Since last week I pay one of the neighbourhood kids to sweep the street in front of my house every Saturday morning, because if there’s one thing I absolutely hate it’s sweeping the street. It’s not so much the sweeping nor is it the public humiliation of standing in plain view in the dust. I do sweep tons (I’m one of the rare foreigners in Honduras without domestic help) and I don’t care what people think of me, so that’s not it. I just don’t like it and for that reason never do it, which makes me feel guilty towards the neighbour on the right who sweeps the sidewalk every, if not twice a day. She also devoutly sprinkles the street with water so the dust settles down. The neighbours on the left are way worse than I am, so at least that’s a comfort.
Sweeping is such a part of daily life here. Every morning around seven, when the kids are off to school and men off to work, the housewives of Copán swarm out of their houses armed with brooms and often still in their night attire. And then they sweep. Of course it’s a social event too, in which the latest news and gossip is being exchanged. Not long after, the municipal ladies come by and sweep the street yet again.
Does that mean that Copán is the tidiest place on earth?
It’s true that a lot of the dust on the streets is just sand or whatever dust is made of. And that the street dogs open trash bags and drag garbage all over. But a lot of it is trash is deposited by people of every age and gender, shamelessly dropped wherever it drops, 24 hours a day. So my reasonably logic mind thinks: if mothers teach their children not to throw garbage on the street (and keep their dogs at home), there will be much less to sweep up. The women will save up dozens of hours a year and can dedicate that time to do something else.
But when I proposed this to a few women, they looked at me as if I were crazy. So I gave in and now pay Chepito 20 Lempiras ( more than a dollar, but less than a euro) to sweep “my” part of the street. Not every day, but still.
The neighbour on the right should be happy. Or happier.