Wednesday, November 30, 2011

BBC: "Latin American poverty at new low"

I was happy and excited when I saw this article in the BBC's online edition today, until I got to the sentence that read, "Poverty increased only in Honduras and Mexico".

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A sign of the times

One day this week, my family and I were driving on the 'anillo periferico' in Tegucigalpa.  We passed a motorcycle with two men on it.  My wife immediately cried out, "Did you see that?  The man in the back is carrying a pistol..."  For the benefit of full disclosure, I must admit that I did not see the gun as my attention was somewhere else.  She went on, "They're looking for someone to mug...He just has the gun in his hand with his arm down by his side."

I replied, "Well, how come he doesn't at least hide it?"

My wife continued, "He has to be ready when the opportunity arises..."

Well, I guess this was just another typical day in the city, and a sign of the times in Honduras...

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Story of Don Jose, an unknown artist from Guarita, an unknown town; or Honduran Patrimony that could be saved but probably won't

I recently had an exchange on my high school's virtual reunion site on Facebook with another alumni.  Now, you must know that I went to high school in North Carolina, so I found it a pleasant surprise to find another former student sharing somewhat my passion for all things Honduran.  Our exchange went something like this:

DG:  I'm living between New Orleans and Tegucigalpa...

Trish:  What were you doing in Tegucigalpa?  One of my favorite restaurants is there!

DG:  My family is in Honduras and I live in New Orleans and commute back and forth.  But my home is Tegucigalpa because home is where the heart is...What is your connection with Honduras?

Trish: ...I was part of a foundation to save the murals of an "outsider" (untrained) artist in Guarita, a little village in the highlands near the border of El Salavador.  He had painted his entire colonial home (with 12' walls) in "mud paintings" made from the local pigments...

DG:  How are the murals now?  Were they saved?  Unfortunately, Honduras' patriomony is decaying from neglect....would love it if you could email some photos of the murals as I collect tidbits about Honduran culture, history, and art...

Trish:   Unfortunately not.  We had two meetings with the Minister of Culture and she sent people from the Ministry of Anthropology and Archaeology to look at the site.  There was even talk of adding this to their project called the "Lenca Trail" but basically I think they were hoping we were going to be able to find funding for the project.  With the economy as it is in the US people aren't very receptive to spending money on the arts, especially in another country!...I traveled with a professional photographer and we have an amazing  folio of the murals...

Well, my interest was tweaked and I googled it.  I found the following:

The House as a Book:  Colonial History and Reading in the Outsider Art of Jose Expectacion Navarro  (Gauarita, Honduras)

"In the small town of Guarita, Honduras, is a house that from the outside, looks like most of the other small adobe and stucco house in town.  However, inside, the walls of this house are covered with murals and text depicting such subjects as the Virgin of Suyapa; the pre-Columbian history of the Mayas; the Spanish conquest of the Americas, especially Central America; Honduran independence in 1821; the arrival of the three kings at the birth of Christ; and much more, all intermingled with personal history from the family  of the artist who created all of these scenes, Jose Expectacion Navarro.  Don Jose, who passed away in 2002, was a history teacher and principal of the local school as well as having served as the secretary of the municipality.  When his wife passed away in 1984, he began to paint  his murals as a way to deal with his grief.  The results are a fascinating blend of pictures and text giving a personalized view of Honduran history both politically and religiously.

The murals that Don Jose created are the work of both a widower working through his loss and the expression by a local intellectual of how personal and local history connect to the wider history of the region.  By turning the inside of his house into  a history book, Don Jose interprets the past, especially through the adaptation of colonial forms of presentation, whether from his native Honduras or from other parts of Spanish America."

And yes, my new Facebook friend sent me some great photos which I'm pleased to share below.

Wouldn't it be great if my fellow expats and those interested in Honduran culture and art could find a way to help save this valuable work before time destroys it?  Please leave comments.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

So Sad...!!!

Clinica Esperanza to Shut Its Doors After Today
Posted on July 8, 2011 by roatanreporter
Bogged down by red tape, Nurse Peggy can no longer operate the clinic


Unused and unlicensed: The upstairs of Nurse Peggy's clinic, waiting since March for approval to open

A press release issued by Nurse Peggy Stranges at 8:30 a.m. today:

“It is unfortunate that we are closing Clinica Esperanza on Monday. We have worked with the Ministry of Health since before March to acquire our license for the clinic without success. We also have a container with necessary equipment for the municipal hospital and Clinica Esperanza that has been here since April and has not been released. The Ministry of Health has been working on a dispensa for the container since February. We can no longer sit by idly while the people of Roatan suffer for these two pieces of paper.

I want to thank Julio Galindo and the Grant family for donating the land that made Clinica Esperanza a reality. I want to thank deputado Romeo Silvestri, Dr. Fermin Lopez and Mr. Clinton Everett for all their help in dealing with the license and the container

I am sorry for any inconvenience this causes our patients but we can no longer continue under the present circumstances.”

