Category:Honduras volunteers 1975

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EXCERPT- South of the Frontera; A Peace Corps Memoir, Lawrence F. Lihosit, iUniverse, 2010.

The rain stopped. The second week of May, carpenters began to build gazebos on each street corner from the dock to the main highway, two miles away. Some folks mentioned a celebration for San Isidro. I’m a Catholic and if priests were to celebrate with floats full of nearly nude women, dancing, alcohol and sex, they would never tell us about it, trust me. This was a week-long pagan holiday to pray for more rain. As Peace Corps Volunteers, we certainly did not want to insult anyone.

Each night of the third week a different neighborhood sponsored an outside dance with live music. On Thursday, the highway was a stream of buses. On the beach, normally miles of white sand, tens of thousands of tents appeared. By Saturday morning when the beauty contest began, the population had increased three-fold. The city was like a bee’s hive of activity. Many people spent the entire year preparing elaborate costumes for the annual parade. Walter and Gerry had been preparing all week. They bought a pig, had it slaughtered and butchered. In their backyard they dug a deep pit and lined it with imported rock. On Wednesday they started a fire. On Thursday they wrapped the meat, potatoes and vegetables in aluminum foil, carefully laid it on the hot rocks and buried it. All day Friday they decorated the house and the backyard with lights and streamers. Walter set up a bar on his enclosed patio. We began early on Saturday afternoon, unburying the cooked food before the beauty contest and the parade. The meat flaked with a fork and we ate until we all had to loosen our belts and washed it down with Walter’s famous banana daiquiris and extra dry martinis. Aside from the half dozen or so volunteers who lived in La Ceiba, there were about thirty more that had made the pilgrimage. I am not even sure how many might have slept at our house since I never returned home that night. The rumor was that every square inch was covered by gringo flesh.

Since so many Hondurans worked freighters, they also tended to relocate. It was said that New Orleans was home to fifty thousand Hondurans, more than the entire population of La Ceiba. In fact it was La Ceiba’s sister city. Each year the City of New Orleans sent a jazz band as their official representative. Our first stop after leaving Walter’s was the Hotel Paris in the center of town. We just followed the Dixieland jazz and found it. After seven months in Honduras, watching and listening to an American band play jazz gave me goose bumps.

Once the sun set, bands climbed the new gazebos at each corner. Bands playing until dawn would win a prize. At the appointed hour, music started simultaneously from dock to highway and the crowd of more than one hundred thousand, gathered on the main street–San Isidro Avenue–danced. It was a pulsating human wave that shimmied to salsa on one corner, shuffled to reggae on another, and two-stepped to Mexican baladas. We heard country and western, pop, and even rock and roll. Cookie, a La Ceiba local Carib, sang lead with a group that could mimic Led Zeppelin lick for lick. Yet, he could not speak a word of English. He had learned how to sing by listening to records thousands of times over.

Hondurans came from all over the nation. Some came with their families and quickly got lost in the crowd. Far from their tiny village or hamlet, lost in the crowd, young women were especially frisky. Why not? They could all go home afterwards and pretend that nothing had happened. Walking along, a young woman might just grab you by the hand or arm and start dancing. I know of one volunteer who had come with his American volunteer sweetheart. When they got separated, a Honduran latched on and did not let go, pulling him towards her tent on the beach. Jeff and I ran interference for the next few hours. Each time the sweetheart came by searching, we pointed off in another direction. “He just went that way, looking for you!” Locals had fun too. At one corner, a group of three large black women hiked up their skirts and rotated their hips while the crowd around them wailed. Jeff and I stopped before realizing that this was the same woman who sold us fish every few days. She recognized us immediately, held out her hands and dared us to enter her love circle. The crowd went wild!

Even Jeff and I got separated. For a time I was with Sandy and Jeff (who shared cookies more often than I), but when the crowd moved, you moved with it. Sometimes it seemed liked interlocking circles that moved in opposite directions. Often the crowd separated for exploding fireworks. There were men with wooden contraptions mounted on their backs who, as they ran, shot colored rockets and sparklers in all direction. There were also bottle rockets and fire crackers. Sometimes whiffs of marijuana would float by. This was a port city and it imported everything, the good and bad, in exchange for simple fruits.

There were also private parties. A woman from city hall pulled me upstairs to an apartment on the second floor of a building with a balcony overlooking the main street. Guests drank and danced while watching the crowd below. Every bar and restaurant in town had doors open. The town was one huge party. Even the Flagstaff, Arizona Annual Indian Pow Wow had nothing on this. Just before dawn, exhausted, I smoked a cigarette kitty-corner from city hall on the sidewalk. Most of the bandstands were now empty. Crowds had dwindled to those corners where music still blasted. I heard a familiar volunteer voice, calling me but could not see him. “Up above, pendejo!” he yelled. I turned and looked up. Over a closed restaurant, a second floor window was open and a friend and a young Honduran woman, both shirtless, waved. “Get the owner!” he yelled. The woman laughed and her large breasts jiggled. They had been behind the pin spotting machine in the second floor bowling alley when the owner unexpectedly closed and left them locked in. I recruited a Honduran to help me and we soon liberated them. She went in one direction, he in another, buttoning his shirt.

Pages in category "Honduras volunteers 1975"

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