Thursday, March 29, 2007

La Paz

Originally uploaded by StormyPetrel.
Howdy folks, sorry for the long delay in updating. A week and a half ago, we (the Health Project trainees) bussed to La Paz, La Paz to begin Field-Based Training. The other to projects are in other sites for their FBT, so it's a smaller and cozier group. La Paz, on the other hand, is far from smaller and cozier.

A city of about 30,000, La Paz has two supermercados (a supermercado is about the size of a large 7-11, but they really manage to cram a lot of stuff in there!), 2 discos, and of course countless comedors and pulperias. There is also a hospital here in the city, as well as a number of clinics.

FBT has been intense. We are in class from 7:30 to 5, with a break around midday for lunch. Studying, practicing spanish with my host family, and working on projects takes up most of the rest of my time. The flipside is that the work we are doing is MUCH more interesting.

The two highlights from last week was a talk we got from an organization that works with commercial sex workers in Comayagua, and a two-day men's health seminar and practicum. The Men's Health initiative that peace corps is pushing is really interesting, pretty new, and there's a lot of energy behind it. It's main component is a 4-hour intervention on HIV/AIDS prevention that is delivered in a series of modular activities that are informative, but also really fun. The initiative works to deliver the intervention, but also to train regional, national (and now possibly international) organizations to adopt the intervention and use it in their areas.

After getting an abbreviated training on Thursday, we formed into groups of 5 and delivered the intervention to cadets at the Police Academy here in La Paz. It was a great experience, and now I know that there is work within the health project that really interests me.

My living situation here is also pretty spectacular. I live in a huge house with an herb & flower garden, fruit trees, and indoor patio. My host mother is an excellent cook, and I have four host brothers between the ages of 16 and 24 who are really fun to hang out with (which has helped my spanish!). My house is also centrally located so other trainees will often stop by to visit, which is nice as well.

Not much else to report. I haven't taken any pictures of La Paz yet, but will try to soon. Tomorrow we go to a nearby aldea to weigh babies as part of a anti-malnutrition project. Fun fun fun!


Anonymous said...

I don't want to berate you or say anything negative concerning this post. I am relieved that you did say that you have not personally verified any of this information concerning the CSWs. I can personally tell you that while some of the information you mentioned concerning the military base and the gringos there may be true, the meat of your discourse is wildly exagerated on every count.

I can assure you as a person who had been assigned to the military base there on three separate occasions, that the commanders on the base do not encourage the abuse of the women in any way shape or form. I can also assure you that the Americans use condoms commisurate to the rate they use condoms in the US. (Condom use or non-use is a worldwide problem, even among the most "civilized" of nations)

You will find that many gringos do actively seek a robust sex-life in Honduras, but from my observations of almost three years of living in Palmerola and Comayagua, I say again, whoever told you these stories have wildly exagerated them. But then again, those chismes (rumors) have ALWAYS been wildly exagerated in that way there. Some of those things happen, but not on a rampant scale as your discourse seems to indicate.

As a qualification:

Although I do not live full-time in Honduras now, I am married to a wonderful young lady from Honduras, and I own a home in Comayagua. We now travel and live in other countries as my work requires. (not military) Not only that, I have many, many, friends that are happily married to Honduran women and own homes and have children in Comayagua.

Take care Rafael, and I hope you continue to have much success in your experiences in my second home. I love Honduras!

Raphael said...

Thanks for the comment. It may be that the claims are exaggerated. However, I do have from several reliable sources (american and honduran) that there is a weekly on-base party that serves as a meet-and-greet between gringueras and american clients. This is of course not the explicit purpose of the party, but it is understood by the attendees.

Rates of condom use among all american personnel at the base may be commensurate with condom use in the states, but the claim was that condom use with those americans who engage the services of sex workers is extremely lacking. I can't say if that claim is true or not, but rates of overall condom are not necessarily the rates for a specific sup-population of the group.

I have changed the statement from "actively encouraged" to "tacitly encouraged". Nowhere will you find any policy or order that promotes the abuse of women. But there are many other ways to encourage or condone behavior without doing so explicitly. Many of the claims (which I definitely acknowledge may be exaggerated) imply that this sort of tacit encouragement is occurring.

You may be right that some of these stories are exaggerated or false. But it might also be that these things occur in places and among people that you don't often see or interact with. I published this post because these stories most often go untold (or better said unheard) and it is easy to simply believe that these kind of abuses don't occur. I doubt there are many clients who would admit to cheating on wives back home, refusing to use condoms, denying paternity or engaging in even more serious abuse, so the only source we can look to for those stories are the sex workers themselves. As always, when being told a story, one must consider the subjective point-of-view of the source.