Monthly Archives: March 2016

Just Before I Hit the Sack

Dear people,

I was fiddling with words and came up with this.

Just Before I Hit the Sack

Oh yes, it’s back,
Just before I hit the sack.
An irregular habit, courtesy it lacks.
A sloping deep sleep; it diverts then highjacks.
Throwing an uninvited fiesta inside my head,
Subconscious alarm bells; throbbing fears I dread.
In the witch’s hour it stealthly creeps,
No car horns heard; just snorning as the world sleeps.
Belting it’s weight around like an overweight bully,
Whispering fears that scream out fully.
Teas and fans and calm music do nowt,
While demons do their damage with the berating they shout.
Please, let peace in lonely breezes cool your cruel powers,
To dream of lambs discussing peace and politicians eating flowers,
Let the same demons attack evil minds without a conscious,
Let me sleep, my mind, and let it be constant.

image

Advertisements

Alfombras de Díos

Dear people,

A less political update today, and more of a Holy one. After all, it’s Easter weekend, known here as Semana Santa. A year ago I was getting baptised. This year has been more of a soul searching, and asking having to cover doubts. And why not? How is God All Powerful and All Good in a week of more terrorist attacks in Belgium and Iraq and God knows where else (non-intended pun), done in His name? Why couldn’t God have stopped it if He were All Powerful? Why doesn’t God answer my prayers? Is whatever you, he, she or I are going through really All Good? I remember Stephen Fry having similar questions in a rather robust interview on an Irish talkshow. I’m not being aggressive with my questions. Just everyday doubts, I suppose. If you see God as a symbol of Love or Hope, please don’t think I’m questioning your own relationship with Him. It’s about my own faith. I like to think if you have faith in yourself, God will take care of the rest (if you behave yourself, most of the time).

Having conducted a little Catholic research online, it is interesting to read that the Popes Francis and Benedict invite people to ask questions and have doubts, something to test your faith and have spiritual growth. Mother Teresa and many saints had doubts (not that I’m comparing myself to Mother Teresa or many saints), which is quite a relief because other readings in the Christian faith say that the devil creates doubt (although I think that means faith in oneself), and I don’t really want to go down that road.

I invite your feedback on it, whatever your belief or percieve God to be.

Anyway, back to the main focus of this article, which is about the beautiful carpets of Tegucigalpa. These carpets are laid down every year throughout the Holy Weekend for the Vía Crucis, which is a reinactment of Jesus’s walk with the crucifix that takes place in most neighbourhoods, villages, towns and cities where Catholicism is prominent.

image

image

The main event was in the evening, although Honduras were playing in an important World Cup qualifying game against El Salvador; a match they say once sparked a war, although quite obviously political tensions had been building long before. It was fundamental that Honduras won after losing their previous two games to Mexico and Canada. Unfortunately the Honduras team played rather limply, and drew 2-2 against an inferior team managed by Maradiaga, a Honduran who once coached the Honduran team. It didn’t go down too well when Maradiaga celebrated El Salvador’s goals. Due to Honduras’s weak performance, it’s highly unlikely I’ll be writing for ESPN again any time soon. It’s a huge shame for my bank balance and millions of Hondurans who are devoted, rather over the top at times, to their national team.

image

image

Back to God (because He seems to have forsaken La H. (It sounds like I am twisting a knife in an already painful wound, but Hondurans might have the last laugh when England face Germany in Germany later today)), the carpets are laid down, or more so sprinkled down, using different sand colours down Calle Cervantes in Tegucigalpa’s downtown area. They are works of art. Quite literally. I commented to Pamela and her cousins that I would struggle to draw such designs on paper, let alone carefully sprinkle them in sand in the scorching heat. The patience and time taken must make the artists a nervous wreck, especially with passers-by looking on and bumping into them on the small sidewalks. There is always the threat of an idiot or a dope tumbling on to the carpet and destroying many-an-hour of grafting. I admired the carpets a lot, so vibrant in colour and each one demonstrating a devotion to God. One in Comayagua had one of Berta Caceres’s face. It’s a shame they only leave the carpets there for a couple of days. The thought of cleaning up after terrifies me, and God forbid there be strong gusts of winds. However, the devil on my shoulder tells me it would be quite amusing to observe. It might make the streets a bit more colourful. Tegus could do with a new layer of paint.