My comment:  Too bad Pepe's administration isn't as competent in helping improve life for Hondurans as he is in getting impunity for corrupt ex-presidents.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Agents 'let cartels buy US gun'- BBC News online

15 June 2011 Last updated at 16:17 ET

Hundreds of US guns were bought, resold and sent to Mexican drug cartels in an Arizona sting operation while US firearms agents were ordered not to intervene, Congress has heard.

Three firearms agents said they were told to track the movement of the weaponry, but not to make any arrests.  US lawmakers expressed outrage at the details of Operation Fast and Furious.

The news comes one day after a report suggested Mexican drug cartels have armed themselves with US weapons.  The report suggests some 70% of firearms recovered from Mexican crime scenes in 2009 and 2010 and submitted for tracing came from the US.

On Wednesday, congressional lawmakers concluded that Fast and Furious, which was designed to track small-time gun buyers to major weapons traffickers along America's south-west border, never led to the arrest of any major traffickers.

The guns tracked by agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) were reportedly used in numerous killings in Mexico.

Lawmakers on the House of Representatives Oversight Committee said they demanded answers from the Obama administration about why no arrests were made while investigators were tracking the firearms.

"We monitored as they purchased handguns, AK-47 variants and .50 caliber rifles, almost daily at times," ATF agent John Dodson told the committee.  He added that though he wanted to "intervene and interdict these weapons", his supervisors told him not to make any arrests.

At a hearing prior to the panel, Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa said "hundreds upon hundreds of weapons" destined for cartels in Mexico were purchased in gun shops in Arizona.  Operation Fast and Furious was designed to track weaponry as it moved from small-time gun buyers to major traffickers, who have often avoided prosecution.

In December two US assault rifles were found at the scene of a shootout where Customs and Border Protection agent Brian Terry was killed.

"We ask that if a government official made a wrong decision that they admit their error and take responsibility for his or her actions," Robert Heyer, the deceased agent's cousin, told the panel on Wednesday.

Nearly 35,000 people have died in drug-related violence in Mexico since December 2006, and many of the killings have been carried out with guns smuggled in from the US.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

U.S. guns fuel Mexico violence

A U.S. Congressional study reports that some 70% of firearms recovered from Mexican crime scenes in 2009 and 2010 can be traced to the U.S.  (According to today's BBC website).

My take... if the U.S. is not willing to curb the flow of guns to Mexico and Central America, then the countries that have been victimized by these guns should legalize the drug trade and end the senseless violence that has resulted from the 'drug wars'.  The drug trade is fuelled by American demand, and to add insult to injury, the US supplies the guns to the drug gangs.  Why should innocent Latinos pay the price with their blood?

Friday, June 10, 2011

A solution to police corruption?

Everyone complains about police corruption in Honduras, whether it's having to pay 100 Lemps when stopped by traffic cops or perceived police involvement in more serious crimes such as kidnappings and robberies.  A partial remedy to this problem, or at least a step in the right direction is simple and cheap.

Last month, I was in Ecuador as part of a business trip.  I noticed an article in the local paper announcing that as part of a government effort to 'increase public confidence in the police, insure a police force of high moral character, and to eradicate corruption', all police would have to undergo polygraph tests.  What a brilliant idea...both cost effective and an efficient deterrent!

Since Honduras is a poor country with meager resources, this type of preventive measure can be introduced without a great expenditure of public funds.  A private company could be contracted to administer the tests in order avoid any potential conflicts of interests or collusion.
I hope Oscar Alvarez will read this post and consider the idea, and that some of my readers will help to further publicize this idea and push for its implementation.

As an aside, the editorial cartoon that day was priceless.  It showed a large woman towering over her smaller husband who was sweating profusely during her interrogation, with the caption, 'poligrafo casero' (household polygraph).

Sunday, May 22, 2011

William Walker, RIP

The tomb of William Walker, Trujillo, Honduras

The tombstone reads:

William Walker
12 September 1860

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Why, oh why?

One of my family's favorite escapes from the daily grind of Tegucigalpa is dining out, but I guess that's going to change...

This past Sunday, on Mother's Day, my favorite seafood restaurant, Tony Mars, was assaulted.  According to El Heraldo in Monday's edition, two people were killed.  It seems the assailants were disguised as police.  One of the patrons was armed and a gun battle ensued.

I had heard of restaurants being assaulted with all the patrons being robbed before, but I never thought much about it.  I guess it really hit home this time because I've eaten at Tony Mars many times.  Their fried shrimp are simply the best I've had anywhere...

Also, they had private security, but the assailants were disguised as police so, so much for the security.

Even though we weren't there at the time, we could have been.  That's how random the violence has become in Honduras.  While you may not be an intended target, you are always at risk.

Somehow I feel violated myself...and I guess our nights out on the town will be dramatically reduced.  In the long run, that means we'll save a little money, but that's also bad for the economy...less money being spent means less income for restaurants, waiters, fewer jobs, etc., etc.

How can Honduras be 'open for business' if you can't feel safe eating dinner with your family?

