By: Arianne Walker

In recent years, Honduras’ image to the world has been slandered by the
term, “Murder Capital of the World,” due to its high volumes of deaths.  Now
that it is being associated with this term, the people of Honduras and the
government have been very bitter towards each other in certain regions
of the country especially in the countryside of the Aguan region.

After reading up about all that was going on in Honduras, I wanted to
explore and witness everything first hand. Through the generosity of ROCLA
and LASC, I was able to make my way down there for a very unforgettable
experience. This was the first time I ever traveled to a Central American
country. Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw. People are dying for
the natural resources of their homeland. There were a few things that struck
me the most while I was learning about the injustices that were going on.
These injustices were particularly severe in the Siria Valley, the Aguan
region, and an area named Triunfo de la Cruz which is a small section in the
Caribbean north coast of Tela, Honduras.

We went to the Siria Valley to learn what was going on in the mining areas.
After driving around through small neighborhoods, we came upon a very big
and black hill that looked as if it was dried out. Grahame explained to us
that this it used to have vegetation on this hill but due to the mining
materials it was no longer the same. I learned that the mining companies
sprayed that area with cyanide so the gold will separate from the ground and
run down into their make shift catchers. The cyanide also seeped into their
water system in the neighborhoods and the people of the Siria Valley were
drinking cyanide and didn’t even know it. Drinking cyanide can, of course,
lead to many health problems and can even result in death.

We met a young woman who drank the water while she was pregnant
with twins and went into early labor causing her babies to die just hours
after they were born. She also explained that they did tests on her
when she was younger and never gave her the results of those tests.
While driving around, we encountered more people who had defects
due to the water and the fumes. We met some children and adults
that had skin discoloration and painful rashes all over
their bodies. The explained that they pain was unbearable and that they
couldn’t even get the medication for it because it was too expensive. The
people of the Siria Valley try to help each other get over the injustices
that they face together even long after the mining companies have packed
their bags.

   The Aguan Region is the region of Honduras that is in the news the most
because that is where most of the killings occur. Rich land owner, Miguel
Facussé Barjum has been terrorizing the people of Honduras by taking their
land and ordering the deaths of many campesinos. Innocent people are dying
and being put in jail over African palm oil trees, one of the biggest
exports now. The lands where they are planting these trees used to be owned
by the campesinos but little by little the government and land owners are
claiming that land and forcefully removing the people living on it. Recently
the 103rd and 104th campesinos were killed in the Aguan Region since 2010.
The crime there has really escalated and things there have not gotten better

   Another region that we visited was named Triunfo de la Cruz where the
indigenous Garifuna people live. Miguel Facussé Barjum has also been taking
their lands to help build resorts and areas for the rich people to stay. He
and his henchmen (death squads) built a wall going right through their
territory and when the Garifuna people tried to take it down they were shot
and killed. The Garifuna people were very humble and welcoming. The time
spent with the Garifuna people was my favorite part of the trip. The people
were very friendly. While in the community I took a walk and started to
question more things. How could someone be so selfish? How could someone be
so full of greed to want to displace families for money? Why would someone
take over their lands? The answer to that question is in order to plant oil
palms, and also tourism expansion. The displacement of families and killing
people for money is simply immoral. Everything that I saw on this trip only
gave me more fuel to my fire of thinking about ways to get more people
involved and educated about what is going on in the world, particularly in
Central America.

June 4, 2013