I grew up on the banana plantations in Honduras when campesinos would kill each other with machetes and bullets on payday. They killed each other on trains and in the fields. Death was a constant dance in the banana plantations, and that macabre dance went on for so many years that those bloodbaths came to be almost a natural part of daily life. The years of macho men killing each other never seemed to end. I left Honduras to study in the United States when I was 14 years old, but I had already seen bloody trains, canvas bags filled with corpses, and horrific scenes that I have never been able to forget.
Honduras was always a wild country, where in order to be a true man it meant you had to get drunk, draw your pistols, pull out your machetes, and kill each other.
I experienced a different life in New Hampshire, but I could never completely escape the reality of what I had experienced back home. I felt nostalgia for my life on the banana plantations, and I missed my father and mother. I was strangely drawn to the memories of the violent men with their moonshine (guaro) and their passionate quarrels that often resulted in someone dying. I was nostalgic for that "magnificent and terrible Honduras", as the poet Jorge Federico Travieso called her.
While it is true that the culture of machismo ruled supreme, and it is true that the machos killed each other, there were seldom cases of femicide, in which women were killed by men or wives by their husbands or mothers by the sons. The men would kill amongst themselves but would leave the women alone. Now, in the 21st century, everything has changed, and there are numerous cases of women murdered by men in Honduras.
It appears that our country is going through a deplorable period of misogyny... of hatred against women. But we could say the same of Mexico, where in the area of Ciudad Juárez hundreds of women have been murdered. We have somehow concluded that the most macho of macho men must hate women, be it in Mexico or Honduras. Macho men do not hesitate to kill a woman.
It is said that Honduras is a country where the rights of women are respected. This is not true. Here, women are killed as if they were cockroaches. Misogynists do not think twice about shooting a woman. They do not give a second thought to kidnapping a woman and then killing her. Misogyny in Honduras has reached alarming levels.
Supposedly, macho men love women and hate homosexuals, but I have seen drunken machos embracing each other, listening to music beside a jukebox... their physical proximity being so close that they could kiss, and so I've thought it possible that machos are, in reality, repressed homosexual men who take out their repressed feelings on women. Nowadays, machos wear hair gel and perfumes from Paris.
Adultery and domestic violence have always existed, but femicides are a new cancer in our society. Every time we listen to the radio or pick up a newspaper, we learn about women who have been found murdered. The phenomenon has grown and spread rapidly, and authorities have a serious problem on their hands. They have not been able to contain crime and delinquency, and now on top of that they must now deal with femicide, which is so terrorizing Honduran women. (8/22/14) (photo courtesy Internet)
Note: This article was originally published in Honduras Weekly on February 21, 2011. Because of the timelessness and continuing importance of the topic, we have decided to reprint the piece. The author was a veteran independent journalist in Honduras. He wrote for El Tiempo newspaper for two decades and was a former television commentator and professor of history. Billy Peña died in 2012.