Irish Woman Visits Aguan Valley

Home ownership in Honduras can transform shanty towns into suburbs, and the legal system allows unused land to be farmed and bought. So why is the government so determined to stop people buying property, to the extent that the army is deployed to move people from their homes, and murder is commonplace? ANNE ENRIGHT travelled to Honduras with Trócaire to find out, and to meet the girl on this year’s Lenten collection box

ARMEN ENAMORADO HAD a dream last night – she even told the neighbours. She dreamt a great crowd of people would visit her house, and here we are: “Alleluia!”

Enamorado is a cleaner and washerwoman, handsome and loud, with a big laugh and beautiful teeth. She lives, with three of her children and many grandchildren, in a shack that is regularly flooded by contaminated water. Her own vest is a little ragged, but the infant she holds in her arms is quiet and pristine, with diamante earrings and shiny little sandals on her yet-to-be-walked-on feet. Enamorado works for foreigners in the city of San Pedro Sula, and all the English she knows – she shouts it out and laughs – is “Iron?” “Clean?” “Wash?” One of her clients had a stroke and lost her job: Carmen helps her out now for free because that, evidently, is the kind of person she is. Her husband is a security guard. In order to buy her dwelling – which she has the legal right to buy – she must find $10,000: this in a country where the average annual wage is $800.

Up the dirt track, in a better part of the barrio, the landlord who wants $10,000 for Carmen’s shack has built a fence. The fence surrounds a water tower that was built, with international aid, to supply his tenants with clean water. He does not want them to have clean water. Why? It is hard to say.

This is the culture of the “mas fuerte” says Mario Barahona; it is important to show who is the most strong. It is also a country where the rich seem pitched against the poor (there is hardly any middle class) as the poor insist upon their rights. One of these rights, established in the 1960s and underwritten by judgments in the international courts, is the renter’s right to buy and the squatter’s right to farm unused land…continue Irish Times article here.

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