By Sophia Anderson & Desirae Wrathall
When asked about her political perspective, Azucena Garcia states, “If Mel brings peace, let him come, if Micheletti brings peace, let him stay.” Azucena does not care who stays in office, she just wants the crisis to end and life to go back to normal. Julia Ramirez, sells cosmetics, but says that right now nobody is buying. People want to keep their money rather than spend it because they do not know what is going to happen next.
On Monday, September 21st, deposed president, Manual Zelaya, shocked the country when he snuck back in and took up residence in the Brazilian embassy. Almost immediately, chaos ensued as the acting government issued a nationwide curfew less than an hour before it was set to go into effect. Shopping cart jams formed in the supermarkets and traffic jams in the streets. The initial curfew lasted forty hours and shut down the country for almost two full work days. Interim president, Roberto Micheletti, lifted the curfew at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday after widespread concern was expressed, but nationwide evening curfews have continued since, interfering with commerce and transportation. Protests, primarily in the capital of Tegucigalpa, have resulted in violence and vandalism. Conflicting media information and varying rumors have caused fear and confusion. For a better sense of the reality of the situation, we spoke directly with clients to hear their personal perspective.
At the Miramar assembly meeting in La Ceiba, six women gather together on a shaded front porch. Irma Garcia, the Adelante credit officer starts out the meeting by saying “Welcome compañeras, thank you for being here today. Things have been tough, there are troubling events happening around us, but we are alive and well, and will keep moving forward.” All nod in agreement. After initial business is taken care of and an educational lesson given on “Domestic Violence”, the subject of the group discussion changes to the current crisis, and the participants give their personal accounts:
Devlin Posadas sells baleadas (a typical Honduran food, consisting of a flour tortilla filled with beans and cheese). She sells them in the street, at the billiard halls, and to some established clients. Last week, she made a hundred baleadas, a reasonable amount based on what she usually sells. But nobody wanted to buy even one baleada because they did not have any money nor would they buy on credit because they didn’t know when they would have any money. Devlin also works occasionally as a mariscera (a person who cleans seafood for export). There has not been any work lately because no boats have been coming in to port. Her husband works as a waiter at a hotel restaurant. Due to the curfew, he is not making his usual salary, but being paid hourly when the restaurant is open. His employer has even insisted that he come to work despite the curfew because the hotel had clients. Consequently, as there was no public transportation available, he had to walk all the way there – an hour journey – while avoiding the police and the fear of being caught and thrown in jail.
The assembly members discussed solutions to the crisis, primarily to hold the upcoming November elections and democratically elect a new individual to office. While Devlin nods in agreement, she says, “No voy a votar. I’m not going to vote. Even though I have always voted in the past, I am disillusioned by the whole situation. Mel was elected by the people and they took him out, so what’s to stop them from doing it all over again? The police would have to make me vote. Otherwise, I’m not going to bother.”
Besy Barahona sells food items and Avon products. Right now her business is doing poorly. She often sells her Avon products on credit, but right now people just do not want to take the chance. If they have a little extra money, they prefer to hold on to it because they never know when they might need it. They are also trying to keep their cash on hand since they don’t know when a curfew might go into effect and they would not be able to get to the bank. Besy says, “People have cut the luxuries; they don’t have any extra money to spend.”
Julissa Posadas makes packaged lunches and sells them to the workers at restaurants like Pizza Hut and KFC, but right now nobody is buying. Usually the workers like some variety as they get bored of eating pizza or chicken all the time, but right now they do not care – they just want to save money so they are just eating whatever the restaurants give them.
Azucena Garcia has a small caseta (snack food shop) in her house. She sells foods like baleadas, pastelitos (meat pies), and sodas. The majority of her clients are students on their way to and from school. With all the curfews and cancelled classes her businesses has dropped dramatically. Lately she has been making about L.24 ($1.27) per day. She says that right now people are saving money by eating at home. They are not spending on luxuries. “Hay que tener paciencia porque las cosas van a mejorar. You have to have patience because things will get better”, Azucena says. She has a lot of faith in God and she feels optimistic that this crisis is temporary and things are going to improve.
The group speaks in general about their desire for the situation to end, and for their kids to be back in school – classes have been sporadic – as public school children have basically missed three months of classes. Some feel that local crime has increased as the police focus on the political situation. They also humorously predict that due to the curfew, there will be a baby boom nine months from now.
Regardless of the politics, it is with your help that the Adelante Foundation continues to serve these women in a very difficult time in Honduran history. Thank you for your continued support.