Vicente José Rogers Cruz

Dear readers,

No. Vicente is not our son. Not our human son, anyway. Hondurans have a culture for labelling their pets as their “hijo or hija“. But I assure you my wife was not nine months pregnant with the puppy in the picture attached (don’t worry, mum). Nor with Frida, who by the way is actually Frido, as she has been confirmed a he. My wife insists he is still a she, or transgender at least, but I think it’s due to her fondness of the artist Frida Kahlo and/or she likes to over do the fact that Frido suffers from female jealousy. 

Frido’s gender was confirmed when I went to an animal rescue centre in Colonia Kennedy called Casa de Noé – Lacaden to look at puppies. Quite an adventure, I must say. The centre is pretty much a porch which contains a zoo of animals, all of which have been found, abandoned or injured. Along with dogs and cats, there are monkies, owls, falcons, possums, parrots, doves, turtles and, the bizarrest of them all, a cat-rabbit. I didn’t realise they existed until I saw one. It has the facial appearence of a cat but the hind legs of a rabbit. I didn’t think to ask if it meowed or about its diet (nor what it tasted like, for that matter), but it did feel that I was in the presence of a mutant. It’s wrong and insensitive to say, I know, but it did leave me a little freaked for a couple of days.

Anyway, in one of the cages were white fronted amazons, the same as Frido. I said that I had always been suspicious of Frido’s gender, and I was right to. It turns out females wings are all green, while males have coloured plumage. She showed me the difference and there was no doubt that Frida was in fact Frido. The gender complexes Frido must have now…

Back to Vicente. My dearly beloved, by who I mean my wife, turns 30 this week. She is a dog person, and I think those who know me well are aware I am not (and having a dog only confirms even more to me that cats are far smarter). Despite this, I was determined to pleasemy wife by introducing a puppy to the household. I must admit, I knew relatively little about dogs. I still do. I had originally wanted to surprise my wife, but it proved impossible. I kind of let it slip, as I learned Pamela would be on vacations for a couple of weeks which would give her time with the puppy. She had been dreaming of it for a while, because she had a name in mind before even looking at the puppies. Vicente José. Named after the Mexican ranchero singer, Vicente Fernandez (I think), and José due to a family tradition of naming one of the male off spring by that name. I liked the name Tufts Vicente, as his ears looked like tufts. Tufts sounds like toughs, and having a dog that looks a little like a German Shepherd and Rottweiler cross needs a thuggish name that sounds like toughs. Suffice to say, the look on Pamela’s face when I told her of my idea about the name Tufts was all I needed to know that it was a name that wouldn’t stick.

It was my idea to have a street dog. Sorry, wrong. It was actually my brother-in-law’s, Juan José, who told me that mixed dogs, or street dogs, are often more humble and easier to manage than pedigrees. Vicente so far seems chilled (to an extent), but I have nothing to compare him with really. All dogs seem to be needy and attention-seeking. As suggested above, I’m a cat man. I have always been wary of dogs, especially after being bitten by one which left me with stitches on my abdomen. Furthermore, it used to wind me up (and it still does) that some dog owners don’t see that their dogs can be seen as potentionally dangerous. So adopting a street dog that is part German Shepherd, part Rottweiler, probably goes against the grain. So far, Vicente has been like therapy. A great addition to the family.

As it is the wee hours of the morning, I need to finish and get some sleep. Part two will be up in the coming days.


Angry poem

Dear readers,

I felt angry about someone. No. Not my wife. Just someone. They’ll remain anonymous. It’s not the best poem. Just a way of letting off steam and moving on.

Why?

Where do you come from? Where do you go?

Why do you say things, always gun-ho?

Why attack the messenger, trying to do his job?

Why do you eradicate him, by putting words in his gob?

Why are you full of insecurity? Do you think people can’t see it?

Why not evaluate yourself a little, and cast an eye on your own habits?

Do you like to bully the weak? Does it make you feel big?

Who is your tormenter, by the way? Do they stand over you like a tree to a twig?

Why do I keep asking you these questions? Are you smart enough to reply?

Send your answers on the back of a postcard, or even better, fuck off and say goodbye.


Abortion in Honduras

Dear readers,

An easy topic for peaceful reading, this is not. It’s polemical and heated (caused by the burning desires of the devil, one side of the argument might say), causing arguments, fights, riots, friendship loss and ill-feeling. This has very much been the case in Honduras in the past week, after Congress announced it is considering legalizing abortion in certain circumstances, such as rape. This, as you can imagine in a predominately Catholic country, has hit a nerve.

Pro-abortion activists will claim it’s progression and maybe point out ‘about time’. Personally I am surprised Congress is even considering the bill, especially with the influence the church holds over political issues. In some areas of the press it’s being framed as a militant feminist movement or a Western idea, while others view it as common sense and Honduras is catching up with the rest of the world. You decide.

Pro-life supporters, which are predominately more connected to the church, Catholic, Evangelical and other groups, as you might expect. Not necessarily older people, nor just machismo, but many young people, girls included, who have taken to the streets and social media with banners and all, to oppose the bill.

