Living in Honduras or Guatemala as a foreigner is sometimes hard, mostly fun and never boring. This Blog is about more than just the oddities of my years in the not-so tranquil, cobble-stoned town of Copán Ruinas and, more recently, Antigua Guatemala. Hence Serendipity, the gift of finding without seeking…

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Murder by numbers


A couple of months ago, Honduras made the news with the disgraceful feat of having the highest murder rate in the world. It will probably scare off some tourists who were planning to vacation in Honduras, but if you live here, those numbers don’t mean an awful lot. Of course, everybody knows that the situation is bad and much worse than a few years ago. But still, the violence is very much restricted to certain neighbourhoods in the big cities. Copán Ruinas is still, at least relatively, a very peaceful town.

But those numbers actually do mean something.
I grew up in the centre of Amsterdam and for years I lived in a neighbourhood that was at the time considered to be the most problematic. I’ve seen my share of drug abuse and petty crime, but I can’t say that I know of anyone being murdered. Not a single person.  I don’t think I know any second-degree victims of violence either. But that’s not so strange. Amsterdam has almost a million inhabitants. In 2011, of that entire population, only 19 people died a violent death.

Copán Ruinas has about 10,000 inhabitants. And I personally know a lot of people who got killed. Seriously, since I started thinking about it, I’ve been making a mental list of victims, and the list is long. I don’t think anybody is counting, but for 2011, the list might easily be twice as long as the one for Amsterdam. Some of the people on my list were known to be mixed up in things they shouldn’t have been involved in, which explains their violent death, although it doesn’t justify it. But most of the victims were normal people, minding their business, trying to make the best out of life.

I think there are very few families in Honduras that haven‘t been somehow touched by violence. So many people have mourned the loss of a loved one and know the feeling of anger, frustration and sadness. What an impact that must have on family life, on children, on future generations! And that while the violence itself keeps on spreading like an infectious disease.

Maybe it is not so good to see violence as an entity. Because in the end, violence is not an uncontrollable alien factor, but us humans who are committing all that violence. And we are the only ones to stop it too.

Let’s please put an end to it…

This one’s to Abner, beloved son, cousin, brother, uncle and friend of so many

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