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

Apparently the carpets are even more spectacular in the former capital Comayagua. We were tinkering with the idea of going, but the thought of spending a wad on petrol, driving in the blazing heat and trying to make our way through thousands of people who attend each year didn’t really appeal to us. I must say, if Comayagua’s carpets are the best, then Tegucigalpa’s are a close second.


Ni modo attitude, “Magic Surrealism” & Tigo taser happy

Dear people,

For the past couple of months, I have been teaching English to Spanish and Italian employees at the Honduran UN. I enjoy it, I must say, first and foremostly because it gives me great memories of living in Spain, but also just chatting and listening to other Europeans’ experiences in Honduras helps put Honduras madness into perspective, whether it be the Viagra story I posted three days ago, the murder of Berta Cáceres, the insane politics and inequality, the massacres by narcos and street gangs, the horrendous lack of regard for people’s and worker’s rights, the insane driving, and the friendly but undirect ettiquette of people’s behaviour that occasionally boils over into sarcasm and petulant passive aggressiveness (maybe it’s the result of feeling so powerless against the political elite). It can turn a foreigner ga-ga.

Ni modo attitude

I’ve touched on it before, but fuck it; here’s another stab.

If you say that something is not just or right, you are accused of complaining, told it’s the norm and it’s shrugged off with a “Ni modo” reply. For those who know me well, you’ll know I despise the two words with a passion which causes extinct volcanos to errupt. Some people call it a figure of speech, like “C’est la vie” in French, but for me it wreeks of pessimism which has filtered through society, allowing them to use it as an excuse for doing nothing to help your, some one else’s or even their own predicament. It’s especially used by people who like to hear themselves say “no” rather than find a solution to a relatively easy issue. People here have heard the answer “no” rather a lot throughout their lives. They’re accustomed to it, told to struggle on with poor conditions and eat humble pie. “That’s just the way it is,” as the song goes, although the real real-life slogan here is “we like things how they are,” and it’s the slogan of the political elite. When I say I don’t accept no for an answer, I’m told to “suck it up” or “deal with it.” I then end up saying, “If you’re so proud and Catracho, why don’t you show some balls and do something about it – be proactive?” which, obviously, doesn’t put me in the best of light for nay-sayers in this very proud nation. It’s funny how language can corrupt a country’s thinking and attitude. Unfortunately this attitude makes it incredibly hard for the country to progress. I hope the younger generations are reading this and also learn not to accept “Ni modo” to every predicament.

An other amusing aspect of this culture is that many people will break the rules/laws until they find a convenient one to obey. Then, suddenly, out of nowhere, they draw the line. For themselves and other people. They remain as stubborn as an ox, completely inflexible. The younger generations less so, which is paradoxical to history because older generations have lived through dictatorships and regimes where if you didn’t obey the law, you were knocked off. Maybe it’s because the many rules and laws do not have much sense and people get fed up with beaucracy (I can’t speak. In the UK we have rolls and rolls of nonsense laws and rules of ettiquette which should be obselete, most them overlap and ensure that we could be breaking some ancient law at any one time. It’s funny how politicians can pull them out a magic sleeve at their own convenience, especially when they’ve buggered up but finding a cunning loop-hole to escape culpability in the eyes of the nation – the expense scandals come to mind), either that or many Hondurans know they’re unlikely to get caught by the authorities/receive a punishment.

It may seem I’m being critical about Honduras, but I find the people fascinating and hilarious (not in a patronising Johnny Foreigner “ha ha, look at them” kind of way, but more in a “ha ha, you sarcastic eejit” – I laugh with them, not at them, in better words); they’re great people to be around (very lovable in fact; I married one). However, being a yes person in a “ni modo” person’s country isn’t always easy. This aspect will always keep me on the outside of the circle, leaving me a little apart. If this makes me appear snobbish, so be it; I reserve my right to be different. It doesn’t stop me from wanting the best for this country. I just don’t want to be associated with its “ni modo” attitude.

Magic Surrealism

Going back to my students, many of whom are well-travelled too, they have said there is no country like Honduras in terms of everyday bizarreness and strangeness, which has inspired them to coin the phrase “Magic Surrealism” as opposed to Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Colombian “Magic Realism”. Everything seems a little unreal at the best of times here, but then things happen that are strange for Honduras. One student told me when he tells friends in Spain what’s happening here, they think he’s lying. Nowhere can be that crazy, tío. Friends and family in the UK no longer seem shocked by what I tell them. They simply reply with, “How awful” or “Be careful” – a kind of British way of saying “Ni modo” funnily enough.

