I am writing this column a week before Good Friday, the time of year when we get regular visits from food inspectors, tax auditors, immigration inspectors and other officials whose primary role is revenue collection.
Usually, the first group to show up are from La Ceiba, claiming the local municipal functionaries are derelict in their duties. The second wave are from San Pedro Sula, to discredit the work of the ceibeños. The final assault on our pocketbooks comes from Tegucigalpa, the vulture capital of the world. I suspect when the groups congregate their convocation is: “Come let us prey.”
They poke, they pry and they sniff until they come up with some infraction that can only be remedied with cold, hard cash. They can be quite creative in their fault-finding. It is similar to the operativos conducted on the island by the National Police, which have nothing to do with fighting crime. They are designed to separate us from our money.
This time around has been different. Only the ceibeños showed up, and they did not exhibit the same arrogant and bellicose behavior as before. A local accountant friend suggested to me that my hammering these blood-suckers in this column year after year may have finally paid off. But we should not let down our guard, because he hastened to add they may be planning a Christmas assault.
Wy do we islanders put up with this year after year? Why can’t we come together as one and tell these blood-sucking thieves to get lost permanently! Their objective is clear: they are here to milk their favorite cow. The problem is they have already sucked out all the milk. They are now down to the blood.
The cow metaphor is not just a figure of speech. I am told by a very reliable source that that is how the powers that be in Tegucigalpa refer to us. When they need cash, they say, “It’s time to milk the cow.” Their only consideration for us is how how much they can extract from us.
They also disregard our local authorities, regularly issuing permits over local objections if the right palms are greased. The process is totally corrupt. We may be dealing with a dragon here.
The English poet G.K. Chesterton said, “Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”
Many unjust things are considered acceptable until the people stop accepting them. These perverse practices will not stop until we no longer allow ourselves to be treated as steerage.
Our Islands are attractive and still relatively safe, compared with the mainland. But this will not be the case much longer unless we get a divorce from Tegucigalpa. If our ambiance, culture and customs are going to endure, it is up to us to defend them.
There once was a farmer who lived on the same farm all his life and every day found a new reason to criticize it. Finally he decided to sell it. He asked a real estate agent to list it for him. The agent drafted an advertisement, emphasizing all the attractive features of the farm, and called the farmer to read it to him for his approval. After hearing the ad, the farmer shouted, “I’ve been looking for a place like that all my life!”
Likewise, we Bay Islanders don’t always appreciate what we have until we face the prospect of losing it. Let’s take a real hard look at we have and decide whether it is worth fighting to keep. Then, as renowned author Peter Marshall said, “Let us not be content to wait and see what will happen, but give us the determination to make the right things happen.”
Institutional autonomy for the Bay Islands is within our grasp. Let us move forward with courage and with strong and active faith. Faith is not a shelter against difficulties but belief in the face of all contradictions. Perhaps former US President John F. Kennedy put it best when he said, “Every time we strike out against injustice we send a ripple of hope, and those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” Perhaps even dragons.