Tag: Honduras

Angel Valley

Angel Valley

Valle de Angeles, Honduras – September 27, 2014

Unexpectedly on Saturday, a friend working at the United States Embassy called me to see if I wanted to go to the small town of Valle de Angeles.  I jumped at the chance.

My friend speaks fluent Spanish.  That easily enabled arrangements to take three of us by taxi to Valle de Angeles.  It was 400 Lempiras each, or about US$20 for the roundtrip.  We headed out of Tegucigalpa mid-morning.

The town is only about 18-miles (30 kilometers) to the northeast of Tegucigalpa.  It takes 40 to 50 minutes one-way, mainly because of the twisting mountain road.

We parked near a still-closed artisan mall, so we just began walking through town.  Numerous shops selling tourist trinkets lined the streets, punctuate periodically with small cafes/restaurants.

A street intersection in the small village of Valle de Angeles, Honduras.
Several colorful shops adjoin the entry to the Casa de Huespedes (Guesthouse) Hotel.
The main street toward the center of town was crowded.
The old section of Valle de Angeles was bustling with activity.

Our preliminary journey ended at Restaurante Manolo, a small café on the west side of Central Park. The restaurant had several tables on the street, which was closed to traffic, and a couple of tables on the sidewalk. We all ordered a beer. I had a Salva Vida (Life Saver), my favorite Honduran beer. Our server brought a complimentary plate of meats and corn tortillas, cooked by a woman on a flat grill placed directly on the sidewalk. The dish had both beef and chorizo. It was delicious.

Some other patrons and the servers at Restaurante Manolo on the west side of Central Park.

There was a small Catholic church on the north side of Central Park, with the municipal building located directly across the square. Just across the street from our table, on the western edge of Central Park were some women selling trinkets and inflatable toys. Some of the toys were plastic blow-up airplanes and balls. They must have been quite ancient. That is because the blow-up plastic planes had the name “PanAm” emblazoned on the side.

The Catholic Church of Valle de Angeles is on the north side of Central Park.
The vendors at the table had various types of jewelry trinkets for sale. The woman in the red striped shirt sold inflatable toys.

We departed the café, walking from shop to shop. The local taxis are a unique aspect of the town. Many of them are three-wheel tuk-tuk taxies. I did not get in one. I am not sure I would have fit anyway.

Various colored tuk-tuks provided taxi service in Valle de Angeles.
A red tuk-tuk in Valle de Angeles.

Among the tourist trinkets in the shops are some charming pieces. Many of the oil paintings have very vibrant colors. No tourist shop is complete without the requisite ceramic roosters. No one we came across could provide a reason behind why virtually every shop sells the roosters. I guess the story is that one cannot buy them anywhere except in Honduras. The other mainstay of items for sale is hand-carved wood items. The pieces are incredibly intricate. One can choose from bass relief wall hangings, coffee tables, and chests, to name a few.

Detail of some items for sale in one of the gift shops in Valle de Angeles.
Some buildings on the east side of Central Park.
A huge tree covers the road on the east side of Central Park.
The Casa de la Cultura on the east side of Central Park in Valle de Angeles.
Another of the streets in Valle de Angeles.
The street on the way back to where the car was parked.
Some of the many gift shops lining the street.
People walking down the street lined with gift shops and restaurants.
A couple walking uphill toward the center of Valle de Angeles.
Two colorful restaurants along the street in Valle de Angeles. The green restaurant specializes in pupusas, the national dish.
A young man riding his bike uphill toward the center of town.
A front view of the guesthouse in Valle de Angeles.
A couple walking up the street in Valle de Angeles.
A couple approaching a gift shop with colorful murals on the wall.
A man riding a bicycle in Valle de Angeles.

When we finished shopping, the taxi driver took us to a restaurant, La Florida.  It is on the edge of Valle de Angeles.  That is where we had lunch, well, really a snack.  One of the national dishes is called a pupusa.  We decided to try a pupusa at La Florida.  A pupusa is a relative of the quesadilla.  They are about the diameter of a standard corn tortilla, but about a quarter of an inch thick.  They use the same type of corn flour used for tortillas.  Our pupusas had a cheese filling; although, one can also get bean filling and chorizo filling.

A welcoming sign for Valle de Angeles.

Pickled carrots, onions, and jalapeños, as well as a type of local coleslaw, come with the pupusas. Once everything is piled on top, the pupusa is eaten with a fork. I enjoyed the two I had, chased by a Salva Vida.
After “snacks,” it was back to Tegucigalpa.

