The 7 million people of Honduras do not live in a poor country—because it is rich in natural resources—but in a country of extensive poverty, said Héctor Efrén Flores.
That poverty has many roots—Central American wars of the 1980s, supported by the United States, are one. Extensive drug cartels funded by drugs sales in the United States is another. An economy warped by the impact of, and money from, illegal immigration to the United States, is a third.
Flores outlined some realities of Honduras in a speech Feb. 23 as part of the Global Issues Series at Mount Mercy University. In his speech, Flores—a lawyer, poet and activist—said Honduras has six families that own most of the country—200 people who basically possess a land of 7 million souls. Lest we be smug, my fellow Norte Americanos, let us note that not only is our middle class imploding, but our politics is increasingly ineffective in a warped, dysfunctional democracy whose government seems to be for sale to the highest billionaire bidders.
“We don’t need your idea of democracy,” Flores said at one point.
Ouch. He is probably right, but I think we need our idea of democracy. In the current election cycle, our dysfunction has grown to the point where one of our two major parties seems torn between a neo-fascist business tycoon clearly not qualified to be mayor of a modest city, let alone president, and a far-right, extreme ideologue legislator haTED by his own peers. The middle, it seems, no longer exists.
Well, we’re not Honduras, yet. But I wish we were comfortably farther from that kind of political corruption rather than edging that way.
Anyway, Flores wasn’t calling for us to take to the streets in the United States, but rather to condemn the corrupt government of Honduras, to stop emphasizing the military in our foreign aid, and to, mostly, leave Honduras alone to find its way.
“If you tell everyone what you learned tonight,” he said, “that would help a lot.”
In our current presidential campaign, it’s become fashionable for Republicans to bash immigrants. Flores says he doesn’t really think immigration is the root of the problem—it’s our insistence on making immigration illegal. If Hondurans could come to the U.S. legally, he says, they wouldn’t have to work in the shadows for substandard pay.
He hinted that the thinks it’s a bit too convenient that the byzantine, ruthless United States immigration regulations force Central American workers to be marginalized and thus easier for American businesses to exploit and underpay.
I don’t know if that’s the whole story. Immigration is such a big issue that it will partly be the focus of a whole series of conversations at Mount Mercy this fall. But I do think Flores was making a valid point.
So, kudos, Dr. Mohammad Chaichian. The Global Issues Series at MMU, which you coordinate, brought an interesting, thought-provoking speaker to Mount Mercy.
Flores, whose speech was translated from Spanish to English by Kate Kedley, a University of Iowa language doctoral student, was introduced by Belkis Suarez, assistant professor of Spanish. Suarez noted that Flores works for Fe y Alegría, an international Jesuit group that promotes education and social justice in many countries. That group was started by a Jesuit priest in the Venezuelan town Suarez came from.
Flores said his work as a political activist is dangerous. He fears for his life “todos los dias.” But he maintains hope for a better future for Honduras, and he says aiming to achieve that better future is worthy of his voice and the risks he takes every day.
Honduras, he said, is the greatest country on Earth, a multicultural land of possibility. Peace and economic development, which would be brought on by true democracy, could help Hondurans realize those possibilities.
If felt myself moved by such optimism in the face of adversity. It made me think of us, the United States. If we, the people, don’t like the current state of our politics, it is up to us to speak out, to make our own future something that is worthy of our voices.
Fe y Alegría, faith and joy: these are not things that are easy to have in times of adversity. But they are more conditions of the heart than rewards from outside us. May we have enough faith in ourselves to work towards a more joyous future—for us, for Honduras, for todo del mundo.