Yesterday we went to a coffee shop to work on some reports I needed to finish. The coffee shop is located in a pretty wealthy area that is only accessible by car or taxi. While we were typing I could clearly overhear another customer talking on his self phone going in and out of Spanish and completely fluent English. I could hear him talking about some big business deals with the Germans here in Honduras. He also promised a friend that he was going to buy her a “Beamer” for Christmas.
As we got up to leave, he and his friend got up as well. He began a conversation, asking me where I was from and what we were doing in Honduras. As we chatted outside the entry door he pulled out a cigarette and began puffing, telling us that his extremely cocky friend was a WestPoint graduate and that he graduated from another school that I didn’t recognize. He must have thought I was pretty ignorant, not knowing the name of the school, he explained it’s another military school from the south (in the US).
After we told him that we are working in a ministry here among the poor, he didn’t seem too interested in knowing more but he immediately mentioned that they go to a church in Tegucigalpa and that we were “cordially invited.” He then casually mentioned, in case we were worried, that the church was made up of people “like us, the high class.”
We soon repeated the routine niceties and departed ways, but I couldn’t get the encounter out of my head. I rarely have contact with people from the top echelons of society in Honduras. They make up only a small fraction of the population, yet they own about 70% of the country’s wealth and are also the one’s who sit in all the positions of power, running the country, governing the lives of the poor. I was shocked by the pride and entitlement oozing from their words and demeanor.
The encounter made me remember a report that I heard about from a few years back. An independent Italian business evaluation group came to Honduras to assess the state of their businesses. The final evaluation explained that the Italian group had never seen such mediocre businesses in all their lives. They were shocked that the Honduran businesses (the larger wealthy business within the formal sector) did not invest in the very minimum in the Honduran society and that their businesses were not relevant nor do they try to meet the real needs of the common Honduran. This encounter made it ever more clear to us the need for changes to made in the minds and practices of the wealthy Honduran business owners and politicians.