We arrived in Trujillo, Colon, Honduras at night in the pouring rain. A taxi climbed up a a small river that was previously a road and dropped us off at a house at the top of a little cobblestone hill. Thanks to a very generous person who lent us her apartment for the duration of the workshop (thanks Wendy!), we were able to stay for 3 weeks…and 3 weeks was not enough. There is a lot to say about Trujillo, both positive and negative, but the larger conclusion to which every problem and triumph was related was: migration. Yes, it is logical to conclude that a community whose members migrate in order to make a living for themselves and their families and who tend to be young (17-30 range) will be more unstable than one that does not. Seeing this reality is a little different, though, than just knowing it to be true. In the face of constant migration and the challenges that it brings for sustainable organizing efforts, the Garifuna community radio station Radio Waruguma is working to find solutions. Hopefully, our workshop was a positive part of that process.
We were there for a while, so we had a bit of time to explore…
Exploration #1: Trujillo Prison
As we were wandering around the cute, colonial town center, we started to hear drums and followed the sound. After making several inquiries with people on the street, the music turned out to be coming from the prison. We asked the guards if we could go in and they let us (at this point, we thought we were special, but we learned about 2 minutes later that it was visiting day and anybody could enter). On entering through the gate with a guy who was not a guard (to this day, his official role remains unclear), we saw what we had only previously heard about…a little city. The photo below is of the common cooking/living area. There are multiple camping stoves and sacks of veggies along with pool tables and a pulperia (little store) where inmates can buy little snacks. The prison was PACKED. We made it past this common area to the drumming. The weekends are the only days that people are allowed to dance and sing and drum, so it was happening all day. An inmate decided to give us a tour…and we followed him. He took us to the shared sleeping quarters and back to the common area to explain that the little orange box in the corner of the photo below is actually a private room that can be rented out. There is more to the story, but if you want more details, you’ll have to contact us!
Exploration #2: Indio Barbaro
Starting December 1st and lasting throughout the holiday season, the exciting and anxiety-inducing game of Indio Barbaro is a constant presence in the Garifuna neighborhoods of Trujillo. We were coming back from the beach looking for food when we saw a herd of children running and screaming. What was happening? Indio Barbaro had begun. This game is one where anyone on the street is playing (whether they want to or not). Young men put masks on (some are traditional and some are like the Scream mask below), skirts (some grass some not) and cover themselves in a black, oily substance. They have an entourage of little boys pointing out which people to approach and one carries a little, plastic jug full of the black oil so that the Indio Barbaro can freshen up his paint. You give him money or he smears you with paint. They announce their presence with whistles. Toward the middle of December, one of us started getting clammy hands when the whistle blew…It’s especially entertaining to watch older people publicly sass the Indio Barbaro and entourage for including them in the game.
Guadalupe Carney is a land recuperation that lies near the highway about 25 minutes from the outskirts of Trujillo, in the Aguan valley. A former military base that was used by the CIA to train Contra paramilitaries who attempted to destabilize the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua, it is now home to campesino families from all over Honduras whose land was devastated by Hurricane Mitch in 1998. The campesino movements fought to gain the legal land titles from the Honduran government and today the agricultural land is organized into cooperatives. Recently, though, the land recuperation has been under siege by the Honduran oligarchy (principally Miguel Facusse), backed by private security groups and US-trained Honduran police and military, who seek to expand highly-profitable African palm plantations (the dates are pressed and the oil is used for biofuel and to make margarine among other products).
Guadalupe Carney is probably the only city in Honduras that has three community radio stations. We worked primarily with Radio Lider while a couple of the youth members from Radio Orquidea also participated in the 2-day workshop. Programs include a short dramatization of the community issue and an interview with a local “expert” (see below).
Overcoming many obstacles, the Radio Waruguma group in Trujillo group produced 4 different radio programs (see below) and one group was able to debut their program on another local radio station Estereo Islas. The man with the headphones is Marvin Bobadilla, a radio, TV and print journalist that invited the participants to present on his daily radio news program. The man with the closely-cropped hair is the director of Radio Waruguma and the young woman with the mic joined the workshop during the last week. She came when she was sick, made coffee for everyone twice, put men in their place when they weren’t working AND always arrived on time or early. Thank you Fany (our hero). They were interviewed on the air and filmed for a TV spot that aired later in the day.
Programs created by participants from Radio Lider and Radio Orquidea in Guadalupe Carney, Aguan
Radio Waruguma programs
More information on the fight to defend land rights in Trujillo, Honduras and the Bajo Aguan
Snowbirds Gone Wild! Canadian retirees and locals clash in Honduras by Dawn Paley, This.org
Honduras’ Banana Coast: Ripe for Development? by Kaelyn Forde, The Real News Network
North Coast Housing Developments and Cruise Ship Tourism: Safe for Foreigners? by Wendy Griffin, Honduras Weekly
Honduras: Mega-Tourism and Garifuna Communities Collide by Jack Eidt, Wilder Utopia
Tierra Fertil (the documentary formerly-known as Resistencia), trailer for Jesse Freeston’s upcoming film
Human Rights Violations Attributed to Military Forces in the Bajo Aguan Valley in Honduras by Rights Action
Comunidad Garifuna de Trujillo Demanda al Rey Porno Canadiense por Organización Fraternal Negra Hondureña (OFRANEH)
El Banana Coast y la expulsión de los garífunas de la bahía de Trujillo video hecho por OFRANEH