Following is a letter I wrote to the editor of "Honduras This Week". It appears in this week's issue. As always, I look forward to your comments.
I read the recent vignette about downtown Tegucigalpa with much interest. I have been traveling to Honduras regularly for the past twelve years, am married to a wonderful Honduran woman, have obtained Honduran residency, and am in the process of building a home just outside of Tegucigalpa.
Every time I visit Honduras, I always enjoy roaming around downtown Tegucigalpa. I leave my watch, jewelry, and excess cash at the house and my wife drops me off. I usually have no where in particular to go, so I just wonder around and end up wherever I end up. Invariably, I visit the National Art Museum which I really enjoy. It only takes about 45 minutes to go through its various galleries, but I like the sense of 'place' that I have upon leaving. Somehow I also always find my way to the 'parque central' and then into the cathedral where I set for a few minutes, meditate, contemplate, and pray. I then reenter the hustle and bustle of the city with a relaxed feeling inside.
Wondering the streets downtown always amazes me. I love the narrow streets, the architecture, the old facades and the sense of history that fills the air. Downtown Tegucigalpa is truly a jewel, but unfortunately, it's a jewel 'in the rough', unpolished and forgotten. While some people may relish its earthy nature, I've always dreamed of it being more.
I've had many discussions with my wife about downtown Tegucigalpa and what I dream and hope it could be. Honduras is very fortunate that its capital city has not been destroyed or severely damaged by earthquakes like Managua, San Salvador, and San Jose. While it suffered during Mitch, the damage could have been worse. It still retains its colonial character. Hondurans should consider this a national asset just as it would any natural resource and protect it in the same manner.
Laws should be passed proclaiming the area a historical zone with protections for the facades of all historical buildings within the zone. Incentives should be written into the law to encourage historical preservation and investment conducive to revitalization of the area in a historically sensitive manner. Large buses should be strictly banned. Security should be enhanced with a visible police presence and the creation of tourist police. There should be a constant police presence in the Teatro Bonilla area so theatre-goers will feel comfortable attending performances (thereby further supporting the arts and cultural scene). If they feel secure, maybe they will want to linger in the area for drinks and dinner before and after performances.
The city should clean up the trash downtown and discourage littering by placing more trash containers (and maintain them). It should enforce parking regulations. It should encourage the creation of business such as galleries, antique shops, cafes, and restaurants which would entice tourists to come. If tourists come, the revitalization would take on a momentum of its own. Hotels would open, shops and restaurants would thrive. People would then see potential and buy old houses in Buenos Aires and La Leona to renovate and live. Maybe sidewalk cafes would open. Kiosks could be placed on some sidewalks to sell magazines and newspapers.
I firmly believe that a strong commitment, followed by action could resurrect and revitalize downtown Tegucigalpa. Greater prosperity for all of Tegucigalpa's residents would be the result.