Monday, August 29, 2011

But for the guns and potholes...I could stay forever.

Before CUSO-VSO volunteers leave the country for our little international adventure, we get a week's worth of training in Ottawa in the themes of effective inter-cultural interactions, culture shock, power and priviledge, health while travelling, gender issues and public outreach strategies and guidelines. Along the lines of public outreach it's suggested that if we are having a really hard time (due to diarrhea, problems at work, difficulty making friends, etc), and have nothing nice to say, well...don't say anything at all...on your blog at least.

Fortunately for me, my Honduran experience thus far has been amazing and more than I could have ever hoped for.  Awesome work placement and workmates, great town to live in, comfortable house with a caring roommate complete with washing machine and secure front yard, active social life with other foreigners and Hondurans alike, the list goes on. So, my blogs have been truthful, because I have been having a great experience, but admittedly I've left the dark underbelly of one of the poorest Central American countries, out of it.  Until now.

There are things that take some getting used to here, besides the beans and tortillas. There are some elements that I can not be sheltered from, even while living this comfortable upper-middle class lifestyle here in Santa Rosa de Copan.  The copious guns and potholes get to me. A lot.

With copious guns, come copious violent deaths.  With guns, come armed robberies, car thefts, and drug trafficking that is getting worse and worse here.  A recent article in "The Economist" reports that the American Coast Guard has cut-off the Carribean Sea route very effectively.  Therefore, nearly all the drugs from Columbia and Bolivia are travelling to American markets, overland.  A little community called, "La Entrada" about 40 minutes from here*, and on route to the Guatemalan border, is run by drug lords.   These guys are called, "Narcos".  They always drive huge-suped-up trucks (like those of the oil guys in Fort St. John).  They travel in packs, with bodyguards.  They are always packing firearms and usually wear bling.  The police smile and wave them through at the various highway checkpoints.  It makes me wonder sometimes what the hell the point is of having all the police checkpoints, if the Narcos always get a free pass. Maybe the point is to extort $20 from me for failure to wear a seatbelt, and let their other source of income (Narco bribes), pass on through.

I went to a bull-riding event here on Saturday.  To my relief, the police at the entrance were using metal-detecting wands on everyone who entered.  The Santa Rosa de Copan rodeo is a class act that doesn't allow gun-slingers to bring in their wares  (Apparently, the La Entrada rodeo is a different scene all   together.  Count me out of that one!). Anyway after the obligatory Latin American "2 hours late" wait, the event got rolling.  In rolled the Narcos too.  A whole squad of them.  One of the many bodyguards started hitting on my friend, and explained they "came with the Boss".  I was one meter away from the top Narco of the area for much of the afternoon.  It was really obvious that he was a powerful figure.  A constant stream of greeters and admirers gave their respects to this guy the whole time. He seemed like a real personable sort, ya' know?  The police didn't actually come over and shake his hand, but they did give friendly, smile-filled waves.  My friend who has lived in Guatemala said this would be a really dangerous place to be sitting if we were in "Guate", because, well, the rival Narcos could take a cheap shot at this group and hit a bystander at any given time.  Right.  How about we take our leave now?

No cowboys were gored or seriously trampled if you were wondering.

No Canadians were lost in Narco cross-fire either. Phewf.

Pothole stories to follow.

* Apparently giving distances in increments of time is a really Canadian thing to do.  Distances in time here in Honduras do not convert like they do in Canada because of the extreme pothole factor.  So, 40 minutes is not 75 km, it's about 35 km.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. The cobra will bite you whether you call it cobra or Mr. Cobra.