I was presented with one of my favourite tipples (Bombay Gin) with plenty of tonic water, which is great for fending off mosquitos by the way. I was also given an amazing Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate birthday cake by Pamela’s colleague who should be given awards for her fantastic cake making.
I like to write good things about Honduras. Positivity can pave new paths forward, and it can be contagious, just as negativity can be ironically. Sometimes, though, a minority of Hondurans (I personally think it is a minority of people, even if machismo is widespread. I believe the majority of Hondurans are by and large good citizens. Not all law abiding, but then not all people in the world are) ruins the Honduran image and deflates the country’s esteem. In the last year, there have been conscious attempts to improve the country’s state of security, which coincides with Juan Orlando’s time as president. Whether this is a big media smokescreen is hard to say, but where I live in Las Colinas, you feel you can walk around with a lower threat of being robbed. Whether this is a false sense of security, I just don’t know. I’m impartial though. I don’t support Juan Orlando. I’m just giving you a small idea of the feeling on the street. It feels safer than three years ago. I’m saying this ignorant of recent stats on indiscriminate deaths and gang-related crime and corruption.
This week, Hondurans have been in mourning. They have been in mourning about Maria Jose Alvarado Muñoz and her sister Sofia Trinidad. The two girls were murdered and it has hit the news like no other murder story since my time in Honduras. The reason for this is that Maria Jose, 19 years old from a small town in Santa Barbara, a province known for producing beautiful looking people, was/is the Honduran Beauty Queen. I don’t think Pamela will mind me saying that she certainly was a stunning looking girl. Maria and her sister were reported in the newspapers to have come from poor backgrounds. Their father died while they were young and their mother scraped by on a meagre living. Like in many Honduran towns, especially macho ranchero towns that are quite poor, there is a narco-trafficker. Their house is bigger, they’re up to their eyeballs with money, and with money comes power, but the type of power that makes them abusive and they wield it over people making them kind of the town’s bully. Not in all towns but in many. Unfortunately the sister was the girlfriend of this particular drug lord, Plutarco Ruiz.
About a week ago, the newspapers reported that the Honduran beauty queen had disappeared. I wondered if it was going to like the case three or four years ago when a former Honduran beauty queen was caught crossing the Honduras/Nicaraguan border with a huge wad of untaxed dosh in different currencies (brilliant material for a novel). It was semi-humorous. This case was not to be. The girls were at Ruiz’s party and according to the press, Ruiz and SOfia had been arguing a lot. On this particular day, it seems she had been dancing with another man. Ruiz did not like this and shot her. The beauty queen then ran to try and save her, but she was shot too. Their slain bodies were then dumped by a river, their faces reportedly unrecognisable. They were found on the day, very sadly, when Maria Jose was supposed to travel to the Miss Universe Pageant in London; some say she was one of the favourites to win.
I don’t want to seem cold, but I am glad that it has sparked a lot of anger amongst Hondurans. Because of the extremely high frequency of deaths and bloody murders reported in the press here (in the tabloids in the UK, it’s scandals and sex that sell the papers; here it’s scandals and spilled blood, along with disrespectful and graphic pictures. Ask yourself which is worse. I’m not saying papers shouldn’t report on it; they should think about how they should report on it though) there is often an apathetic and “ni modo” attitude to these sad stories. I myself don’t read the news much here due to this. All the papers are guilty of it. But you can see why people are so strewn with fear and anxiety, because they see this everyday. They are immune to it and the inaction becomes part of the psyche. But this story isn’t going away. My housemate Mariela argues that this happens every weekend in every town throughout Central America, not just Honduras, and it’s part of the machismo culture. Normal cases of femocides similar to this get reported but are no longer a talking point a day later. It’s acceptance. I very much agree with her. Because it’s a beauty queen, it’s upset many people. Personally, what I find strange is how politicians haven’t taken advantage of it. I don’t mean that in a cold way, but I know for sure that if this happened in the UK, and as much as I dislike this man, David Cameron would have said something about it and there would have been a campaign of some sort. A higher power just needs to scream out loud and use the press to say, “THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE”, just to have discouragement against this behaviour. If Juan Orlando has said anything, it’s been a pathetic whisper, unfortunately. From the top, there’s just not enough done to tackle this mentality and put an end to needless deaths like this. And like corruption, this apathetic attitude trickles through society. This is why I’m pleased to see this time that people are pissed off.
Please Hondurans, whichever side of the political line you are on, do not put out this light. Keep it burning, and force your government to clearly make a change. If it takes the death of a beauty queen to do it, so be it.