Monday, January 11, 2010

Book Club

A while ago, my friend Elisa and I ordered several books on Honduran history, sociology, economics, etc, in order to understand our "new home" and I finally finished one of them!! Here is my review on Goodreads. Enjoy!

Working Hard, Drinking Hard: On Violence and Survival in Honduras Working Hard, Drinking Hard: On Violence and Survival in Honduras by">Adrienne Pine

My rating:">4 of 5 starsAs someone who is currently living in Honduras, this book definitely confirmed a lot of things that I observe everyday, and also gave me some needed historical context/anthropological perspective on Honduras and its people. I must say that I have never formally studied anthropology before so some of the terms were confusing at first, but I found it to be a fascinating perspective on human behavior and the outside forces that lead to "embodied fear," etc.
The most relevant and fascinating chapter for me was the first one, on violence. This one, more than maquiladoras and alcohol, is the most relevant to me and the people that I know in Honduras. There are religiously-inspired bumper stickers on more than a few cars here that say "No mataras" (Thou shalt not kill). At first, I thought these stickers were laughable... "yeah, DUH!" As time went on and I realized how much of a problem (perceived or real) this is to everyday Hondurans who have lost family members to street violence and economically-motivated murders, I have started to have a slighty more somber reaction when I see the now.
I think the concept of embodied fear and resultant habitus made a lot of sense in the way that my roommates here in Honduras (who are Irani-Hondurans) behave and react to threats (real and perceived). They also would probably approve of the "mano dura"-style punishment policies and are currently calling on Pepe Lobo, the new president, to implement the death penalty to create "real consequences" for committing crimes. I often think their way of thinking is a little too harsh or overreacting, just as the author did occasionally when talking with people who approved of the "death squads" to rid the streets of gangs. And, like the author, I often get the response, "you would understand this if you lived here long enough to have seen and felt the same things we do."
After reading the book, I have become more sensitive to the subtle and not-so-subtle messages in media and through general conversations confirming the theme "Honduras is violent." The day I got back to Honduras after going home to the States for Christmas, a paperboy hawking papers on my bus read the headlines (which included gory pictures of a car crash on the front page, just as the author noted in her book). At one point he even said, after announcing an increase in gang-related crime in San Pedro Sula, "asi es Honduras, no?" That's Honduras for you, isn't it?" If you heard that every day of your life, you'd feel a little different about your homeland, wouldn't you?
Another thing from my observations down here that the book confirmed was the general Honduran inferiority complex... not only in relation to the United States, but also relative to other Central American countries (and especially Costa Rica). Unlike my brief travels in Bolivia, where being American was decidedly UNcool at times, American clothes, domestic products, etc are definitely considered status symbols and highly desired. The American flag really does appear everywhere to sell just about anything. "It must be better than Honduran goods..."
I gave this book 4 stars instead of 5 mostly because I felt that some of the arguments presented in the book were a bit of a stretch, and the fact that I would have preferred a stronger conclusion for each of the three "chapters." All in all, a fascinating and extremely helpful read.">View all my reviews >>

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