Posts Tagged ‘Copan Valley’
Mirador El Cuartel is an abandoned jail cell located about five blocks away from Copan’s Parque Central. It’s located on a small hill that offers a great view of the Copan Valley. Right behind it is Honduras’ Children’s International, a non-profit organization whose mission is to help children and families who live in extreme poverty.
One of the most memorable part of my trip to Honduras was my first horseback riding tour. We rode up the mountains and through coffee plantations from the Copan Valley to La Pintada, a Maya-Chorti village known for the production of corn-husk dolls. I don’t remember ever going through so many emotions in such a short period of time, even during my time of the month.
I was terrified that my horse would throw me off the edge of the cliff or run me into the barbed wires. I was in pain from gripping the saddle so hard with my hands and thighs. I was pissed at Renaldo, my tour guide, for repeatedly making my horse gallop by whipping its behind when I told him not to. I’m sure Renaldo did it for his own entertainment. I was heartbroken to see the little girls in the village chase us on our horses so they can sell us their corn-husk dolls. But most of all, I was heated that Renaldo treated these girls as if they were part of another show-and-tell routine.
When I got off my horse at La Pintada, a swarm of little girls surrounded me and shoved their beautifully crafted corn-husk dolls in my face. No matter how many times I said, “No gracias,” they were extremely persistent in asking me to buy one of their dolls. Renaldo seemed to know them well as I’m sure this is not the first time he has brought foreigners up to La Pintada.
The village is situated on top of a hill with a beautiful view of the Acropolis at the Copan Ruins. We took a 10 minute hike to Los Sapos, a Maya site dedicated to women and fertility. While I was slipping and sliding and huffing away carrying a dinky little book bag, a girl about 6 or 7 ran happily next to me without any shoes. She made me look like a pansy.
The little girl climbed with us all the way to the top to Los Sapos where an eroded stone had been carved into a shape of a frog by the Mayans. Right next to it was an extremely rough carving of a woman carrying a baby. While Renaldo spoke to us about the ruins, the little girl climbed up and down the rocks holding on to the one corn-husk doll she was trying to sell me.
As we made our way down from Los Sapos, we saw the rest of the girls waiting eagerly for us at the base of the hill. Knowing that we’d be leaving the village soon, Renaldo asked my friend and I one more time if we wanted to purchase a doll from the girls. “No pressure,” he said but I’m sure that’s not what he meant. What he did next was something I resented him for.
Renaldo asked the girls to gather around us and sing Honduras’ national anthem. Now, you might think it’s no big deal and that I’m just being overly sensitive but at that moment, I wanted to be anywhere but there. Renaldo probably thought he was helping the girls but in reality, he was doing them more harm than good by exploiting them. What he was essentially teaching them was this: Sing for the gringos, or in our case the chinas, and they will buy your dolls.
These girls aren’t for show and tell. I felt like he guilted us into buying a doll and I’m ashamed to say that it worked. I bought one. I was upset that these girls were being exploited and they didn’t even know it. I don’t mind giving money to those who need it but I much rather give my time and effort because as soon as I handed one of the girls a dollar, they all disappeared as if they have been conditioned to countless times before.
As hard as I tried to fight it, I didn’t want to buy a doll from these girls. It’s not because I’m cheap or heartless. I just don’t want these children growing up thinking that this is a reliable the way to make a living. It’s not. Buying a doll from them only reinforces the idea that selling corn-husk dolls is better than going to school and getting an education. I don’t want them to be dependent on tourists to buy their dolls for the rest of their lives. I much rather these girls be independent and self-sufficient.
Via Via Cafe & Restaurant has everything you need: breakfast, lunch, dinner, beer, movies and more. It even offers tours and excursions that range from all day hikes to horseback riding to ATV rides. The food isn’t bad and it’s decently priced. A few things that are always hanging around outside are dogs and flies. On the inside, you’ll find tables set up under palm trees and night lights. Movies are shown upstairs in a small but cozy theater. It’s a perfect starting point for all your Copan adventures.
After a 6 hour flight into San Pedro Sula, including layover, all I could think about was the bed I’d be cozying up to later that night. Unfortunately, I had another 4 hour bus ride to look forward to before arriving in Copan Valley.
With only 4 hours of sleep from the night before, my eyes were only opened long enough to see Pepsi & Coke signs plastered on anything and everything. As we drove further away from San Pedro Sula, the houses along the dirt road went from brick houses with tin roof tops to mud houses with tin roof tops to wooden houses with plastic tarp and finally to plastic tarp and a piece of string.
Then everything went black. Thoughts of a soft, white comfy bed floated around in my head and I realized just how lucky I was to even have a bed to look forward to. Right before I passed out I told myself that no matter how challenging this trip might be, I have nothing to complain about. I have everything I need and more.
I thought about the conditions of the houses as I inspected the hotel room in the Graditas Maya at Copan Valley. A door with a crack wide enough to allow mosquitos in to feast on my flesh as I slept was better than sleeping under a plastic tarp. A bed with questionable linen is better than the dirt floor and a rag. A makeshift shelf is better than a cardboard box. A small dingy bathroom is better than a hole in the ground and a 4-inch slit for a window is better than no windows at all.
It’s all about perspectives.