Honduras – El Ritmo Catracho
I have lived the last ten days at the rhythm of the sun, rising and setting, as the forgotten source of life does so elegantly each day. It is a different way of life than I am used to, and which the modern world has replaced with the mismatched, hyper coordinated schedules of the go-go ideology. The ‘Ritmo Catracho’ as they call it in Honduras, Catracho basically meaning Honduran, refers to this exact pace, a slow but meaningful existence of rich family values and community based economies that revolve around the rising and setting of the sun. Oh, and of course, when the sun is high in the sky, no work gets done.
On Sunday, February 14th I left San Salvador for La Ceiba, Honduras. We bused it up the western frontier to San Pedro Sula, a bustling city which is one of the main commerce hubs of Honduras, as well as the HIV capital of Central America. We had a 25 minute connection between buses so I was unable to explore any of the city. From San Pedro Sula to La Ceiba is a quick two and a half hour trip passing through some beautiful landscapes of banana plantations, palm nurseries, rivers coming down from the mountains inland heading towards the Caribbean. La Ceiba is a medium sized city on the north coast of Honduras, hosting a relatively heavy transit system for tourists heading to the islands of Roatan and Utila as well as Pico Bonito National Park.
When we arrived in La Ceiba, Rafa and I met up with Pau and Caterina, the two Spanish artists working in Pico Bonito. The meetings between Rafa, Pau, Caterina and the Bosques Pico Bonito organization (with whom Pau and Caterina are working) took three days and because of a torrential downpoor that lasted those same three days, I sat in on the meetings as well. Anyways, once the rain let up and the meetings were over, Rafa had to move on with the visits – the next stop was a small community on the other side of the national park called El Nance where Monica Gutierez, a Canadian Colombian artist was stationed and Pau and Caterina were heading back to San Marcos – a small mountain community in the National Park. I was anxious to get up to San Marcos so I decided to go with them and meet up with Rafa a day later.
San Marcos, on the River Cuero, is a typical mountain community in Honduras – it is very poor, farming is the driving economy, and there is no electricity expect for those who have hooked up car batteries for some luxuries such as a radio or CD player. Pau and Caterina live in a wooden house with a tin roof and they have one of the nice places because their floor is smooth concrete as opposed to dirt.
Within thirty seconds from their quaint little home is the River Cuero, a fast flowing spring fed river that is fed also by the San Marcos river as various other smaller ravines. I could not resist and took a dip only a few hours after we had arrived. It was pouring rain still up in the mountains and the water was frigid but a great way to wash up and cool down. Because of the rain, the interviews that I had come for (since we wanted them to be done outside) had to be postponed until the following morning before my departure.
This is something I am learning to deal with a lot, the uncertainty in planning and having to make quick executive decisions in order to achieve the results that I need. Like we hoped, the rain let up the next morning and we got the interviews done.
After sunset in San Marcos things get quiet very fast. At around 6:30pm the sky is almost dark (later in the year it will get dark later, around 7 or so), and with no electricity, the only thing to do was to sit by candle light or firelight and discuss the day’s happenings, play a bit of guitar and sing, and drink the only three beers the one town store had in stock that day.
It was so relaxing, the disconnection of it all, the helplessness that I felt at not having fingertip access to information or mind numbing entertainment – I felt more real, like the most important thing in the world at that moment was me – I think this is something that doesn’t happen enough in our hyper world today – I feel like there is this idea that other peoples lives and achievements are more important than our own, which is a bad way to live in my opinion.
Once the beer had dried up and the songs were sung and the candle had burned out, it was 8:30pm and definitely time to go to sleep if we wanted to get a recommended 8 hours of sleep before the roosters would catch a slight hint of the sun’s heat and belt out their cries of pride – “I’m the biggest rooster!!!” “No I AM!!!!” and so on. Check the room and bed for scorpions and shut off your headlamps, it’s bed time in San Marcos.
Just as days before had started, the roosters were on time for work and decided that around 3:30am, the sun was close enough to the horizon that it was time to start waking up the neighbours. People in these communities start their days at 4:30 everyday of the year – they need to get up, milk the cows, and get their goods to the market before opening around 7 – 8am. It is also beneficial to get most of the harder work out of the way before the intense mid day heat. Our work of the day finished successfully and I caught the noon bus that would take me back down to the coast to continue on my journey and meet up with Rafa. This bus, was actually just a small truck with two benches and a tin roof which doubled as a second seating area when the main seating area was full. After four separate bus rides and a total of seven hours, I had traveled between two points only 45km apart. From San Marcos to El Nance in the Yoro region of Honduras you have to take buses around the national park and the mountains because there are no navigable roads through it, a real drag when you realize the proximity of the two locations and the time its going to take to get there by bus. Anyways, Rafa and Monica were waiting for me when I arrived in El Nance.
El Nance is a slightly larger community than San Marcos and has electricity, at least in the main part of town. It was a great experience on the bus from Olanchito to El Nance – Olanchito is a larger city in the same valley and the last connection point on the journey. The bus was the last of the day filling with students returning from school and people coming home from work. Everyone knew everyone else. Not just the “I know that guy” relationships I had with some regulars on the 211 in Montreal, but the actual, I know you, your mother, your father, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, secrets and aspirations, birthday and what you said about me at the party last night type of relationship. This was true of everyone on the bus. It was refreshing to see a group of people, who live in different communities, some several miles apart, sharing jokes, discussion, debate and smiles with each other in a setting that I have come to associate with a “don’t look at me, I don’t know you” attitude.
The hospitality in El Nance was unbelievable, the family that is hosting Monica is so amazing. I was there only one full day and I felt like part of the family. From what I could gather, Monica is going to have a great year and be well looked after. I was even allowed to ride the family horse! This was amazing for me, my first time ever on a horse and it was a great experience. Luckily this horse with no name was well trained and did exactly what I told it to, I even brought it to a light gallop at one point which was enough for my first time. I look forward to my next ride, and would love at some point in my life to have a horse of my own I can. Such a beautiful animal.
The visit in El Nance was short but sweet and I look forward to the next one when I hope to really dive into the local culture and daily life and obviously the further documentation of the work of Monica as she works to bring the local communities together to raise consciousness towards the importance of environmental protection and water conservation.
Honduras is a beautiful country. Cactaste? (Get it?)