I got back to Tegucigalpa, quite uneventfully, a week ago. A year ago my return to “Tegus” from the U.S. had coincided with the re-opening of the Toncontín airport after a month’s closure. The flight had been greeted by airport staff handing out glasses of white wine and chocolate-covered strawberries. Although the airport has closed only for a few days during the current political crisis, I had delayed my return home by a week, and felt just as happy as I had the year before about being back in Honduras. My flight wasn’t entirely without thrills – while waiting in the immigration line, I realized that Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo, one of the candidates for the November presidential elections, had been on my plane. I hadn’t even noticed in Houston when we boarded.
The city itself looked much like when I left, except with a depressing amount of new graffiti. Tegucigalpa’s mayor has made strides to spruce up the city’s historical center, and the black marks on the newly-renovated cathedral at the Plaza Central broke my heart. A youth movement has organized to paint over as much graffiti as they can this coming Sunday, and I desperately hope they make a dent.
After days of closure due to demonstrations, the boulevard in front of the Presidential Palace has opened back up to traffic. A dozen armed soldiers stand watch at each corner. Soldiers and police speckle the streets throughout the city, and I, for one, wouldn’t dare stay out past curfew. Thankfully it is now starting at midnight, so there is still plenty of time for a nice dinner out. The curfew is announced each day through an emergency broadcast system. In the U.S. emergency announcements begin with that loud blaring tone, but here in Honduras the broadcasts start with several minutes of marimba music.
Travel from Tegus to other parts of the country by road remains tricky. But my daily life in the capital remains largely unaffected: a bit of writing on the computer, trips to the gym, playdates with the kids, and over the weekend, a cloud-forest hike in La Tigra, the national park in the hills outside of Tegucigalpa.
Tourism in Honduras has taken a heavy blow, reflected in plummeting prices. Friends of ours decided to escape from Tegucigalpa last week to the island of Roatán, and got a room at the luxurious Mayan Princess on fabled West Bay Beach for just US$125/night for four, including breakfast–roughly half its regular rate. (The Henry Morgan resort has a similar deal, but with all meals included.) They had a great vacation, with the golden beach virtually to themselves. Promotions abound with hotels and local airlines, who are hoping to entice enough travelers to at least cover staff salaries and other fixed costs. With non-stop flights to Roatán available from Houston and Atlanta, now may be a surprisingly good time for a Caribbean escape.