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10 August 2011

The Black Water of Santa Anna

The Polish Capuchin missionary stood squinting into the mid-day sun and pointed.  Following his gaze was rapid fire, Spanish, complete with vows polished by thirty years in Salvador and an upbringing near Warsaw.  “Agua negra.”  Black water.  In other words: sewage.  Human waste spewed from the scrap metal dwellings that regularly pass as houses in Central America.  The sewage collected in the dank gutters of a single lane road which ran past the parish Church in Santa Anna.

“Has there been progress in the eight years you’ve been here?” I asked hopefully.
The word “no” is universal.  I understood. 

But did they manage to get electricity?  They did, the missionary confirmed.  Progress, thought I.

And so it goes in Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala.  On one hand, a visiting American friar recalled that to make a phone call from Ocotepeque in 1978, the caller needed to travel four or five hours to find a landline.  
In a pinch, the American noted, you might be able to run a patch through a ham radio, but results were invariably tenuous.  Progress, indeed.

But on the other hand: black water.  In the street.  Without end. 


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