I´m here with the Quixote Center delegation that has gathered 19 fabulous folks from around the US and Canada. Yesterday we met with many key leaders of the resistance movement – their leader Carlos H Reyes, lawyers, teachers, feminists and journalists. It was a crash course in what life and resistance for 5 months under a repressive regime looks like. We squeezed in back-to-back meetings from morning to night, before the leaders set off for their places of hiding for the upcoming ¨"event" on Sunday, refusing to use the word "elections".
The face and body of Carlos H. spoke as clearly as his words. The last time I saw him, just days after the coup, we were marching on the streets of Tegucigalpa, in the company of thousands. He was vibrant, energetic, robust and hopeful. Yesterday his face was drawn and his right hand limp, broken in an encounter with police. But his words were intact. In spite of the repression, the loss of lives, the months on the street, the threats, the dismal position of the U.S., he was clear that this journey that the Honduran people have embarked upon – towards a Constitutional Assembly, is unstoppable.
This morning I awoke to a call from Bertha Oliva, who seems to never sleep. A leader of one of the feminist resistance groups had been detained last night, and could I please try to find a way to visit her. A few hours later a sympathetic jail worker whisked me in while the obstinant police took a break. I made to the back of a crumbing city jail, past through stench and cold cement walls to the cell that held Merly Eguigure. She reached out through the bars with a smile that contrasted with her red eyes. Without knowing me, she held on tightly, and kept holding on as I told her that the streets were filled with women from her group who were refusing to budge. Her crime: a can of spray paint in her car, her charge: damage against government property, even though the spray paint was yet untouched.
It seems to be an effort to silence the only space left for the Honduran people. The walls. Among the hundreds of graffiti that cover every bare wall in town, yesterday I read this one: "las paredes son los medios del pueblo". The walls are the media of the people. Given that the only tv and radio stations who have publically opposed the coup have been constantly shut down and damaged, a can of spray paint is a powerful form of expression.
Yesterday, we gathered with Bertha at the office of COFADEH. The many meetings I have previously had with Bertha took place upstairs, surrounded by photos of those who disappeared during the military dictatorships of the 1980´s. This time we were downstairs, surrounded by large posters of some of those who had been recently murdered by the coup regime. Someone in the delegation asked Bertha to describe one of the victims, what had happened. She told us about Isis Obed Murillo, 19 years old. He was killed when hundreds of thousands of Honduras gathered at the airport to receive President Zelaya,and the army turned their guns on the crowd. But Bertha couldn´t stop at the story of Isis, and went from photo to photo, and story to story, as though it were a gallery of family photos. She suddenly stopped, and said, almost to herself:. "You know what´s strange", she said. " We need a whole new room just to display these photos".
As she ended her conversation, she turned a moment to the group and said, "if you really want to help, you can do something. There are hundreds of resistance leaders who fear for their lives. If each group took some of their names and made them public and shared their concern for their lives, maybe, it might prevent another tragedy.
Less than a week ago I processed with Bertha at the gates of Ft. Benning. When the name of her disappeared husband Tomás was called out, she almost crumpled. But just for a moment, and then she continued forward. I thought about the energy we put into remembering these lost lives, and wondered for a minute how we could put that energy into preventing more names to be read out. It´s not an easy question. I don´t really have the answer.
Best to all, abrazos, Lisa