Reflections from Julie who, after our pilgrimage to Honduras, went to Belize.

Perfect break after Honduras most intense nine days ever – all so rich, cumulative effect is overwhelming:     1b0f3824-ab1e-4481-90ca-24aa898de7e9

– Highway toll booth protest first day.  Privatization another form of extraction from the poor.
– Hike to Gualcarque river ritual (swim too) with Rio Blanco community of indigenous Lenca fighting the hydroelectric company dam project.  The lucha (struggle) leading to the government assassination last March 3rd of Berta Caceres, internationally recognized (Goldman Environmental Prize Winner 2015).  Now the country’s number one martyr (“Viva Berta!” seen all over)
– Visiting Berta’s mother in her home, herself a former mayor and congresswoman, midwife delivering over 10,000 children.
– Meeting with Bajo Aguan campesino organization fighting land usurpation by African Palm plantation owners, hearing of the 150 assassinations in the Bajo Aguan, of presidents and leaders of local organizations.   Feeling their reeling from the assassination of another two key leaders on  Oct 18th, and another Oct. 31st,. Witnessing the tears of his mother now in hiding herself.
– Meeting with African slave-descended Garifuna community whose land and water are being usurped by a Canadian porn king owned resort.
          Noticing a theme here?
– Hearing from four union leaders of t-shirt maquilas (assembly factories) about their heroic efforts to withstand and improve near-slave-like conditions and abuses.  (Totally belied by the Gildan company website’s PR puffery, I see.)
– Meeting with two señora leaders of La Patrona, Veracruz México group organized to give food bags and water bottles to migrants riding the tops of the northbound train (“La Bestia“- the beast)
– At the airport, meeting an ICE contracted plane from Virginia depositing 123 deportees.  USAID funded.  US immigration policy sponsored.
– Hearing from three young returnees at Mennonite Service Committee project about social development re-integration and vocational training programs (cell phone repair hot!  Collections to ensue…)
– Celebrated 60th anniversary of our hosts Radio Progreso the Jesuit-sponsored beyond-fullsizerender-1Pacifica voice of the people, with gala dinner one night, two days of forums on human rights and migration, street mobilization march (last use of our street banners to remain there), including “Rio Gualcarque y Standing Rock: Agua es vida! TIerra es Vida!”), Saturday night balloon- and fireworks-studded international music festival preceded by mass in the park led by Padre Melo, Radio Progresso’s director, also internationally laureled, by the Rafto Prize, the Norwegian human rights award.
Padre Melo’s radical call for liberty, solidarity and justice permeated his homily – and was exemplified by his inclusion on stage, next to the three other priests, of two women – including our own leader Rev. Deborah Lee.  She was also given the honor of being able to pass out the Communion wafers.  Co-pilgrim Sister Phyllis, in her own amazement, explained how truly leading edge is such inclusiveness.
We’d brought an array of “solidarity gifts” for the various groups we met.  A last one in my bag that night was still seeking a home – a roll of large prayer flags from Tibet. In the beer and wine reception room for international guests during the concert, I was inspired to give it to Padre Melo, then sitting with a Norwegian from the Rafto Foundation who helped unfurl the string of flags – and explained what they were.  A balding teddy bear of all heart and twinkle (AND the subject of repeated death threats who travels with a security team of seven), Padre Melo immediately said he’d hang them in the yard at Radio Progresso.  I told him I thought they were particularly fitting because I think of him as the Dalai Lama of Honduras. His brief nod was serious, his hug and smile warm.   fullsizerender-2
In Honduras every day we had bananas or plantains at almost every meal.  Today in Belize in the three small neighborhood markets found on my morning walk, only a few green, hard bananas were available.  Thus my amplified delight to discover at the poolside palapa bar-restaurant a smoothie, a la banana!  Did I want it with coconut milk?  Oh, yessssss!
Ocean on the horizon.
More fotos and fuller Honduras stories by travelmate contributors at pilgrimage blog
In the words of the motto of Radio Progreso:
      Uno pueblo. Una voz.  Muchas historias.
      One people.  One voice.  Many stories.
–  Julie Steinbach  995214ba-526d-4334-b451-1222e5aaa31f