Wednesday, July 23, 2014

In the works

There are several possible projects in the works in the parish of Dulce Nombre.

The first is going along rather swiftly.

In January when Fr. Jon Seda came from St. Thomas Aquinas in Ames, he was accompanied by a young man who had graduated from Iowa State a few years ago and had visited Dulce Nombre in 2011.He had interest in initiating a direct marketing of coffee from some small coffee producers in the parish.

He spoke with two producers from different villages who provided samples. I insisted that what I considered important was that the producers organize themselves and that some investment be made in their work. I think this is the best way to proceed since it does not make the US partner a mere buyer and helps the local coffee producers work together.

A month later one of the men told me that he had 15 small coffee producers interested. They later met and formed themselves into a cooperative, with officers – though only with 14 members, since one had gone to the US.

A few months later I sent samples from three of the coop members to the US contact. He had them toasted and taste-tested by a small organization that toasts and distributes coffee. The quality of the samples was very good and there is interest in buying from the coop.

There are many steps to be taken to get this really going, but they are meeting and I am helping them with some contacts to help them get official recognition as well as put together a plan of action to maintain and improve the quality of the coffee.

Next week four of them and I are going to visit La UniónMicrofinanza which does direct marketing of coffee.

The second possibility is in process.

A few months ago someone donated a manzana (1.68 acres) of land planted with coffee to the parish. The coffee, of the newly-developed OBATA variety, had been planted in August of last year. It thus won’t give a decent yield until the 2016 or 2017 harvest.  The parish also has the opportunity of buying a contiguous manzana planted with OBATA and is hoping for some financing.

Coffee obata

Padre German’s idea is to use the yields of the coffee to finance the parish’s formation process, as a way to become a little self-sustaining.

Each month a sector from the parish is going out to weed or fertilize the fields or to enclosed the land with barbed wire (to prevent cattle from entering the field.) This year corn has been planted in the field and so this should help generate some funds or, at least, provide corn for the parish’s meetings.

Corn and coffee 
The third possible project is still in the discussion phase.

A US non-profit is interested in starting a medical clinic in the Dulce Nombre area and is seeking the cooperation of the parish. They propose to assist funding for a number of years with the plan of helping the clinic become self-sustaining. I think they also see this as a way to help local medical professionals, many of whom are unemployed.

I hope this comes to fruition since I think this might be a good way to involve some of my friends and acquaintances who are in the medical professions.

There are probably other possibilities which I’ll see when I’m living out in the parish, but that will have to wait a few months.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Accompanying the youth

Sunday afternoon I went to the village of El Limon. the youth there were hosting a meeting with the youth of another village, Yaruconte.

El Limon youth
Things started late, which is not a surprise. A bus with 40 young people from Yaruconte arrived more than an hour late. Transportation foul-ups.

Yaruconte youth arriving
 The hosting group – about 30 young people – awaited them in the church. The church was full since many parents, adults, and little children had come out to see what was happening.

They began with some animated singing. But I sense that they weren’t sure what to do – so I proceeded to lead a few ice breakers. I also had the young people from El Limon write what they’d like to discuss in their group.

When the group from Yaruconte arrived, they were greeted in the small church – which was already full.

A panorama of the youth from both communities
There was a lot of singing and the El Limon group put on two dramas. And there was more singing.

The rich man and Lazarus

 A young guy from Yaruconte had the young people introduce themselves and then led the final prayer – a 20 minute prayer. A bit long for me.

Then there was a small snack – baleadas and ticucos.

It was great to see so much energy and to see young people who are trying to take their faith seriously.

It is our hope in the parish that young people will form base communities of young people. Based on what we learn from the young people and their concerns, we’ll try to develop some material to help.

I do have a few concerns.

I hope that the young people are allowed to develop their own leadership and to run their own groups.

I also hope that they are not satisfied with mere enthusiasm or charismatic leaders or animated singing. I hope they can deepen their faith so that it becomes a part of their daily lives.

Before I left I spoke with one of the coordinators of the Yaruconte group, a 23 year old guy. He asked me a question that another young person had briefly asked me beforehand: Is it okay if we do folkloric dances?

Yes, I said, because that is part of recovering and preserving your culture, your inheritance. Indeed, the preservation of culture is a real concern of the Latin American Catholic church.

It seems that they had prepared some dances as well as some dramas but someone in El Limon had told them that they shouldn’t do them in the church where they were meeting.

I don’t know if this was because the meeting was in the church or because there were some people in El Limon who are opposed to dancing of any sort and see it as sinful – this is not uncommon among some Catholics here.

But that won’t stop the young people.