It’s polemical, like I said, and I often find I’m at loggerheads with myself on the issue. You see, when I was young, I was kind of pro-life, without being at all militant or religious about it. I believed that, as naïve as many of you might think, when the egg is fertilized, it is the beginning of life and we should protect it. As people, we should take responsibility for our actions. Then again, I was never that opposed to abortion. More to the point, I didn’t really understand the issue nor the fuss. 

Then, before I came to Honduras, I was probably more pro-abortion, but again, without being militant about it. It wasn’t really society I was influenced by, but more my former job at the Refugee Council. I remember reading a case about on Angolan woman who had been gang raped by seven soldiers. She was made pregnant and suffered trauma and didn’t want to keep it. The Angolan authorities forbade it so she had the baby. She came to the UK with her baby, but had it taken away after she was found to be mistreating it, in what the courts decided was a result of trauma. There’s a lot to take from the case, but it certainly moved me, as I was working with many women who had been violated and had suffered similar traumas. Of course, in these cases I empathised why a woman would want an abortion in such circumstances. As well as when a woman’s life could be in danger due to having the baby. And I felt the church should be more forgiving too.

It wasn’t until I became Catholic that I began to understand the other side again. Understanding that life is sacred. It should be given a chance, but still being sensitive too woman who have been abused or raped. As a female friend in the church said, a woman could still have the baby regardless of being raped. 

Easier said than done was my reply.

“But life still deserves a chance,” was her reply. “There are orphanages and people who want to adopt. Just because a woman doesn’t want a baby doesn’t mean she has to kill it. A human being can still live a successful life. It’s a gift from God.”

Again, something I can empathise with. She was short of labelling abortion as murder, but it was sitting on her tongue.

Back to the Honduras of making abortion legal, I still feel uneasy to give a straight answer. Machismo is an issue here. Girls and women are raped, and some men do go around having sex with women then run off without dealing with the consequences, and therefore leaving the girl stranded. This can lead to them trying to abort the baby illegally, which is dangerous and can be life-threatening. On this argument, I understand and empathise. When a woman (or couple for that matter) wants to abort because it’s not convenient to her (or them), well, this is where the sex education books have to come out and underline the consequences of having sex. The Catholic faith teaches judging others is a sin. But … we must all take responsibility, men and women alike. 

Now, females reading this might be thinking, “my body, my decision”, and I do feel women are at an unfair disadvantage in this regards, one which men will never quite fully understand. Still though, I feel it is a joint decision.

I am going to finish there. Mainly because it’s 3am. It’s a very big issue and I am sure I am missing a few points. Very free to share your views in the comments below.

Next topic of conversation … puppies.


Rant – Why has the term “refugee” become a “dirty word?”

Dear readers,

This is a rant. Slightly political. But mostly humane.

From 2008 to 2010, I worked for the British Refugee Council in Birmingham. I look back very fondly working alongside so many extraordinary people, many of whom were refugees and had experienced loss, fear and pain (emotional and physical) on a level that I still have problems comprehending today. My role wasn’t high up or major, but my experience was certainly character building and it opened my eyes to the real issues, but also racism. Not in the charity, mind, but on the streets. To the colleagues though, I will always be grateful for what they did for me personally. There is no price on “a real life education.”

Before I worked there, I always remember the term “asylum seeker” being a “dirty word”. By that I mean a term used by the right wing press in a general way to describe refugees. I didn’t really understand the technical meaning until I began working the Refugee Council, as well as the different forms of permissions to stay once a refugee gains asylum status. It was confusing then. I have no idea how it is now. I also had no idea how hard life was as an asylum seeker, especially a failed asylum seeker. 

When telling people that I worked for the Refugee Council, it would always be a lottery of reactions, inevitably, from “That’s commendable work” to “Send them home” and “Fuck off out my shop”. Many had built their ideason what they read in the press, and it was the same old thing, about them taking jobs (despite them not having permission to work) or earning more in welfare than native people (simply not true). Some people remained stubborn against argument, while others would listen and learn. But back then, I remember their faces would turn sour at the sound of the term “asylum seeker” but would lighten their mood at the word “refugee”.

Now, I understand the political landscapes in the UK and US have taken huge side steps to the right in recent months, which has had an impact on the environment and mood around the world. I also comprehend that times change, so does language change, and I haven’t been back in the UK since 2014. However, how we have arrived at a time that the word refugee conjures negative images in the mainstream press really saddens me. But also, it makes very embarrassing to label myself British. As a Brummie, I am proud of the city’s diverse mix of cultures and, on the most part, our welcoming nature, despite our droning accents which suggests otherwise. But the lack of tolerance (or in many cases outright hate) I read and hear in the British press, especially about refugees, people in the most need of help, does not sit well with me. In fact, it’s very uncomfortable.

What makes it worst is Britain’s involvement in recent conflicts, and its refusal to take in our fair share of the refugees. I try to defend my country, especially as I live abroad, but knowing this makes it difficult.

If we have arrived at an age where it’s okay to portray those in desperate need of help as dirty, I really am worried about the state of society. 

How do we fix it? 


