Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Lifting the curtain on Honduras

We spent part of the morning clearing in at the industrial shipping port of Puerto Cortes, with the assistance of our new friend, Flash, who spent ten years as a long-haul trucker out of Boston. He met us at the dock; at first we couldn't shake him, and then we didn't really want to. We could see that the officials all knew and liked him, so we just went with the flow, and had a pleasant time of it. Although, when we went back the next day, we found out he had stiffed his friend the dinghy minder.
And I spent part of the morning in line in the bank, trying to get smaller change for the 500 Lempira notes (about $25) that the ATM spit out. That no one ever has change, so you need your own, is a basic tenet of travel almost everywhere. So I stood in line, observing my fellow patrons and the action on the street - also watching an automated revolving security door spit people back into the lobby for various perceived infractions. It got me three times, once for my big bag, once for my little bag, and once for my hat, I think. Finally the door let me in carrying nothing more than the wallet and the four bills. I left with almost half an inch of paper: there is paper money for the equivalent of a nickel.

Unlike in Fronteras, there was not a Mayan-dressed woman in sight. Here the population is mixed, ladino or mestizo, and most people approach, even exceed, my own height. Wearing glasses! Styled hair, not just long black ponytails. Short haircuts. Many more people speak some English and will approach us for a friendly chat. We were told twice that 80 percent of the school children take some English. Men especially have been in the US, sometimes in the shipping ports of New Orleans, Miami and New York. Lots of bicycles and 'freelance' driving. And the bananas sold on the street are the big ones we're used to in the US, Gros Michel or its successor, still yellow.

Also no machetes in sight, and while the roosters still crow, the howler monkeys have been replaced by barking dogs and sometimes traffic noise.
We had a beer with a trio of young men, Omar, Alex and Anibal who told us that times were tight, nobody had work, be careful of bad guys, that they weren't all bad, they just needed to feed their families even in a 'crise economico'. Then one cell phone rang and they all pulled phones from their pockets and had a laugh about whether it should be answered, being from, I gather, some woman about some baby.

The town itself is pretty undistinguished and could use a general trash pickup, but people were accommodating and we enjoyed our visit.
This will be the town Christmas tree, and only a major port would have one like it. It's made like baggy wrinkle from bits of the polypropylene line - a blend of colors that ends up being greenish enough.

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