The dirt road into the Garifuna community of Barra Vieja are muddy from the water which collects in the massive potholes, which grow ever larger as the road and the community it leads to are ever more neglected and abandoned by the Honduran government for the “crime” of refusing to leave the land their families have called home for more than 200 years. The response from the Garifuna community was not violent, but it was resolute: simply to do what they have always done, ban together, roll up their sleeves and fill the holes the best they can and refuse to leave their homes.
Government reprisals do not end with neglected roads. The community school has been closed, health services withdrawn, requests for access to electricity, water and sanitation. The Garifuna people’s response is once again one of peaceful resistance. They use what little resources they have to purchase water, they treat their sick with what medications they can find, walk miles to bury their dead and have even built their own school, but cannot find a teacher.
What they cannot overcome, no matter how determined or industrious they might be is blocked access to the life blood of their people, the sea and surrounding mangroves. Their tiny boats and make-shift fishing gear cannot travel more than a few hundred feet off shore, and their equipment is completely unsuitable for deep water fishing. This leaves these proud fishermen unable to provide for their families. Already the community of Barra Vieja which was once 125 families is now only 75. Many forced to leave.
Unlike my fellow pilgrims, I am a business woman, and understand the importance of governments fostering a business friendly environment in developing a strong economy and a prosperous nation. However, a government, especially one representing a decidedly vulnerable population must use their strength and power to level the playing field and ensure that any and all private corporations, especially foreign corporations understand that all business conducted within their borders must be in the best interest of all its citizens and contribute to the greater good.
The government of Honduras has not only failed to advocate for its most vulnerable, they are active participants in the degradation of the people and communities who refuse to allow the land they have depended on for generations, land guaranteed to them under Honduran law, and reaffirmed by judgement in the Honduran courts be destroyed along with their communities. This is not simply a violation of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, it is a violation of human decency and morality.
I wish I could simply point my finger and lay blame solely at the doorstep of the current Honduran administration, but alas, I also have blood on my hands, as do each of us. The Directors, owners and stockholders of the companies engaged in these stealing these lands, the ambassadors and governments of origin for these companies including my own (Canada) who refuse to denounce these activities, those who purchase these “cheap” vacation homes, and each of us who choose to do nothing.
Perhaps, if we could all meet, as our group did these peaceful people who fill the pot holes, scrounge for medicine, live without electricity or running water and who build a school but cannot pay a teacher, we might find inspiration to make their fight, out fight, their struggle our struggle and their future, our future.
- by Shannon Engeland