National Assembly of the Resistance
Every Sunday the National Front of Resistance against the Coup d'Etat in Honduras holds an assembly at the Union of Beverage Workers (STIBYS) headquarters in Tegucigalpa. This union hall has been converted into the headquarters of the resistance over the last three months since the elected President of Honduras, Jose Manuel Zelaya, was forcible removed from power in the middle of the night by U.S.-trained army generals. At the weekly assemblies of the resistance to the coup, hundreds gather to decide on the actions for the week, to debate strategies and make work plans, and to share news and words of inspiration from the struggle to restore democracy in Honduras. Participatory democracy is both the goal and the method of the movement against the coup and for a national constitutional assembly in Honduras. Just as the resistance fights to re-write the constitution to guarantee that the dispossessed have a direct say in the decisions of government, they conduct this fight by ensuring all sectors of society have a direct say in the path of struggle.
As we arrive at the STIBYS union hall we walk past grandmothers, youth, union workers, peasants, street vendors, indigenous peoples, students and others who mill about outside the union building, in the hallways, in the lobby, on the stairs sharing stories, joking, eating or catching a few moments of rest as they wait for the assembly to start. We are warmly welcomed by several of the national coordinators of the resistance who thank us for our presence and ask us to name two representatives to introduce our delegation of teachers, youth, religious leaders, artists, human rights workers and independent journalists to the assembly.
The music playing in the main hall begins to fade out and we hear the call for the assembly to start. The room becomes packed with people and banners proclaiming “No to the coup” and “Honduras Resists Morazán [the Honduran independence leader] is in the Streets” stretch out along the walls. Over the next two hours we hear a combination of testimonies, speeches, reports from neighborhood resistance work groups and calls to action.
Two grandmothers in their eighties who have been at every single action over 120 days of resistance each take the stage to thunderous applause, each telling of the countless abuses they have witnessed as they have accompanied their people through marches, under clouds of tear gas, at road-blocks, in front of the presidential palace, at the gates of the airport. More importantly, they speak to and for the aspirations of the Honduran people, the aspirations for a just wage, for a dignified life, for the right to health care and education and housing, for a say in the decisions that affect their lives. The path to these aspirations was beginning to open up through the possibility of a national constitutional assembly and the reforms being advocated by the Honduran social movement and cooperated with by Zelaya before he was abruptly removed from power.
Alexy Lanza of La Voz de los de Abajo and Berenice Salas of Teachers for Social Justice speak on behalf of our delegation from Honduras, receiving a rousing applause and thanks for their expressions of solidarity with the struggle against the coup in Honduras. Then a spokesperson reporting of the previous days meetings of representatives of 52 neighborhood resistance committees around Tegucigalpa reports on some of the agreements and strategies agreed upon, including the decision to take down all electoral propaganda, blocking candidates from entering any neighborhoods and going door-to-door to gain support for a boycott of the upcoming elections so as to stop the de facto government from legitimizing the coup through an electoral fraud. Finally, the agreement to meet the next day in front of the National Congress was announced and the meeting closed with a powerful chorus of chanting and applause.
Concert in Santa Ana
Art, music, theater and dance have been a fundamental part of the resistance struggle in Honduras. In the face of a dictatorship that has now killed 26 people, jailed hundreds and beaten thousands, it may seem surprising to find people still finding time to laugh, to dance, to explore and enjoy the beauty of humanity's creative potential. Rather than a luxury or a side show, art has been a necessity for the resistance. This ethic of resisting the dictatorship both in the streets and on the stage was on full display on Sunday in Santa Ana, a small community about a half hour outside of Tegucigalpa.
Along with many other people from the resistance assembly, our delegation drove out to join the residents of Santa Ana's resistance committee for a resistance concert after the assembly finished. In the middle of a vast green plain surrounded by mountains underneath a blue sky and bright sun, a stage had been set up by the local community where, as we pulled up into the crowd, a work of “theater of the oppressed” was about to take place. A talented cast of dynamic actors convoked the many kids in the audience to take seats in front of the stage as they prepared to perform a play originally written to make fun of the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile called “el Generalito.” The play makes fun of a short general who commands from his platform that all the citizens walk on their knees to make him feel taller and orders them to paint their houses grey and black.
Following the play, bands and dancers of the resistance keep the crowd moving until the sun begins to set. Someone suggests that people all leave together in a caravan honking the whole way to make the resistance felt all the way back to Tegucigalpa. As the night falls on Santa Ana, cars stretch about a mile along the highway, winding through the mountains and descending back into the city to rest after a long day and prepare for the next morning's protest.