My HeyDay

Sometimes I think it is my mission to bring faith to the faithless, and doubt to the faithful

Day on the Field: Four Stories

At 7am, we drove towards "California", a small community of peasants west of La Ceiba, surrounded by banana fields. A group of fifteen women met us at 9am in the humble house of one of them, in order to proceed to the gathering. The sun was intense outside, and I sat in the hammock, looking at the colorful walls but limited furniture of the place. A hen looked at me from the kitchen.

Fifteen Women - We sang the hymn all together ("Unity, Discipline, Work, Bravery!") and I was introduced to the group. The coordinator engaged us in some relaxing activity to break the seriousness of the morning, and we danced the "hen" song -later, I had to do that myself in front of all the women to get rid of my own shyness-. We all discussed about remedies against dyarrhea in new-borns, in a very socratic way -we engaged them in asking about the pictures we were showing, asking to propose solutions for every symptom. We talked about their personal stories, micro-businesses and doubts. And after a couple of pictures and a lot of laughs, we left. I could see the face of my mother or my grandmother, years ago, in many of those women. I promised them to send back a copy of the pictures I took. I was happy about having spent some time among them... the real reason I came down here. I felt touched, but still an outsider.

A Kid and a Broken arm - Later on the road, a young teacher stopped us, asking for a ride for her and a kid. When I opened the SUV's door, the kid had a totally broken arm, between the hand and the elbow, in a very ugly way: the arm was still together just by the flesh! He was dying in pain, and we drove fast towards the local "clinic". Apparently, what they call the sobador (lit. "toucher"), a sort of mystical local leader who fix easy lessions in extremities, was out attending someone, and the mother of the child was reliant to let us give them a ride to the closest hospital. The kid was crying: "My mother doesn't have money". I offered to pay the bills, to make it easier. We could not stand the image of the guy in such a deplorable, painful way, and the slowness of the mother to make a decision. She was influenced by a local man, who happened to be the nephew of the sobador, and said that "he always fix everything... even if you go to the hospital, you'ld have to come later to my uncle's clinic for sure". Ignorance, fear, lack of trust to outsiders and peer pressure played here a strong role against the future of the kid's arm. If the kid was not going to the hospital, we offered then to give them a ride to where the sobador was. "He is very close!", say the sobador's nephew. We drove by a dirty road for 20 mins and I couldn't stop seeing the S-shaped arm of the child, who broke into tears. No painkillers around. The road became very complicate for the SUV (no 4-wheels traction) and the mother decided to walk the rest of the trip. They left us, walking, under an intense sun, that morning. I thought in all the unnecessary suffering of the kid, and what was going to wait for him later: the sobador will fix his arm by force, without painkillers, and without deep knowledge of all the deep tissues and nerves that he may break in the process. He would put some wooden tools to keep the bones together, but the kid will play around the next days, after much pain that day, and the bones wouldn't fix perfectly together because of the movement, leaving him a flawed arm for the rest of his life. And we were just 20 mins ride from the closest hospital...

We are trapped - In our way back to the main road, driving backwards -no way to u-turn in between the fences and fields- the wheels get trapped in a swamp. No way. We stopped one old man with an older horse, and he helped me pushing the car out of the trap, with no success. In the meantime, I bargained about the horse, with the crazy idea of bringin' it to DC. Later, two younger men appeared on the horizon, and joined us in the impossible mission. We were discussing strategies to escape from that mud trap when another SUV miraculously appeared on the dirty road, and they happened to have something to push us out of the trap. An observation: nobody questioned the need of helping us, or freerided, because all of them assumed our problem was theirs as well: community-based solidarity at work! We gently shaked hands after getting the car back to the road, and we wished God may help us in our future.

Smuggling and Drug Pirates - During that day, I heard seven different stories of young men shot and killed in the area in the last week. Assuming that the average is half that rate, so like 3.5/week, it gives us an homicide rate of 80, very high even for the region, and three times that of Washington South East. Cocaine smuggling is behind 90% of those homicides. One guy was found at midday next to the road by a school bus, with his hands tied with a cell phone charger cord and a shot in the head. They didn't even care to hide the body. Another taxidriver, 22, was found in a condo's door with six head shots at sunset by a girl I met here. Another guy in his 20s was found dead by some coworkers while dropping garbage in a dump. In every story I heard, the person actually found the body, which makes everything really creepy. This is a beautiful, but violent paradise...

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