Friday, March 7, 2008


Today I got up at 5:15am and left the house a little after 6am. I was supposed to meet Ana at the bus terminal. We were going to Limón to meet with the support group there. I boarded a cab and asked for the bus terminal.

"No hay buses," said the cabbie. (No buses.) Why? "Hay una toma." (There's a 'take.') What? "Tomaron la carretera." (They took over the highway.)

Ah. There was a roadblock. This is a common strategy for groups that are striking or protesting for some reason. I'd heard of them, but never seen one in person. The cabbie said he could drop me off at the roadblock and I could walk past it, then catch a bus to wherever I needed to go.

There were buses and trucks lined up on the side of the highway leading up to the roadblock. The roadblock itself was a bunch of large stones laid out across the street, and about 300 meters down the road a couple giant concrete sewage pipes rolled onto the road. A small group of mechete-wielding campesinos stood around by the pipes.

The scene was remarkably laid back considering that the only paved road in and out of both Trujillo and Puerto Castilla was completely blocked. About a hundred uniformed schoolkids were walking toward town, joking and laughing. Little boys with bicycles were ferrying people's bags from one side of the roadblock to the other for a few lempiras. People were saying hi to each other and stopping to converse for a few minutes before continuing on their way. There were a few cops, but they were just standing around, looking bored.

At the other side of the roadblock was another long line of trucks and buses. I called Ana and she said she would meet me there and we'd take a bus to Corocito, and from there we'd get a bus to Limón.

Unfortunately, we didn't take in to account just how disruptive the roadblock was to transportation schedules. We waited over an hour for a bus to leave for Corocito, and then another hour and a half at Corocito for a bus to Limón. What should have been a 2.5 hour trip took almost 6 hours in total.

On the way back, the roadblock was still there. There were many more cops and soldiers around, wearing riot gear and sporting tear gas guns. From a distance it looked like a tense scene, but up close I could see the cops dozing on the hoods of their trucks, smoking cigarettes and joking with their buddies. This was not the scene of an impending confrontation.

There were more men gathered around the big concrete pipes, with one guy reading something over the loudspeaker. It sounded like he was reading an offer from the government in exchange for ending the roadblock. After he finished reading, he asked the crowd if they would agree to the offer. You could tell by the tone of his voice that the offer was a good one and he expected them to agree. A few people shouted, "No!" and everyone else was silent. So much for that plan.

Overall, the whole roadblock-as-protest thing seemed a juvenile and dangerously provocative tactic. The group did nothing to inform people of why they were protesting. There were no signs, no flyers, no announcements. Nothing to explain to people why they were being cut off from the the rest of the country. Nothing to justify endangering the lives of people (what if there were a medical emergency and someone had to be taken by ambulance to La Ceiba or San Pedro Sula?). I'm pretty inclined to sympathize with protesters taking to the streets, even taking extreme measures like blocking a road. But this group did nothing to justify their actions. It seemed more like blind adolescent rebellion rather than thoughtful protest.

Late last night the group finally removed the roadblock. Who knows if they got what they wanted.


Pablo y Raquel said...

oh sheesh...Im betting this was right around Guadalupe Carne (sp?) They protest because they want the government to give them the land they are squatting on. The Government says no and gives them conditions that they must meet to live on the land (like how much crops to produce) and they refuse. This happens in this spot occassionally. A couple of summers ago we were a bit concerned about making it back out to San Pedro for our flight back to the states, but it generally only lasts a couple days....crazy

A Well Trained Horse said...

Hey there. Did you ever get my last letter, dated early December?