My class + some other SASers had an overnight trip to a lodge called Pico Bonito in Honduras second largest national park. Before I get to the lodge experience, I want to touch a bit on the politics, something that lodge goers have the luxury of escaping.
In 2009, the Honduran people overthrew president Zalaya in a coup and re-instated a military regime. More recently, the country has re-established democracy, but the country remains divided. As the second poorest country in the world, Honduras has a large gap between the wealth elite and the dirt poor. In our two-day excursion, my class heard a leftist view from a professor at a Honduras university, a tour guide who is a second-year college student with an elitist perspective and an unbiased view from an NGO called Adelante. The professor told us that although the coup is considered a revolution, an act that citizens have the right to exercise under Constitutional law, it was the biggest setback to Constitution growth. According to the professor, even though Zalaya wasnt the greatest president, he had the right idea. But the elite of the country did not like him because when he took office, he became more and more leftist. His policies shifted away from what would be in the best interest of the private companies and moved away from United States aid to instead rely on Venezuelan imports. He began attempting to topple elite-run monopolies. Thus, the coup happened and Zalaya was forced to leave the country, leaving the country in chaos.
On the complete opposite side of the spectrum, our guide, Gary, gave us the elitist perspective. Garys been privileged his whole life his father owns three businesses and he is a second-year student studying at university in Honduras. The 21-year-old has been fortunate enough to live in France for a year and study at University of Miami for an exchange program. When he spoke of Zalaya, his brow immediately furrowed. Zalaya was a dictator he told us. “No questions asked.” A dictator who wanted to be like Che and Chavez, rather than a real leader. A dictator who wanted to get rid of U.S. ties to join forces with Venezualan drug lords and corrupt government. But above all, a dictator who wanted to share the wealth by breaking up monopolies and private owned business. For me and my family, this was not a good thing. We are a private owned business, this would jeopardize us, he said. In Gary’s eyes, LAZINESS is Honduras biggest problem. People are poor because they are lazy, he said. He then pointed to graffiti on the wall of a street that read Si a la constituente. Instead of praising the revolutionary words, he deemed them pointless. There are people who paint in the streets and then there are people who work every day like me, he said. The people who believe in Zalayas revolucion are the types of people who paint on the walls.
Gary is a representation of the average elite Honduran who would be considered a Conservative in the United States. His blunt elitism baffled me, but nevertheless opened my eyes to what the other side thinks. The rest of the drive was also eye-opening. At every door of every bank, grocery store and school were guards with guns. They frisked people walking in and out to make sure they had no arms on them. Everyone loves the military, according to Gary. But it really didnt seem like it.
Anyway, we finally got to the lodge at Pico Bonito, located deep in the heart of the rainforest. It took four hours by bus until we finally arrived and when we got there, it was like a hole in the wall lodge with the most gorgeous view. Our rooms were 2-person cabins (just like at summer camp) but a little more luxurious. The lodge owner, who is American, told us the lodge is the perfect example of ecotourism. Since it first opened, he said he has helped many poor Hondurans get jobs and educate them so they can better their lives. That’s how he does his part. Upon arrival, we got ready and went on a two hour hike through the rainforest. As we walked, it began pouring. I guess thats what happens when you hike in a RAINforest. It was so surreal feeling the rain on my skin, drenching all of our bodies and backpacks but giving us the perfect motivation to continue the hike. We returned, swam a bit in the pool, showered and had a three-course meal (all dishes I would submit to foodporndaily.com).
The next day, we went on another hike this time to a river that was inside the rainforest. HIGHLIGHT: Facing my fear of heights by jumping off a 50-foot rock (along with my SAS friends and professor) into the rivers current. Though I enjoyed my wilderness experience, I felt like I didnt get to really see Honduras, aside from the drive. Next time I promise to go more into the city because my favorite part about traveling so far has been the interaction with the country’s people. Tomorrow I’ll do a post on Guatemala, I promise!