I will be continuing to help them. In fact, this Saturday I’ll be going to San Agustin to help with their youth on the theme of trust.

My real hope, though, is to have a day and a half workshop with four leaders from each village where the youth are organizing themselves – to develop leaders who will work with their peers. That can be quite a challenge, but it’s worth it.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Pouring the terraza

Today about 27 mostly young guys worked from 6 am to noon to pour the terraza on the house in Plan Grande. The terraza is the roof of one floor and the floor of another.

It’s a process that has to be completed in one day so that the reinforced concrete is one piece, without seams.

Boards are place above the walls of the first floor and are supported by beams called pilotos.

Then the wiring for the ceilings is put above the board and rebars are put in place. 

Then the pouring begins in the morning.

The maestro de obra – the construction supervisor – had an electric mixer.

One part water, two parts sand, two parts gravel, and one half of a bag of cement are mixed together.

The mixture is then poured into an area where it is further mixed and put in buckets.

It is then handed up to the guys on the roof who pour the concrete over the boards.

The terraza for this house is five inches thick.

The mixture is flattened out and then leveled off.

A final pass over is made to prevent cracking.

The concrete has to dry for at least one week before they can start doing more construction on the second floor.

The wood and supports stay in place for about 20 days.

What is amazing is that this is often done without architects or engineers. (In fact, most of this was my design. I am, though asking a young engineer friend I know to help with designing the roof.)

More photos of the construction in progress at

Monday, July 14, 2014

Minors and miners

Much is being written about the crisis of unaccompanied child and adolescent migrants in the US. I have written about this in a recent post here, and I just translated a statement on the crisis by the bishops of Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and the US which you can read here.

In the midst of this “crisis” in the US about the increasing number of unaccompanied minors entering from Central America, I doubt that many have heard about the miners in Choluteca, Honduras.

Artisanal mining is a way that some people seek to extract gold or other ores from the earth in very simple ways.

But this mining has brought very tragic consequences in southeastern Honduras. A gold mine collapsed and eleven men were trapped about 80 meters underground. Three were rescued but now efforts to find the other eight have been suspended.
  • Brayan Escalante (18) rescued
  • Bayron Maradiaga (19) –rescued
  • Nehemías Méndez (25) - rescued
  • Olvin Anduray (20)
  • Santos Emilio Núñez (42)
  • Wilmer Ramírez (22)
  • Arony Zepeda (23)
  • Florentino Anduray (25)
  • Edwin Martínez (17)
  • Óscar Javier Fúnez Gúnera (18)
  • Santos Felipe López (40)

Note that four of the miners were under 21 years of age and all but four were under 25.

These mostly young men sought this dangerous way of earning a living because they found nothing else available in their area. One news report cited an 18 year old who had been studying to be a teacher. He lives alone with his grandmother and went to mine because of a small debt he has. He was making 4 dollars a day making piñatas – but that was not enough.

The tragedy of the situation is reflected in a communiqué on the crisis by Monseñor Guido Charbonneau, the bishop of Choluteca. My translation is here.

Poverty has pushed many to crime or migration. But these resisted and tried to eke out a living in a most dangerous way.

What will be done? What can be done?

According to Latino Daily News:
President Juan Orlando Hernandez’s administration said in a statement Wednesday that it will support efforts aimed at reviving the region’s agricultural sector, including coffee farming, so people will not have to depend on unregulated mining for their livelihoods.
Too little, I believe; too late for the eight miners who have died.

In the meantime, people will leave for the North seeking a way out of poverty and violence. 

Friday, July 11, 2014


A few days ago I began to read Marie Luise Knott’s Unlearning with Hannah Arendt.

In the early 1970s I had Hannah Arendt for classes and seminars at the Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research in New York City. She was a breath of fresh air.

But it was not until I started reading Knott’s chapter on “Laughter: The Sudden Turn of the Mind" did I realize that what I most appreciated was her humanness – the twinkle of laughter which one could occasionally glimpse in her eyes.

I am not finished the chapter but I wanted to share two quotes from the book.

In the early 1940s Arendt wrote:
“The friend of the oppressed will always need that great confidence in our fellow men which teaches us to laugh.”
There are too many overly serious persons seeking to change the world and to be in solidarity with the oppressed. We need the hope of laughter and confidence in others that Arendt noted.

The other quote is from Walter Benjamin whose thought she admired:
“Let me note in passing that there is no better starting place for thought than in laughter. Specifically, the convulsion of the diaphragm usually offers better opportunities for thought than the convulsion of the soul.”
I think we need a lot more laughter in our lives and in our world – so that we can think more freely and more imaginatively and so that we can be real friends with the oppressed.

More thoughts to come - as the laughter continues!