La Ceiba is a city of great contradictions. The city streets vary from well maintained two-lane highways to torn up roads that enter the suburbs. There is green, there is wealth, there are modern signs, there is squalor, and there is always danger.
A month ago today gunmen entered Nena’s home. They held her up with Fiore. Bo was at home and heard her pleading outside and came at them gun blazing, shooting her attacker.
There has been an effort to secure the compound ever since. Gates are reinforced and serpentina being put around the top of the walls. The weapon that came to her aid is now at her side at all times and in the trips to town for her compras she is always looking over her shoulder.
Today as we walked between street stalls and shop entrances in narrow corridors rain water sloshed up from the flooded street. Nena was very nervous. Always in the back of her mind she remembers her fear of that day. There is someone out there who once tried to kill her and there are bullet holes in the walls of her home.
But life must go on. And Nena refuses to leave her home. I love my home she repeats to me over and over. Amo a mi tierra, a La Ceiba. And so we found ourselves in the cafe of Lena, a family friend.
The pastelitos de pollo and cafe de oro (negro, fuerte y sin azucar) were excellent! The soup on the stove promised to be just as good. Lena kissed Monkey and caught up with Myce as she arranged food on plates for us and black coffee. Monkey ate the “chick-chix” out of the pastelito and threw the flour shell back into her mummy’s hand. Thanking Lena we set off to look at clothing in the second-hand stores and get our nails done before coming back for soup.
The shopping surprised me. There is a thriving industry for second-hand clothing in La Ceiba! We walked through, looking through shelf after shelf and I couldn’t help but wonder how many of my own donations ended up on these shelves and how many were actually given free to the poor. Leafing through clothing discarded by people as fortunate as we are I remember my mother packing up and bundling clothing my brother and I had outgrown as children and giving them to our Tía to take to Honduras for the less fortunate. I always felt honoured as a little girl to help a little girl who needed my favourite jeans but couldn’t afford them for herself from the stores. It was only in my adulthood with veils of worshipful blinders stripped away that a little voice in my head suggested that they were probably sold in the end for handsome profit. I put the thought from me, disappointed at the mercenary image it presented.
But today the image came alive. I saw it for myself.
The rain fell, the road flooded and we came back damp and ready for soup. Monkey fought sleep enough to eat and we made it to the supermarket. Tortilla vendors, tamale vendors, lychee vendors, banana vendors, and plaintain vendors all clamoured around the front of the modern supermarket with rows of metal carts. Inside, neatly stacked shelves boasted pastas of various shapes and Boyardee sauces, Ruffles potato chips and french onion dip, queso in full display of local varieties and anything you would expect from a modern supermarket. I picked up snacks for the children, a razor for my neglected skin, and coffee to take home to Cayman. Nena did her compras for the house. It was an altogether successful trip.
The difference in what life would have been had our forefathers made different choices struck me, as it always does on trips to Jamaica. But it hit me in a different place this time. There is a different kind of danger to La Ceiba, a more raw and direct threat to life with each passing moment. The land is more hostile, the parasites more violent, and the people more… more something I cannot put my finger on. Jamaica has a vibrancy, a determined fighting spirit. It is violently passionate but almost forcibly so. Honduras does not have to force anything at all. Siestas are sweet, music is romantic, and love is real but the violence that is so raw and brutal and so very near the surface makes it all so much… more. Moments spent alive and together with loved ones and with sweet breath are savoured like pastelitos.
We came across many friends of the family who greeted Nena and welcomed back Myce, joyful at how well she looks. Monkey was showered with kisses and fussed over and remarks made on her white skin. I was welcomed to Honduras for my first time and wished a pleasant trip. We filled a taxi boot with bags and groceries and souvenirs and drove home with nails done and an accomplished tiredness from compras en la lluvia.