September 14, 2008

The neighbors came through

Municipal Justice, La Ceiba, HondurasJusticía Municipal,
where we looked for justice
(Hidden camera photo by El Jefe)

I have a nice story to relate.

Something is happening near us that could be very detrimental. It will primarily affect those in the immediate vicinity of our house and not so much the other neighbors.

I can't be too specific about the situation. I'm sorry. I know that is frustrating for readers so I hope you understand. Maybe someday I'll be able to tell the whole story, but that really isn't the point of this article anyway.

We've been more involved with our patronato (neighborhood association) than most of the neighbors. I'm an officer in the junta directiva. I wanted to be involved for several reasons. First, because there are lots of improvements I'd like to see. I'd also like to see the neighborhood become friendlier and more of a cohesive unit because I've seen in the US and Honduras that it can make a big difference, not only in getting things done, but also in safety and life in general. Neighbors who get to know each other are just better neighbors to have.

Finally, not to brag, but I feel that I have a lot of experience to offer, even considering the cultural differences, in organizing and administering a neighborhood association and in encouraging neighbors to participate.

The major focus of the group to date has been a problem that doesn't really affect us, but I've been to almost every meeting and I try to give ideas when I can. As far as organization and administration, I haven't been able to make too much of an impact − YET! − but I keep working on it, bringing things up in a nice, non-confrontational way, hoping to wear them down eventually. ;-D

When it comes to financial matters, they do respect my opinions and so far have implemented my suggestions. I've also surprised them a few times, bringing up Honduran laws and so forth that they didn't expect me to know.

Knowing that we have been involved with the colonia's patronato, a neighbor came over almost in tears to tell me about this problem and to ask for our support.

El Jefe called the President of the patronato and asked for an emergency meeting to discuss it and what we might be able to do. He called several people to advise them of the meeting, primarily those who have been more involved in the past.

Not many people showed up (and never do) but most of those we called came. One even called to apologize that she wouldn't be able to come. Disappointingly, the people who asked for help didn't come.

I really didn't know what to expect from the neighbors. I was prepared to hear that it wasn't that big of a deal or that there was nothing we could do or "Too bad, but you can't fight it."

Al contrario! To the contrary, the people there were very supportive and sympathized with our viewpoint, even though they wouldn't be directly affected. We brainstormed, talked about who had what connections where who could help us, and came up with some immediate plans. Not only that, but some of them left the meeting and used their own personal time and resources and followed through on the first steps that we as a group had decided to do.

One of the places that we had to go was the Justicía Municipal (municipal justice) in the photo above. We were accompanied by one of our neighbors who knows the ropes. The receptionist had that bored, vacant-eyed look of government employees everywhere. The sign on her desk read: "Information. Deposit your weapon here."

We didn't find justice there but they sent us to another office in the municipal building to look for it. It's still up in the air at this point, but I'm hopeful. More hopeful, I'm afraid, than El Jefe, who is skeptical about who can be bought for what price in the municipalidad. Then we had another neighborhood meeting that night and a few more neighbors came, including the ones who asked for support originally.

I don't know what is going to happen in the long run, but right now I'm feeling pretty good about my neighbors!

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