There and Back Again

I haven’t written anything in over a month. Dear readers, what must you think of me? Or wonder where I am? I am home once again, in Louisiana.

I don’t have plans to return to Honduras. Spanish lessons in Honduras gave me a boost in language acquisition. Language skills could help if I eventually decide to move again to a Spanish-speaking country.

One thing I neglected to write about was that I arrived a day after a festival in Siguatepeque, Honduras. Obviously, the citizenry had called a city-wide party in which everyone spent the day with the express purpose of  spreading litter. Soda bottles, plastic bags, and all manner of paper were spread across the town.  One could scarcely walk the streets without said rubbish sticking to the soles of one’s shoes.

In addition, all dogs, owned or stray, had been invited to make their mark on the streets as well. It must have been a great turn-out, one of historic proportions. I was amazed at the output of the varied canine population. My shoes bear the marks, too, of the dog-in-street celebration.

Seriously, Siguatepeque has a litter problem. And a dog control problem. In stark contrast, the neighboring city of Comayagua was nearly spotless. The historic center of Comayagua had actual garbage bins strategically placed. I didn’t see any food wrappers in the streets although the city was full of poor farmers  from the surrounding villages there to sell their wares as well as buy goods in town on the Saturday that I spent in Comayagua. There was not one stray dog to be seen the entire day I spent in Comayagua.

Moral of this story: Visit Comayagua and enjoy a provincial city with colonial buildings. If you should visit Siguatepeque, don’t wear sandals. Wear old shoes to trample the trash underfoot that’s everywhere in the city.

That’s all folks. I will try to write a bit more frequently.

 

 

 

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The Octopus Seller

I am in Siguatepeque, Honduras for a Spanish language intensive. I am at the midpoint of my 3 week stay. Classes are going well.

I walk to and from the school each weekday. I share a home with a widow and another student. Her house is an easy walk to the school, taking about 15-20 minutes to walk to and from the school.

Everyday I pass about 1/2 dozen small stores. They sell the kind of things one finds in convenience stores in the States: soft drinks, chips, over the counter medicines, toilet paper and other such stuff. In Central America, these small mom and pop stores are called pulperias.

Pulperia, by definition, means a place to buy octopus. No, you won’t find any octopus in these stores. How did that name become the de facto name for tiny one-room stores all over the region?

Some people say it’s because the owner needs to have eight arms working in all directions to find  items in the tight spaces of these small stores. I don’t think that’s where the name comes from.

In the nineteenth and twentieth century, the banana companies had a virtual monopoly as far as employment in these small countries. There were very little other work available to those seeking wages. If one didn’t work on a coffee plantation, the only other alternative was the fruit companies.

The reach of the United and Dole fruit companies cannot be underestimated. They controlled the economies of the small countries of Central America. The locals referred to their employer as The Octopus (El Pulpo in Spanish). The word octopus was used because the company had tentacles everywhere, much like an octopus. When workers received their wages,  it was in company script which could only be used in the company store.

So, the name Pulperia emerged. It was the store owned by El Pulpo, or the Octopus. Today, one can stop at any pulperia for everyday items.

Want a cold Coca-Cola? The pulperia always has them stocked.

Need a tablet or two of Alka Seltzer? They are on hand. And because this is Central America, a cold  drink and a dose of Alka Seltzer are often just the thing one needs.