These were the themes that kept on coming up in conversations in Honduras:
Crime – Crime seems the big problem and safety seems to be on everyone’s minds. Homeowners take precautions like building tall walls around their homes, lined with barb wire, and always keeping someone at home so people don’t break in and steal. Stealing is even a problem at schools. These are crimes of desperation and poverty stemming from the larger problem of government corruption.
Corruption – I got the feeling that people felt, and some explicitly said, that all politicians are corrupt – apparently even the new anti corruption party is corrupt. Examples included the Central Bank’s new construction of giant tower in the capital that is unnecessary and apparently to cover-up the missing money that have filtered into offical’s wallets, the complaints that foreign companies pay no taxes so the Wendy’s, Little Cesar, KFC and etc flourish while local businesses struggle paying a lot of taxes and mining concessions where foreign open pit mining does not benefit the country. Critique of the government was a common theme in the art exhibits including the piece on a chemical used in banana plantations that is illegal in other parts of the world but still used here and paving potholes with ice cream, a critique of the government for its short term fixes. Things don’t seem to work as they should but rather it is all about just paying someone off to get your way so the strong get stronger while inequality grows and things fall apart.
Common heroes – At the Museum of National Identity, there was an exhibit on the common heroes of the country including the overburdened woman taking care of their family, the farmer hoeing in the hot sun, the man carrying home a huge, heavy bundle of firewood to cook with and the man working in banana plantations – in contrast to views of the corrupt government and perhaps making a living in spite of the corrupt government, these regular roles of people is what moves this country. There is a pride in the creativity and ingenuity of people struggling to live but yet finding a way to make that space for themselves and others such as car-washing businesses in parking lots. Heroes, I think, have special meaning for people in Latin America for insurgents who fought for their country’s freedom from colonial powers and revolutionaries who influenced their countries in accordance to visions of prosperity and equality. Streets are named after them and statues erected in central parks. Canadian historical figures are never really given this level of heroism. To name common people heroes is to raise their activities to this revolutionary visioning and moving of their nations. We met two of these heroes on this trip – Patty and Jay who have given their lives to creating an amazing visionary school for children in hope of developing good leaders for Honduras’s future.
Children – Children are everywhere. Some development officials might look at the numerous children as the problem. High birth-rate seems to be a favorite scapegoat for a nation’s poverty problems. While having many children certainly does bring challenges and complications, it is overly simplistic and never the whole story. Change perspectives for a moment and instead see children as embodying hope for future. If it is common heroes that move the nation, it is their goals of raising successful, healthy, educated children with viable futures that moves them. In the success of children, it also expresses dreams of the success of their nation. In each child, there is a hope for a better tomorrow.