Harlem Hondurans worry about their homeland

Posted on 08. Dec, 2009 by in Uncategorized

By Almudena Toral

[written and reported before elections on November 29]

East Harlem Hondurans share concern over the Honduran political crisis that unchained in June, and seem thirsty for a new leader. Peace and respect for the constitution: that’s all many of them are asking for.

Yulisa Lopez, 25, was watching TV at home in south Bronx the morning when Micheletti -the presidential candidate who took power last June in Honduras with a coup- and the military ousted President Zelaya and threw him of the country.

Zelaya, the deposed president, had ruled Honduras for 3 and a half years when Congress named Micheletti the new president after the coup last June 28th. Since then, the UN and Western nations have interrupted diplomatic relations with Honduras, and the U.S. has suspended all humanitarian aid.

“I called and called my parents and there was no phone signal. Honduras was totally disconnected. Later on I could talk to a friend back home and she told me it was horrible. There were tanks in the streets,” said in Spanish Lopez, the manager of Aguila Mexican Restaurant at 116th Street in East Harlem, while frenzied ranchera music played in the background.

It’s been two months since Micheletti’s coup d’etat, two difficult months for Hondurans both at home and in East Harlem, where they make up 2.2 percent of the neighborhood’s population, according to the 2000 census. Hours on the phone with Honduras, long minutes stuck to breaking news on the web or TV, political discussions, and economic worries — they’ve gone through all of these.

“My mom tells me that there’s a huge crisis, that a hundred dollars only lasts a day there. Prices of the most basic items have gone up, and there’s also rationing of electricity and water,” Lopez said. Lopez tried to send more money home since the crisis started, because her family’s income back home has decreased.

Lopez has grown up to a father very involved in politics. He worked for Zelaya’s government until the coup came. But the daughter, who came to New York for a marriage that didn’t work out, is not as into Zelaya as her father.

“What we really shouldn’t have is another de-facto government so they can re-elect themselves again,” she said referring to both Zelaya and Micheletti, arguing that both have violated the constitution and damaged her country.

Mauricio Stwart and Carlos del Valle, another Hondurans in the neighborhood, agreed. “My desire is that fair elections take place, that the Honduran people finally get to choose,” said Stwart, who works as a handy man at Friendly Hands Ministry.

Valle, a resident of New York for 20 years, criticized the dishonesty of both governments, Zelaya’s and Micheletti’s. “In Honduras there’s nothing to invent. Honduras just needs the opportunity to grow; but to grow in an orderly way, all institutions doing whatever they have to do.”

Both Stwart and Valle, who work only 7 blocks away but don’t know each other, are glad neither Micheletti nor Zelaya are candidates for November’s elections, disputed between Elvin Santos of the Liberal Party and Porfirio Lobo of the National Party.

Criticism to the deposed and the imposed president fly from mouth to mouth through Spanish Harlem’s Honduran voice tones. They want change in Honduras, both for here –a relief- and for their families back home –a better quality of life-.

Looking towards November’s election, the new candidates, and the future, however, no one knows what’s going to happen.

“Politics in our country is like a chocolate box, you never know what you’ll get,” Valle said.

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