By Tom De Meo
There are times when all pretense and superficiality passes away, and things become focused and serious in a surreal way. This day was one of those times.
Today we visited the Guapinol Eight, so named because they are eight prisoners of conscience in detention for protesting against mining development in a national park affecting the Guapinol River. They are in a prison in Olanchito. We actually only visited seven prisoners, as the eighth remains in a high security prison in la Ceiba.
For many of us, especially us less experienced visitors, this was a unique experience. These men have been in detention for two years, and their families receive continuous threats. They each briefly introduced themselves, as did we. We expressed our profound respect for their efforts and our commitment to doing what we could, however limited or inadequate, to further their release. They expressed optimism and gratitude for our presence. I noticed all the prisoners were clean, with fresh clothes, and that the guards were cordial and accommodating.
In the end all that mattered was that we were there. In the Catholic faith we talk about the importance of presence, of being there. We left some gifts of towels and toiletries, hoping they would not be stolen. Sister Mary blessed us with a closing prayer, and we were on our way out the door.
My only other thought on this is that we should all dedicate ourselves to doing what we can to have these people released—writing our Representatives and Senators, advocating however we can…. La lucha continua
By Leonel Cruz
El punto de partida de Radio Progreso y ERIC es el contexto que vive el pueblo de Honduras. Ver la realidad desde los mas empobrecidos y marginados para generar esperanza y soluciones integrales a los problemas acuciantes que viven las mayorías empobrecidas. Ellos hacen trabajo de investigación y la defensa de los derechos humanos; además, trabajan en la articulación territorial para la formación y análisis entre las comunidades. Así van motivando a jóvenes para desarrollar interés político en los asuntos que afectan a todos; desarrollan las comunicaciones como importante medio de transmitir y generar entusiasmo.
Un grupo que trabaja en el tema de la migración nos planteo la realidad cruda y dura de los pobres. Las caravanas de migrantes tienen su causa profunda. El sistema político y económico ha despojado de toda posibilidad de vivir dignamente a las mayorías. No hay trabajo, salarios injustos, violencia estructural y saqueo de los recursos naturales son las raíces de la migración y de las caravanas numerosas que han salido rumbo a un lugar incierto pero con mas posibilidades de vivir dignamente.
Photos by Mark Coplan
By Scott Wright
It’s rainy season in Honduras. For campesinos, rain is a blessing, ensuring there will be a good harvest. But for some communities in just an hour’s drive from El Progresso, the people don’t sleep at night, worried that the river will rise. Today we visited two of those communities, whose houses were destroyed a few months ago by two hurricanes, Eta and Iota. In Spanish, they are called “damnificados,” a word that accurately describes their desperate plight.
The third community we visited was occupied by the CNTC, the National Confederation of Farmworkers, who have organized farmworkers in the region and assisted these communities as best they can to survive and rebuild after the twin disasters of the pandemic and the hurricanes, but the third disaster is proving to be much more difficult: the disaster of an authoritarian and illegitimate government, deeply involved with drug cartels since it took power in 2009 as a result of a military coup, backed by the U.S. government.
To survive, they have moved their communities to higher ground, to lands that have been abandoned, in some cases for generations, by absent landowners, multimillionaire investors, and drug cartels, who threaten to evict these vulnerable communities, using violence if necessary. In addition to the rivers that will rise, this is another reason these families and farmworkers do not sleep at night.
After a strenuous hike over narrow and precarious paths, we were warmly welcomed by those who have little more than their temporary shelters, and the clothes on their back, to call their own. They lack drinking water, electricity, latrines, and food, but what they lacked in these basic necessities was compensated by their hospitality, their stories, their generosity, and their determination to remain on the land, with the solidarity of organizations like the CNTC, and support from projects like Vamos a la Milpa initiated by Radio Progresso / ERIC and the SHARE.
What we saw today reveals in the starkest manner. More than government neglect, corruption, and abuse of power, it is the consequence of decades of U.S. policies that have favored client governments in Central America, complete with free trade agreements, protections for transnational investments and the implantation of an extractive model of a global economy that is destroying the environment and violently repressing rural, indigenous and afro-descendant communities that nonviolently resist this attack on democracy and the dreams of the people.
The rivers will rise, and continue to do so, putting at risk these vulnerable communities of farmworkers, who are the salt of the earth, but treated as those who are expendable and excluded. We saw with our own eyes, beneath the rain, one of those rivers, the River Guaymón, that in a period of three days tripled in size and destroyed the homes of twelve families.
But that was not all that we witnessed today. We witnessed the resilience, the humanity, the faith of the poor and of the Honduran people who refuse to be defeated, and who continue to struggle each day to defend their dignity, their sovereignty, the sacred lands and sacred waters that make up their country, against all odds. We heard today words of wisdom, beginning with a song that begins: “Tell me what it means to be bread,” bread for one another, and the conviction that solidarity, if it is to be effective, is mutual. What we offer in the way of accompaniment and commitment, we receive back tenfold.
The rivers will rise, but so will the people. That is the gift, the hope, and the challenge we received today.
Photo by Mark Coplan
By Angelie Ryah from Progreso Honduras
oday was a day of meeting new friends. It was a day of hearing history and poetry and reality. It was a day of stories. First the story of a radio station where multiple voices speak truth and challenge, sorrow and hope. Voices of the past like Bertha Caceres and voices of the present like Padre Melo.
Stories bring people close. They turn strangers into friends by describing how alike we really are. Though the details differ, we know in our cells the same experiences. We know what it’s like to lie awake night after night worried about a family member. Where are they? Are they safe? When will I see them again –will I ever see them again? We know what it’s like to need help, to be at the end of our own knowledge or money or time or strength or ingenuity. We all know what it’s like to receive help-- that fresh clean gasp of breath into searing lungs as we beak the surface after coming up from far, far, far down in dark waters.
We get a taste of resurrection . We all know what it’s like to give help, to see our own wild hearts leap out of our bodies towards someone else and to follow after it. We know the joy of offering even our small bit to that desperate person who sees it as the storm clouds broken apart by an angel; we know the humility of hearing their gratitude and wanting to do more, wishing we had done something sooner.
Today we heard stories of merciless extortion, job loss, land loss, Covid and hurricanes rendering life impossible, impossible to stay. We heard stories of courage, caravans, compassion, cartels, corruption, and countries. The best and worst of humanity were in these stories. We were brought closer by them.
These stories are sacred, filled with the Divine. Only Love is strong enough to compel a woman to form a nonprofit committed to finding the “disappeared” no matter where that search may lead. Sometimes it ends at a grave. Sometimes it reunites a mother and daughter separated by 2 or 18 or 40 years. Only Divine Compassion can guide a pastor and his flock to arrange safe passage for a family under death threats from cartels.
These stories are threads, and sharing them is weaving a tapestry. Everyone has the colorful fibers to create a beautiful image, if we will step into the loom together. No one’s story is enough on its own; we are invited by Love to pull our threads through our common cords, to wrap and tighten them together, in strong knots here, soft edging there. We each are beckoned, moment by moment, to shape our own stories with others. The Loom awaits.
Honduras, July 2021
Photos by Mark Coplan and Radio Progreso
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