Saturday, August 9, 2008

Day 3: Protests & Football

My day changed from ordinary to extraordinary at noon today when I began to hear a lot of noise outside the second story window of our office. The building, which is owned by the municipality, houses a number of non-profits, government programs, and businesses. As I peeked my head out the window I noticed a mass of people carrying bright banners and chanting at the entrance to the building. One banner showed a shark breaching the water with a small seal in its mouth. Underneath the shark was the name of a well-known brand of flour, “Maseca,” while the seal’s caption was, “Tortilleria Sabrosa,” a local company that made tortillas that must have been put out of business. The rest of the banner was quite explicit in its condemnation of CAFTA-DR, the Central American Free Trade Agreement. The police were standing by at a distance but did not directly engage the peaceful protesters. As we left for lunch, the building was under lockdown, with armed guards manning the entrances. Upon returning from lunch, all that remained from the swarm of people were a few signs haphazardly thrown on the ground.

Later in the evening, Jesus and Ami Noel took me to the Maratón, which in Spanish means marathon. What I soon found out was that we were not going to a marathon at all, but the soccer stadium to watch the local team, Maratón, play against Ceiba’s team, Vida. As we approached the stadium, there was garbage strewn on the walkway and grass growing in the bowl that once was a fountain. Approaching the gate, I felt more like I was attending a high school football game instead of a local soccer match of a city of 800,000. The tickets were small pieces of blue paper that cost 50 lempiras each, or about $2.50. Just before we reached the steps of the stadium, a number of food vendors were hawking everything from steak and beer to tortilla chips and snow cones. With every step we took toward the innards of the stadium, the beat of a drum got louder and louder. At the top, we got our first glimpse of the green grass and few thousand spectators who had gathered for the event. Taking our seats, we watched the local team struggle against its red-jerseyed countrymen, who gained an early lead because of a penalty kick.

Throughout the game there was a flurry of sales men and women who would come by offering a variety of tasty treats. Some of the sales people were as young as five or six. Off to the left of where we were seated was a mosh pit of sorts where the craziest of local aficionados resided. They would climb up the large fence that separated the fans from the field and hoot, holler, and rant at the top. At one point in the match, they ignited three green flares (green is the team color) and held them at the top of the fence to help cheer their team on to a goal. Finally in the last few moments of the game, Maratón scored, followed by an eruption of celebration from all the fans. Our common plight resulted in immediate friendship as hugs and high fives were exchanged by all.

Joel Montgomery

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