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Published: June 25th 2019
My original plan was to take a Hedman Alas bus from La Ceiba to spend a night in San Pedro Sula before heading west to Lago de Yojoa. But in the morning the German owners of the hotel informed me that the bus wouldn't be going. I asked if it was too empty to go, and they said no - that the driver had been shot the night before.
The news channels in Honduras cover the violence and protests non-stop, and people can't seem to look away. It was pretty surreal to watch press conferences akin to Leslie Nielson's character in Airplane telling everyone that the situation is under control and to remain calm, and then other interviews with a man wearing a ski mask. I asked my host mom if he was a gang member, but she said no - he was the police captain. Showing his face on TV would mean certain death by the narcos.
A brief history: in 2009 the Chavez-esque President Zelaya, who was super-corrupt but democratically elected, was arrested and exiled, likely with the help of the U.S., Hillary Clinton in particular. Many believe that today he provides funding for the caravans headed
to the U.S. border. The new conservative, neo-liberal president, who was elected amid accusations of election fraud, is cozy with the IMF, who has encouraged him to privatize parts of the medical and education systems. His supporters say these changes would only provide more transparency and eliminate corruption.
Regardless, doctors and teachers have been leading peaceful protests, and Zelaya supporters and other opportunists have begun to use the tactic of blocking roadways to disrupt rush hour traffic and trade, in addition to lighting the front of the U.S. embassy on fire a few weeks back. But it's unclear who killed the bus driver - the government or the protesters.
I figured travelling on a Sunday would be my best chance to avoid these blockades, so I found another bus company and made it to San Pedro Sula without a problem. I got quite a few incredulous looks in the bus station, and figured my chances weren't great to avoid manifestaciones on the road headed west on a Monday morning, so I searched for a bus to get me the hell out of the 'murder capital of the world' and closer to the western and northern borders. (Plenty of
Infinitely better than most exit signs. Its translation: "You are now leaving the Great Plaza of the people to return to the mortal world, which is ruled by the cycle of life and death." Aw, crap.
American cities make those lists too, and the crime in Honduras is a result of our appetite for cocaína and our constant meddling in their politics to protect our biggest military base in the region.)
I took a series of rickety buses and colectivos, and in La Entrada I met the first other gringo I'd seen on the mainland - a Northern Irish kid named Ewan. He wasn't as lucky as I was, saying that on his way to La Ceiba from Nicaragua, he encountered a road block at a bridge, vehicle fires, hundreds of riot police, and eventually had to run across the bridge with his shirt over his face with a masked man who offered to help when he found out he was European.
So I made it to the Copan Ruins just fine. I should say that every Honduran I've talked to - mostly people sitting near me on the bus - has been kind and helpful. Also, if you're traveling in Guatemala, it would likely be safe to cross the border to see the Copan Ruinas and then return, or perhaps continue on to El Salvador, since the area is safe and well guarded.
I went for a run the next morning and counted 35 soldiers in full armor and with heavy weapons in groups of 7 along the road into town from the east. They all responded hello to me as well, which is more than I can say about plenty of people I encounter at home.
The town is charming, with cobblestone streets, a picturesque plaza, and lots of nice restaurants and hotels- all of them pretty much empty. All the tourist knickknack shops were still open for some reason, the dueños watching over nothing and hoping the situation changes. I decided to spend a week in Copan Ruinas to practice Spanish and to visit some sites in the area, including the ruinas and a bird sanctuary.
The ruins are a short walk from town and while not as impressive as Tikal, are interesting enough for a few hours. I was the only one there aside from groundskeepers and military, so I had a UNESCO World Heritage site pretty much to myself once again.
There are more photos below.
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