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
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