Friday, April 08, 2011

Whether rain, sleet, or shine; the mailman never comes...

In the comments section of another Honduran blogger, I opined that I've come to the view that Honduras is a 'semi-failed state', on the road to full-fledged 'failed state' status.  Things just don't work in Honduras, basic things, uncomplicated things... The list is quite, lack of security, sanitation, water, etc., etc.  On top of it all is the endemic corruption that is pervasive throughout the country, at all levels of government and society.

Last year, Honduras had an exceptionally rainy wet season, but yet was unable to fill its reservoirs.  Due to a lack of maintenance, it had to release the water and now faces water shortages again.  Honduras has one of the highest murder rates in the world and is unable to provide security to its citizens.

But one of the symptoms of its 'semi-failed state' status that really bugs me is the fact that its postal system doesn't work.  According to stories I've heard, it used to work...albeit 30-40 years ago.  Then there was so much corruption and theft in the post office that people were afraid to mail anything, assuming that it would be stolen and never reach its destination.  So people quit utilizing the postal system, and little by little it quit functioning.

The result is that now, whenever you want to pay a bill, instead of dropping a check in the mail, you must go to a bank, wait in line for 20-30 minutes to pay your bill.  The chances are that the bank's system is down, but you don't know this until you've waited for what seems an eternity.  So, you have to go back the next day and try again.  To make it worse, you can't pay all your bills at just one bank.  No... This is Honduras.  It just has to be time consuming and frustrating.  So you pay your water bill at one bank, school tuition at another, electric bill at another, and cable bill somewhere else, etc., etc.

If all the hours wasted by literally hundreds of thousands of people monthly, doing nothing but standing in lines over and over again were funneled into a productive activity, something could actually be accomplished.  But no, since people can't trust the post office, it has withered away into nothingness and a whole nation is condemned to waiting in useless lines.

Someday, I'm going to do an experiment and post a letter to my father in law since I know he actually has a 'buzon' (mailbox).  I will let you know whether it is ever received  and how long it takes.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

High Coffee Prices

According to the March 8, 2011 edition of the Wall St. Journal, a headline reports 'Arabica Coffee Prices Near a 14-Year High'.  Bad weather in Central America and Columbia have kept prices high with Arabica rallying 46% over the past six months.

Obviously, high coffee prices are good for Honduras where coffee is a major export crop.  My question though, is how much of the higher prices will actually benefit small farmers and producers and trickle-down into the wider economy as a whole?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Finding a Needle in a Haystack

I really like honey, I mean I really like honey.  And, it's always irked me that the only honey I could find in Honduras is just 'miel de abeja' (often sour tasting or watered down), no other varieties such as clover, orange blossom, wild flower, etc., etc.  as this is one specialty that I've always thought that Honduras could produce given the array of agriculture and vegetation throughout the country.

One of my favorites has always been 'orange blossom'.  Whenever I'm in Florida, I always buy a few jars to bring home.  So I've often complained and wondered why they didn't produce it in Honduras since there are so many orange groves in the northern part of the country.  It would be a great artisanal item, and I'm sure I'm not alone in my appreciation of it's unique flavor.

Well, I'm glad to report that my wife was driving past Lake Yojoa recently and stopped at a small stand by the road.  She's well aware of my honey fetish, and saw that they had three types of honey ranging from dark to a light amber.  The honey was in plain jars without any labels or markings.  She asked the vendor what each type was, and sure enough, one of them was 'orange blossom'.

So she bought a jar.  The price was about half of what you pay for generic honey in a Honduran supermarket

The flavor was suberb, actually better than much of the honey in Florida, as it was not pasteurized and was totally natural...not as highly processed as in the States, just rich in flavor (and probably more nutrients).

I wish they could improve their packaging somewhat as it would be great for retail in supermarkets and specialty shops.

My wife found me that always elusive 'needle in the haystack'.

Monday, January 24, 2011

As seen in Lyon, France

Just thought everyone would like to see that Honduran products can actually sell in upscale stores.  My wife and I saw this sign during a recent trip to Lyon.  I must admit we felt a certain hometown pride when we ordered an espresso made with the coffee of the month, Honduran coffee that is...

Friday, January 14, 2011

Distressing Statistics

According to 'El Heraldo' (Jan. 13, 2011), the annual murder rate in Honduras is 77 per 100,000 people, and has doubled in the past five years.  That's one murder every two hours!!! 

In Honduras's two largest cities, the statistics are even more grim.  San Pedro Sula has a murder rate of 125/100,000 making it the third most deadly city in the world (after Ciudad Juarez, Mexico and Kandahar, Afghanistan).  Not wanting to be outdone, Tegucigalpa ranks no. 6 worldwide with a murder rate of 109/100,000 (edging out Guatemala City which is no. 7).

This upward spiral in violence started its dramatic increase under the regime of Mel Zelaya.  It simply amazes me that Pepe Lobo's main focus is bringing Mel back to Honduras, instead of focusing on security for Honduras' citizens.  Does Pepe have a poor sense of prioritization, or what...?