Ode to the Motherland

December 18, 2011

When I was growing up, we would fly out to Honduras the second the school year let out and stay a whole glorious summer until it was time again to start the next grade. Sometimes we would even spend Christmases here as well.

We live on an expansive, million-dollar compound complete with a dream house, three fully-equipped kitchens, a party hall with a bar, and the best backyard one couldn’t even conjure up in their wildest imagination. At one point in my young life, there was even a gigantic swimming pool, which was eventually paved over to make room for a quaint cafe replete with espresso machines and perfect people-watching windows.

The grounds were always lively with activity–maids snapping green beans and peeling carrots in the kitchen. Nicolasa rolling pastry dough for the sticky sweet corbatas. My aunt building mile-high wedding cakes. Meches nurturing juicy lime trees and brilliant flower beds. Customers packing the restaurant during lunch hour.

Grandkids reveled in all the niches and idiosyncrasies of such a large house. I remember digging out worm-burrowed copies of Archie comics from my mom’s old room and devouring them with fresh-squeezed passion fruit juice. We had birthday parties with the biggest, most beautiful pinatas I have still ever seen. We’d fight over the mango picking stick and gorge ourselves on the yellow-orange flesh until we literally got sick. We’d go to country clubs to swim and took roadtrips to the beach.

We would have boisterous dinner parties with expansive spreads of rich foods and mariachi troupes serenading guests, who ranged from family friends to important diplomatic functionaries. I remember decorating the salon with fancy tablecloths and silverware settings, and pulling countless chairs into the courtyard. Dancing, singing, laughter, and fiery sparklers would fill the night air to the brim.

Life was large and colorful.

These days, I stroll the stone hallways to the tune of far too much quiet. Children’s voices no longer echo off the walls. The extravagant Asian decor looks almost garish in the unoccupied sitting rooms. Expensive sets of china and mint coin collections stare silently out the glass display cases. The constant din of cooking doesn’t emanate from the kitchen, and delivery boy shouts don’t leap through the front gate. The cafe windows are boarded up. The fountain groans of dehydration. And even the mango trees, always bright with shades of emerald and vermillion, look a little forlorn.

Honduras has always been a country rife with endemic poverty and lack of tangible promise. Lack of infrastructure, lack of education, and the inability to rise above shocking natural disasters has not done the country any favors. An ever-declining political system and exponentially astronomical rates of violence further encourage an atmosphere that is not only allergic to stability and prosperity, but increasingly uninhabitable as well.

And so my family begins an exodus as monumental as its entrance (you cannot beat donkey riding, people)–what is sure to be a difficult process of closure. Roots that have taken deep hold will be hard to pull up.

I love being here. There really are few joys in life that compare to the happiness I extract from swinging in the balcony hammock knowing I am in the motherland. But now, even I must admit, there are twinges of sadness creeping out from the corners of unfrequented rooms and from between crumbling backyard tiles. It is not just the rearranging of wall paintings or the reupholstering of sofas or even the physical deterioration of my long-living great aunt that change the environment. It is clear that it is simply the end of an era.

So while I rejoice as my grandma stuffs me with delicious food I daily crave when I am away, I am also mourning the loss of good times that are so clearly in the past and a vivid future I have constructed here that I know will never come to be. It is a time of mixed emotions–of nostalgia for the merriment of the past, of deep gratitude for the delights that are still here, of sadness for the declining state of the nation, of regret that my children will never intimately know this part of their history, and of an undying love for the land that has given my family so much.


3 Responses to “Ode to the Motherland”

  1. Julie Romero Says:

    This gave me such a good picture of your family’s Honduran home. I understand the mixed emotions and I’m sorry your children won’t get to experience it like you have.

  2. […] day after Christmas, I was sitting in the funeral home, reflecting on the many ways this era was ending in Honduras. I wondered how many stories would remain without opportunity to derive […]

  3. […] country and get my passport re-stamped every 90 days. Over Christmas, I made a glorious pit stop in Honduras. This time around, I am hanging out in Foz do Iguacu, Brazil for a few days, and it has been a […]

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