The lush beauty of the mountains, valleys, and rivers of Honduras belie the human tragedy taking place on the land. I was unaware that the people of Honduras are on the front lines of our fight for the survival of a habitable planet, protecting it from a corrupt government selling its resources to powerful corporations depleting the land, contaminating the water, and driving climate change. They are willing to die for the land. They believe they have no other choice.
I am traveling with a diverse group of faith leaders wanting to learn about the root causes of migration from Honduras. I feel blessed by their sensitivity, insight, and kindness.
The first community we visited, the Lenca of Rio Blanco, live high in the mountains near the source of the river that sustains them. They have rolled rocks across a road built by a government-contracted hydroelectric company to prevent the building of a dam on the river, the life blood of their existence. They’ve camped there for 3 years to prevent the dam and have suffered violent consequences.
It’s against the International Convention on the Rights of Indigenous People to seize and use their land without consultation. The leader of their struggle, Berta Caceras, cofounder of COPINH, was assassinated last March. She had received the prestigious Goldman Prize for the Environment and had represented her people in Rome at the invitation of the Pope. She was a fearless advocate for her people’s rights. Employees of the company building the dam and military officers have been charged, but those who ordered it will likely remain unknown in this corrupt country of impunity. Berta was the hope and inspiration of the country. Hondurans expressed the belief that she could have been president. We met with her mother, one of the few women who had been elected to the national Congress. She received us in her home with dignity and poise, hiding tears behind a grief-stricken face.
The Lenca greeted us cautiously, but shared passionate testimonies expressing their willingness to die for Madre Tierra.
We hiked down to the river, an hour down a steep hill accompanied by members of the community. We waded in the cool river and sprinkled drops of water we had brought from as far away as the Ganges to show solidarity with their struggle. We returned to their encampment to a meal they cooked for us over open fires with fresh vegetables we had purchased in the market on the way.
More later on about those living in the Bajo Aguan Valley, the most fertile and productive land in the country, now victim to the African palm oil industry.
– posted by Suzanne Llewellyn