December 5 is Día Nacional del Pollo in Honduras. National Chicken Day doesn’t celebrate the existence of the feathery kind, but its fried variety.
Hondurans are obsessed with fried chicken. In Copán there are no major fast food restaurants such as Popeye, Pollo Campero or Church’s Chicken (yet), but we do have a Super Pollo Express (expanding from Santa Rosa de Copán) and several small fried chicken joints. The latter are very basic but resourceful, using handmade frying equipment to sell chicken at the most unexpected places. Their overhead is low, and so is the price of their product: a piece of chicken, French fries, 4 tortillas (of course) plus plenty of mayonnaise and ketchup on a Styrofoam plate, wrapped with cellophane and put in a plastic bag, sets you back 30 Lempiras ($1,50). It’s affordable, even for the poorest campesinos, so the lines are long, from 7 in the morning until after lunch.
I lived the fried chicken experience from rather close by when my landlord decided to rent out one of his spaces to a “Rapi Pollo”. As much as I like my landlord and the guy who sold the chicken, I was not happy. Sharing a patio with a fried chicken joint, without any kind of air extraction was not fun. Some kids commented that my neighbour and I were so lucky to be able to smell fried chicken all the time, but we were less amused with a bed room, living room, laundry, everything reeking of fried chicken. And I don’t even like fried chicken! So it was us or the chicken. That war we won.
I happened to be in Tegucigalpa on National Chicken Day and was blissfully unaware of the fact, until I was on my way to a cultural event a block away from the central park. Hundreds of people were lined up and for a split second I thought they were waiting for the poetry reading to start. That thought really only lasted a nanosecond or so, because people lining up for culture? Pffff…. And indeed, they weren’t. They were waiting for two pieces of fried chicken that Church’s was giving away to anyone who showed their ad from the newspaper. After obtaining the much desired piece of meat, people hurried off. No one waited around to listen to poetry.
The next morning I read in the newspaper a raving report on how successful the event had been and how much happiness the chicken had brought to the people. I found it all very disturbing.
Which led me to the idea for a new art project. If people will line up massively for a free piece of chicken (but not for art), would they line up for a painting of a piece of fried chicken???
So right now I’m looking for sponsors who can compensate me for painting a few hundred canvases of fried chicken. I’ll then place an ad in the newspaper, offering a free painting of fried chicken in exchange for that ad.
Will people line up????
Or will the lynch me?
I just remembered a Japanese theatre group that toured through Honduras a few years ago, also visiting Copán. Throughout the whole municipality a lot of publicity was being made, inviting people to the play called “A Hundred Sacks of Rice”. Surprisingly enough, a lot of people from all over the place actually showed up. But when the play was over, a riot almost broke out: the people hadn’t come to town to watch the play, but because they thought that a hundred sacks of rice were being given away.