Hondurans might claim I’m being over-dramatic, negative and hypocritical, and that if you look closely at your own culture or any culture for that matter, you can find equally bizarre things. Life is crazy. The Gods (or demons) at play, so to speak. A very good point, especially when one comes from Birmingham. I do try to point out the more positive things about this country, but they’re quickly overshadowed by dark incidents captured by the press. Browsing through any newspaper you’ll find the sublime to the ridiculous, along with a lot of political propaganda’ing bullshit, especially when reading the Daily Mail or the British tabloids, which unfortunately still seems to shape many minds in the UK like Fox News does in US. I’ve mentioned before that, whereas sex scandals sells British newspapers, blood and murder sells in Honduras. Not all bad press is quite as black, however. Some of it can make you laugh, such as the Viagra story on Monday.

Tigo Taser Happy

On Tuesday, Magic Surrealism waved its magic wand yet again, when overzealous security guards at one of Tigo’s (the biggest phone service provider in Honduras, maybe in Latin America. It’s also where I have my phone contract, and they try to include add-ons every month. Bastards) San Pedro’s stores electrocuted a customer with a taser gun. Unfortunately for Tigo, some customers captured the event on the very devices they try to flog for masses of dosh. I don’t know what happened to the customer in the end. There are two sides to the story. There are sone claims that the client was hysterical and demanding a free phone. I think he survived, but it’s amazing how fast people create memes and, even more unfortunately for Tigo, how fast they spread through messenger services and social media. Worse for Tigo, it’s happened during a very sexed up publicity campaign from their biggest competitors, Claro, which has stunning scantily clad ladies partying with Claro phones, and had large numbers of male clients queuing up. Some claim that Claro are behind it all. It’s not helped that a year or so ago an elderly lady was punched by a Tigo security guard. I was actually passing by that day too, and for a while I used to joke with Pamela that we should quicken our step a little when passing Tigo to escape the wrath of the security.

Sorry Tigo, but here are just a few of the memes that I just had to share:

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

The last piece of news was that a former colleague of Berta Cáceres was murdered. It seems by the same people. Last Wednesday a march was passing by my workplace raising awareness of human rights abuses of indigenous people.

Here are a few photos:

image

image

image


Viagra-fuelled Honduran youths

Dear people,

The headline is a bit exaggerated, but according to the Honduran daily newspaper El Heraldo, young Catrachos are getting their kicks in a less orthodox way, and one which is more associated with men over 50 rather than lads under 21. I doubt the more traditional narcotics are going out of fashion any time soon, but it seems young men are either needing a bit of help with their “keepy-uppies” or Catrachas are demanding a lot from their young lucky but struggling lovers (post- modern feminism?).

image

Yes, young male Hondurans have been caught buying illegal Viagra on the street. Not only that; they’re doing it the park right in front of the Cathedral where I was baptised a little over a year ago, for L.30 – L.50 a pop (between £1 to £2). It might be all the rage with this generation (Youngsters. We never did that in our day (unfortunately)) but it’s caused something of an outrage since it hit the front page on Monday, and it’s also a kick in the metaphorical balls for machisimo which, like in many Latin American countries, is very prevalent in Honduras. People are concerned that young lovers will get heart problems by overdosing and/or cause more long-term erectile dysfunctionality, especially as the pills are sold illegally and could be crammed with a whole load dangerous of toxins. For many, it’s given them the giggles, especially myself and a couple of Spanish friends who have taken photos and sent them to loved ones in our native countries. I very rarely buy newspapers these days, especially when you can read it online for free. I did that day though, thanks to the thought-provoking headline you can read (or roughly translate) above. I doubt it’s a great social endemic, and the newspaper and I might be blowing it a bit out of proportion. But it just goes to show that sex really does sell, in many more ways than one.

image

Making mocking comments like these could return to haunt me, so I’ll finish there.

In other news, apart from the bog standard extortionist, murder, corruption, narco and gang-related stories, the FBI believe the murder scene for the Berta Cáceres case had been tampered with. I guess there’s more news to follow.


