On February 26th, 2011, the day of the national assembly of the National Front of People’s Resistance, an older man with sweet eyes and a sombrero approached the microphones at Radio Gualcho, the local radio of the resistance in Tegucigalpa. He introduced himself as José David Murillo. Over the radio waves, the man spoke about his son Isis Obed, how he supported his decision to join the struggle. He explained that the young man had his reasons and that he never would have stopped him from going to the marches. He told about his family of 12 children, of who Isis was the seventh, about his community in the mountains of Olancho, about the ceaseless persecution against them and his unbreakable evangelical faith.
The golpistas, moved by fear, rage, shame and other reasons no one knows, often blame the resistance for the misdeeds of others, accusing us of being unwitting accomplices. To discredit the movement, the press and rumor mills say the resistance are just Zelayists, that Hugo Chávez pays the protesters, that Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has given money to the organizations and other such nonsense. In response, people in the Resistance defend themselves, responding by accusing others of supporting the coup, of being oligarchs, of being cowards and sell-outs. Families, friendships and relationships of all sorts have been torn apart. And though I wouldn’t vouch for the entirety of the Resistance, knowing well that there are always people who will sell their souls, I would stake my life on the dignity of Isis Obed Murillo and his family.
For Naún and Nelson, my other brothers
She came from far. She came from a poor, lush village, leaving behind the disillusionment of an unfulfilled love for a man who didn’t even say goodbye, and bringing with her many children to raise and feed.
She came alone, with her cardboard boxes and scarce belongings, a photo, pictures of saints, tattered cloths, home remedies.
She came with her strength. She arrived at a neighborhood in the capital where a friend with her own kids to raise awaited her in a house as little as her remaining hope. What am I going to do here? she asked herself, looking over the children sleeping so comfortably in that little corner they were given to rest. She would cry and then fall asleep exhausted, the heavier the burden, the more it is to bear. And with the skill of her fierce Salvadoran grandmother who raised her and taught her the value of a hard day’s work, and her smile brightening faces and hearts, she got herself together to sell and buy, to navigate new and hostile streets, realizing that she and her friend alone could save themselves and their small family from ruin.
And it is a long story, long like the stories of so many women amongst our people and others, who are experts in surviving oppressions while taking care of so many; and so it was that one fine day a woman who would adopt her as a daughter, to fill the loss of the one taken from her by a desert full of migrants, the one probably now in a mass grave. She offered to share a space with her in the market where she could sell tortillas, bread, spices, flowers, little plastic knick-knacks, sandals, and even finally her own food stall: Paty’s Eatery. She was in her element. She would get there as dawn broke each day over that poor area of the city where the market was. She would come down with her kids; already all in school, experts in taking buses and helping mom, skilled at not letting shady men take advantage of them. Paty, the littlest, was almost in third grade. The years had gone by. She was older and the city was changing too, it was getting worse every day, rougher, fouler and more poverty-stricken, looking sad with head bowed because the sky hadn’t yet erupted with the fireworks of the people’s resistance. The eatery had a lot of customers; the food was good and the hostess better. Her heart had closed off to love for fear of suffering, but its sweetness came out in her mondongo and chicken soups, her specialty. There’s nothing a chicken soup can’t cure, mi’ja! she told me one day with absolute certainty. And in front of that huge ornate bowl overflowing with hot soup, I cried one more time over everything and let myself be cured by Her. I found that place because I am lucky enough to have friends who are archeologists of life and always know where to find the best soup, the best snack, the best late night grilled meat.
By that time social life had blurred and you only ran into your friends in the assemblies and fleeing teargas during marches, others left for good, and I had lost track of Her. But one day I went by the market, and the need for chicken soup to calm the rage in me against those who killed Isis Obed Murillo, and the pain from having been accused of moral responsibility for his death, made me look for her. The place was closed. I could see the lock on the door from afar. What happened to her? I asked her neighbor, who was making tortillas by hand and singing a song against Satan, well go look yourself, she doesn’t have her head on right, she left a note there.
Sure enough, I went over and saw a note written in blue: We’re closed today, we went to join the Resistance.
She came with her strength.
She is the Resistance.
She deserves the depths of her mother’s name: Honduras.
Melissa Cardoza is a writer and feminist artist born in Honduras amidst the
sexual rebelliousness of the 60’s. She is of mixed Afro-descendent Garífuna
and indigenous Lenca heritage, and describes herself as a “*GaríLenca… *in
resistance to parties, husbands and states, a traveling and curious woman.”
Her mother died when she was very young and she grew up in a household of
four men. She joined the feminist movement in her 20’s while in college in
Honduras in response to the killing of a young woman, a university student
brutally murdered by two Honduran soldiers. She was attracted to the
feminist movement for its rebelliousness, its creativity, its expressiveness, its independence. She left Honduras and lived in Mexico for two years where she joined a collective of other feminists and lesbians and
wrote extensively. She came back, encountering a country in the throes of
neoliberal economic reforms and burgeoning resistance against the wave of
privatization and austerity that was sweeping not just Honduras but the
rest of Latin America.
Though the feminist movement has always been her political home, she is
also deeply immersed in the indigenous movement, largely because of her
close friendship with Berta Cáceres, one of the principal leaders of the
Lenca indigenous organization COPINH, brutally assassinated in her home on
March 2nd, 2016. In the aftermath of the coup d’état and through the
process of resistance against it, Melissa has been impacted by the
diversity of forces and peoples in the streets, where she has been both
documentarian and participant. She describes the vocation of the writer as
someone always “hunting stories in the reality around us.” Her other work
includes poetry, articles, short stories, essays and children’s books.
Previously, her mostly widely circulated publication was the children’s
book *Tengo una tía que no es monjita*, or “I have an aunt who is not a
nun,” published in Mexico with illustrator Margarita Sada. It is well known
and widely praised for its artful, playful and powerful message of
tolerance to children. *13 Colores de la Resistencia Hondureña, *or 13
Colors of the Honduran Resistance, has brought her renewed attention
throughout Latin America since its publication first in Costa Rica and
Honduras and later in bilingual English/Spanish edition in the United
Cover image: Collage by Basseck Mankabu.