Last night a few of the Americans living here went with some Honduran friends to play a game of soccer. I had only met one of the four Hondurans before, but as they always are, the three new Hondurans were all very friendly towards me and the other Americans. We walked to a small concrete field below a church a few blocks from our apartment. We played 4 vs. 4 for probably an hour or so and it was a lot of fun. There were high-fives and laughs from everyone each time someone made a good move or scored a good goal. A couple different times, people stopped by and watched our game from above for a few minutes, cheering on both teams as they got close to a goal.
Given the news coverage Honduras has been receiving since the president was exiled last week, it might be hard to believe that such a carefree game of soccer was going on in Tegucigalpa, the same city where news agencies have been publishing pictures of police in riot gear clashing with rock throwing protesters. The reality here in the city is that while life is certainly a little bit different, most Hondurans are only interested in continuing with their normal life.
To me, the person who sums up the national attitude best is Elsa, the woman who comes by to clean our apartment. The day after the president was overthrown I was standing on our roof, looking out at the city. I could see a couple places where smoke was rising into the air from a tire fire. At the same time a couple helicopters were flying over the city. At that point we were very uncertain about how the situation was going to play out. Elsa walked onto the roof and stood by me. I asked her what she thought of the situation, if she was afraid it might spiral out of control. She said that she was afraid, but it was just as much a fear for her safety as for the state of her country as a whole. She said that she didn’t understand why the whole thing was happening, that in Honduras there was work to be had and that the people were happy and peaceful. Her fear was meddling by Hugo Chavez, something she worried might lead to violence. Her passion and frustration with the events took me back a little bit. Honduras is one of the poorest countries in the West (something this situation will only worsen) and yet Elsa was sure that the people were happy and had plenty of work. Elsa is very proud of her country and her attitude is not unique.
It is this strong sense of national pride among Hondurans that has made both sides in the current conflict so passionate about their cause. One side saw a president trying to turn a democracy into a dictatorship and they stopped it. The other side sees a military coup and an illegitimate government. I don’t know which side is right, but I do know that Hondurans are proud of their country and want peace more than anything else. So while the protests continue, they’re mostly peaceful. Soccer games and other aspects of day to day life here in Honduras go on for the most part uninterrupted. The real Tegucigalpa isn’t summed up by an angry mob of protestors, but by the hundreds of thousands of city-dwellers who are disappointed by the current political situation and just want to continue with their happy, peaceful lives.