Spanglish False Friends

Dear readers,

To accompany the post I wrote earlier in the week on 11 Spanish words/phrases that’ll make you chuckle, here are a list of what they call “false friends” in the world of ESL; basically words in Spanish that look like English words, but translate terribly. Pinched indiscriminately from some poor soul in Twitter, please see below:


Berta Cáceres: one year on

Dear readers,

Yesterday, it had been a year since Berta Cáceres was murdered in her home. Berta was an environmental and indigenous people activist, winner of the Goldman award in 2015 for her dedication and troubles. Her dedication and troubles led her to have armed guards (which should have been issued by the police but never was) after receiving numerous death threats (33 to be exact, as reported by Berta herself) from, what seems, was a mob hired by Desarrollos Energéticos SA (Desa), the company building the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam, which Berta had been opposing, and whose owner is Roberto David Castillo Mejía, a former military intelligence officer, and secretary is Roberto Pacheco Reyes, a former justice minister.

It hit the headlines on a worldwide scale, with even last year’s Oscar winner Leonardo DiCaprio mentioning it in the Grammy Awards. Musicians from Latin America such as Café Tecuba and Calle 13 both spoke up, too. Human Rights Watch and Global Witness have ramped up their voice on an international scale in recent weeks much to the dismay of the current Juan Orlando Hernandez government who have wanted to push this somewhat “difficult issue” under the carpet for the past year, especially as his election campaign is now in full swing and he’s throwing his might around to be re-elected which not so long ago was against the Honduran constitution and was one of the main reasons why former president Mel Zelaya was ousted from power back in 2009.

Here too, Berta Cáceres hasn’t really gone away. In fact, the title of the protest suggests just that, Berta Vive (Berta Lives), which is a genius name really, because if I were somewhat responsible for her death, it would give me the coldest of tingles down my spine. Her name and face can be seen in graffiti about the country, but especially on government buildings and property, with good reason, too.

But what has really changed since last year? Seven more murders of environmental activists to begin with, more or less 120 since 2010. Eight arrests have been made, two of which are ex-military and another a soldier who was in service at the time of the murder but has since been disbanded, all of whom were trained by the US. All of this sits very uncomfortably close to President Juan Orlando, who gives large chunks of government funding to the military (as opposed to education and public health) and makes no secret of his support for them, constantly thanking them for the dropping crime levels supported from what I am told are bogus statistics.

What’s more, Hondurans will feel even more less likely to march and protest, after President Juan Orlando himself somehow managed to pass an act that can try protesters for acts of terrorism, due to the growing criticism of the current government. I have no idea if this puts myself and this blog in a precarious situation, although I doubt it because hundreds of other blogs are saying much the same. Watch how fast this law is overturned, however, if Juan Orlando loses the next election. I hate to say it though, with the scams that JOH has already pulled that make Machiavelli’s guide look like an outdated pamphlet in the art of political trickery, he’s a cunning man and is unlikely to lose.

Sadly, a year on, nothing politically has changed. If anything, it’s worsened, with Honduras being the closest thing to a police state. One element still persists though, and that is Berta Cáceres memory, and anger.


I am a Migrant

Dear readers,

You may well have noticed that I have been including a few articles in Spanish on my blog. The main reason for that is my freelance work with some Honduran newspapers, which I must say, I very much enjoy. There is a bit of an ego kick about seeing your name in print. It’s been a little while since I’ve seen it. Without wanting to blow my journalist trumpet, the newspapers seem to like my work, so I’ll keep it up.

Today, a private student I have from Spain asked me if I wanted to be involved in a project with IOM called I am a Migrant (#iamamigrant). I actually took part last year when he wasn’t in the role, but I had completely forgotten I’d done it and failed to mention it on my blog. I was basically an article about how it felt being an immigrant in Honduras. I remember it was released in the run up to the Brexit vote when there seemed to be an air of hostility in the air. I felt quite detached from it in Honduras. Even more so because Hondurans have treated me so well, being the hospitable folk they are. Yes I get called gringo, I get stared at strolling down the street and charged a wee bit more by taxis and immigrant lawyers, but that seems like nothing to the abuse immigrants get in the UK. I try to defend Brits by saying there is less segregation like there is in the United States, people are not too fussed if you are Latino and we enjoy living in a multicultural society, but I seem to have lost touch with British reality and I get my opinions mainly from what I read in the British press, and what I read is grim. The mood seems to have only intensified since Trump came to power, the terrorist attacks and the surge of far right wing parties throughout Europe, not to forget Milo who has recently been smoked for crossing the line; a line it seems is too fine for even far right wing Americans.

I guess Brits have something to learn from Hondurans. 

It’s something of a full circle for me. I worked closely with IOM at the Refugee Council. Sadly mainly to sign documents for failed asylum seekers or refugees who were being forced to go home. IOM ensured that they arrived in their native countries safely.

I’m glad that IOM does a slightly different job in Honduras by supporting people returning from the USA who have been in detention centres, etc. They also help with asylum applications for those who need to escape the country because their neighbourhoods are full of gang members and are threatening violence and death to members of the family.

Here is my contribution to the campaign anyway.

http://iamamigrant.org/stories/honduras/nicholas