|Esmeralda, our host|
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
At the Fiesta
I had a moment last night. A young woman who is part of this big Honduran family we now find ourselves enfolded in was having her birthday, and I was asked to play my accordion as part of the celebration.
Truth be known, people don’t ask me to play my accordion too often. But the 20 or so family members stuffed into the little place next door turned out to be absolutely delighted to hear me play, especially the six or seven children who gathered close to stare at the accordion like a creature from space.
Having read nothing but scary stories about crime and violence in Honduras in the weeks before our departure, I’d picked up several music books of Latin-American popular music for the accordion, telling myself that surely even a tough-guy narco-traficante wouldn’t want to kill a nice Canadian girl playing Sin Ti or some other tune that his old mama knew.
So there I was last night, surrounded by happy Latin Americans and my music stand groaning under a load of Latin American tunes that they actually knew. I played for at least an hour, before and after the cake festivities, before and after the beautiful birthday girl got her face gently stuffed into the middle of the cake as she blew out the candles and an endless stream of cousins, amigos, grandchildren, aunts and uncles arrived to join in the festivities. Man, it was magic.
Through all those terrifying Honduran headlines leading up to our departure, I tried to hang onto what I feel certain to be true: That people are just people, all over the world. Cultures vary, but we have so much in common. We love our children, seek meaning and purpose, treasure our families, share meals, invent wacky but endearing customs that bond us to each other. Honduras seemed like a dark, murderous place based on the news stories that made it up to Canada, but I clung to the belief that what we’d mostly find when we got here was people going about their lives.
And now that we have arrived, I’m so happy to see that it’s true. You can’t soft-pedal the problems of a country that has one of the highest homicide rates in the world outside of war-torn countries, but Honduras also has strong, vibrant families who want better for their children. I hope I can play a part in that, doing more than just playing the accordion (not that music doesn’t have its own power to transform, of course).
Just before the party last night, I read a chapter of El Leon, La Bruja y El Ropero to five-year-old Carlos Alberto. He was transfixed, and never mind my halting Spanish. Later today we’re going to the Copan library to get him some books. One boy, one book, one small act that could someday link to other people’s small acts, in ways that change everything.
And until then, there’s always the accordion.