In the first few weeks in January, I spent 10 days in Honduras with Chencho Alas, the Exec. Dir. of the Mesoamerican Foundation for Peace and his youth coordinator, Yeny Nolasco. I was there to observe how the Foundation worked and trainings intended to help individuals imagine and plan a new future for their communities.
As I was traveling through Honduras, there were various moments when I felt something shift. And then there was the day when I came home and just wrote... what I saw, what I felt, what I heard and what I didn't understand... knowing one day it would be critically important to remember that moment when my perspective irrevocably shifted. It was the day we visited Río Blanco - an indigenous community seeking to protect its land against a Chinese mining company. I have copied this entry below... (see my last entry for related photos).
If you would like to learn more about the Chinese mining project in Río Blanco, here are some good articles to start:
Testimony from a human rights delegation in July, 2013
Article about the World Bank's Involvement and Murders w/in the Community
|Father Neri, my host brothers and me in Santa Barbara|
Friday January 10th
Our 3rd day in Honduras. Our third day surrounded by fuerza, by strength, by passion, by more suffering turned into positive lessons of Fortaleza, unidad, and endurance rather than an endless string of reasons to blame God for a bad deck, which no one in the world could fault them for. My third day of being inspired by Yeny’s (the Foundation’s youth director… also my peer and roommate for the trip) ability to express love towards everyone around her, especially herself. To wear makeup and be sexy, feminine, and allow those things to contribute to, not negate, her power.
|Yeny, German and I eating lunch in Río Blanco|
Today is that day where you realize days, months, years later exactly what you saw. We were invited by an indigenous community to visit their lands high in the Honduran mountains near the country’s newest hydroelectric dam where a Chinese mining company is currently undergoing construction to take over. Police greeted us at odd checkpoints, and when we arrived, I heard stories of people threatened or killed, of orphaned children being taken care of by their grandmothers in skirts and brightly colored shirts donated from the United States (one man sported a large KENTUCKY shirt underneath his sullied white cowboy hat).
And then there’s Anazibet. She is 13. As we walked the long path from the community to the river below (the crystalline river, cold and fresh, that will be filled with sediment and contaminants if the mine’s construction continues, with vigilantes andpolicemen watching us from high above on the opposite bank), she stood 3ft shorter than I, and spoke of school, of her dreams for the community. She walked me through the situation with the policemen, the lucha (fight) in her community, not a lucha for the adults mind you. A lucha for everyone. She told me how the police come, armed, trying to pass, and she and her peers don’t let them. It was as if we were talking about the weather, what she planned to wear to school the next day.
One chico took my camera and went absolutely nuts. He was fascinated by the buttons, the rapidity with which he could take these images of people who surround him all day and transform them into single, still images on a LCD screen. I understood everyone! I was welcomed, I spoke aloud and introduced myself in projected Espanol. I shared a meal of tortillas, beans, and rice with the kids surrounding me. And as I held out a bag to collect little candy wrappers, suddenly there was a small army of mini luchaderos and luchaderas (fighters) running around the hill, weaving in between their parents, tias and tios, grandparents, to come back and valiantly throw down their collected garbage into the bag. And I thought to myself, this is the generation that will construct a life in concert with the madre tierra, not against or in spite of it. How did we stray so far?
I have wondered these past months how the side of justice, patience, respect, and community can possibly win against those with money, arms, and most importantly, the willingness to use these resources at the expense of others. Does that not put us at an irreversible and critical disadvantage? But as we gathered last night in the offices of Mayor Carmen, the victorious LIBRE candidate in San Nicolas, and the people began to recount their most profound, emotional and rewarding moments in their experience of the campaign up until this moment of both loss and victory, I realized that the expressed feelings of love, unity, hospitality, endurance… of deeply felt community and spiritual transformation toward an unspoken but mutually understood dream of a future reality in which kids are free to wander the streets and pursue their dreams and health free from violence, corruption and inequality… that cannot possibly come from self-interest... That is the world we are striving for – a world permeated with love and peace, grounded in a fundamental respect for one’s neighbor no matter his or her creed, religion, or socioeconomic standing. Our actions are given by our morals, and as we continue even in the face of what may seem to be outstanding defeat, our very endurance predicts our eventual victory.
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”