Berta Cáceres

Dear people,

My last update was entitled Corruption in Honduras, and included quite a rant about President Juan Orlando. It wasn’t a very positive piece, as you can imagine. There might be a bit more ranting about the man known as JOH, especially in this case which involves the Honduran military, which he controls and continues to increase the budget over education and health. Furthermore, his military police is US-funded and JOH and his regime has been backed by no other than Hillary Clinton. Now if I were American, I would be more inclined to vote for the Democrats. But I don’t know if I would vote for someone who says she’s liberal but then supports a regime and a man who heads a country referred to as a silent dictatorship. In terms of the race for American Presidency, I think Hillary should really wake up to see why so many people are following Bernie Sanders, rather than a technocrat like herself.

image

I mentioned that my last piece wasn’t very positive. Neither is this I’m afraid. It’s about Berta Cáceres, an indigenous and environmental rights campaigner, who was murdered in her home in La Esperanza at 1am on Thursday, one day before her birthday, and two days before International Women’s Day. It’s hit the world media, featured in newspaper reports and TV news all over the place, with even recent Oscar winner Leonardo DiCaprio speaking about his sadness of Berta’s death.

image

I’ll be honest, I didn’t know much about Berta Cáceres. My wife filled me in as we were driving to work that morning, after hearing the news on the radio. As soon as she said Berta was human rights campaigner, that oh-so-familiar story began to play out in my mind. Between 2010 and 2014, the NGO Global Witness recorded that 101 campaigners had been assassinated alone in Honduras, from journalists, lawyers, activists or political opponents. I should therefore be very careful about writing this. I’m currently in a cafe poking these words on to my phone with the Presidential Palace just meters away and soldiers scattered around.

image

Berta Cáceres co-founded the Council of Indigenous Peoples of Honduras (Copinh) with Tomás García, who was also shot dead by a military officer in a protest in 2013. She had recently been fighting against the construction of one of Central America’s biggest hydropower projects being built by DESA in the Gualcarque river basin, with the backing of international engineering and finance companies. The project includes building four dams, one of which would have had devastating consequences for Río Blanco (White River), and has great cultural, agricultural and communal significance to nearby Lencan communities. She prompted the withdrawal of China’s Sinohydro and the World Bank’s private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation, as well as inspired other funders to pull out of the project. For her troubles, she was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015.

image

This had obviously angered many of the powerful elite in Honduras. On 20th February, Berta Cáceres and other Copinh participants were confronted by the army, police, local mayor and dam company employees, some of whom detained members of the group and issued grave threats. It wouldn’t be the first time. Berta’s been issued threats of rape or murder for her campaigning. She explicitly forecasted such a grave ending for herself.

“I want to live, there are many things I still want to do in this world. I take precautions, but in the end, in this country where there is total impunity I am vulnerable. When they want to kill me, they will do it.”

As stated, this has hit the global news and looks pretty bad on the Honduran government, especially when the police announce a very fishy story about Berta shot during a house robbery; her son was also injured. The government should have been guarding her but, surprise surprise, they were nowhere to be seen (why would they guard someone they find financially inconvenient, a nuisance to their plans and a voice they would want, quite frankly, muted? I might be speculating, but when the military soldiers themselves had been threatening her, it certainly taints the government’s name. It wouldn’t be the first time). I’m not the only one pointing fingers at the government. The country is angry. First in line is probably Berta’s 84 year old mother, who rubbished police reports on the radio and went on to say:

“I have no doubt that she has been killed because of her struggle and that soldiers and people from the dam are responsible, I am sure of that. I hold the government responsible.”

By killing Berta and trying to bury the case, they’ve opened a can of worms on an international scale which will have left those responsible with their head in their hands. However, despite Juan Orlando’s daft attempts to tell the country that nobody is above the law, I don’t expect much of an investigation, with or without US help, but we live in hope. JOH was warned about her security a year ago by the UN. It never prevailed. You have to wonder why. The same Mayor who was issuing her threats apparently tried to attend her funeral, only to get shooed away. There have also been violent clashes at the National University in Tegucigalpa in the last 24 hours, just a mile or so from where I currently live. While I don’t approve of the violence, I do plead Hondurans to take to the streets. Do it for Berta, a woman who dedicated her life to protecting indigenous people and the environment of her country. A lot more than many of your politicians. If not, at least sign this petition to try and have a more just investigation.

images-22.jpg.jpeg

I leave you with a link to a video, the Mother of All Rivers, about her work on the Gualcarque River.