A roadside barbecue and vegetable stand near Valle de Angeles.
A mural alongside the road on the way to Valle de Angeles.
Laundry hanging alongside the road near Valle de Angeles.
A typical home in the valley.
A garden shop alongside the road to Valle de Angeles.
A shop and home alongside the road to Valle de Angeles.
The wall surrounding a paint store on the way to Valle de Angeles.
A funeral home in Tegucigalpa.
A mobile locksmith in Tegucigalpa.
A pedestrian in a neighborhood area of Tegucigalpa.
Teguc Tour

Teguc Tour

Tegucigalpa, Honduras – September 20, 2014

Today I went on a Tour of Tegucigalpa, arranged by the Community Liaison Officer. I thought the cost of 600 Lempiras, about US$30, was very reasonable. She was kind enough to stop by my hotel to pick me up. She delivered me to the Embassy. There was a small bus waiting there. I got on, took a seat, and prepared for the ride.
There were 25-30 people on the bus, including four armed security personnel. There was a chase vehicle behind the bus with another four or five armed guards. The level of security is necessary for safety. Unfortunately, crime is rampant in parts of the city. Throughout the tour, we found ourselves in a protective bubble as we walked around. That was a little odd to get used to, but we certainly did feel safe.
The first stop was the small Virgin of Suyapa church. That area had usually been off-limits to Embassy personnel. However, with all of the “firepower” we had, we were able to be in the area with impunity.
The Virgin of Suyapa church is about two blocks east of the Basilica of Our Lady of Suyapa. We walked those two blocks with our security contingent. It was easy to tell we were in a very distressed and impoverished area. I was glad I was not there alone.

The interior of the Virgin of Suyapa Church is quite small.
A small statue of the Virgin Mary and Jesus in the Virgin of Suyapa Church.
A wider view of the altar in the Virgin of Suyapa Church.
The altarpiece in the Virgin of Suyapa Church in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
The small figurine of the Virgin is visible in the altarpiece in the Virgin of Suyapa Church.
A vase on display near the altar in the Virgin of Suyapa Church.

Several small children seemed to appear out of nowhere. There was a couple in particular that continued to tap on my arm, asking for money. They followed us during our entire walking tour of the church.
Approaching the small church, we saw several vendors setting up stalls from which they sold various religious items related to the Virgin of Suyapa. It was still relatively early. I can only imagine how crowded and bustling the area must be later in the day.

A couple preparing a market stall across from the Virgin of Suyapa Church.
Across the small plaza from the Virgin of Suyapa Church were some restaurants. The green business is a pupuseria. The pupusa is a national dish. I did not eat one there, but they are delicious.

Construction of the Virgin of Suyapa church began in 1777 to honor a small statue of the Virgin Mary found by a young boy in about 1747. One can envision the faithful, but poor farmers that gave their time, talent, and treasure to build the church. It is not very ornamental, but it is awe-inspiring in its own right. If I understood correctly, the small statue of the Virgin Mary on display in the decorative wooden case above the altar is not the original statue. The original icon is safely stored in the nearby Basilica of Our Lady of Suyapa, only brought out for display on extraordinary occasions.

The Virgin of Suyapa Church in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

Over time, the large crowds of pilgrims became too much for the small Virgin of Suyapa church to handle. To handle the masses of people, the Basilica of Our Lady of Suyapa opened in 1954. Our tour guide said it is not a Basilica, but everyone refers to it as such. That may be news to Mr. Google. If one checks Google Maps, Our Lady of Suyapa is a basilica.
After touring the small church, we walked roughly two blocks to the Basilica of Our Lady of Suyapa. Once we got on the grounds of the basilica, there were very few people. Children no longer pestered us. The basilica itself was large but not as ornate as I was expecting. From the west side of the basilica, one has a commanding view of parts of Tegucigalpa. The small plaza just below the west entrance to the basilica contains a statue of St. John Paul II. The then-Pope visited the Cathedral on March 8, 1983. The statue faces the town, looking down over the vast cemetery and valley below.

A mosaic at the entry to the Basilica of Our Lady of Suyapa. The banner reads “Our Lady of Suyapa.”
The west facade of the Basilica of Our Lady of Suyapa.
Tegucigalpa, Honduras as seen from the grounds of the Basilica of Our Lady of Suyapa. The statue facing the city is of St. John Paul II.
Detail of the statue of St. John Paul II on the grounds of the Basilica of Our Lady of Suyapa.
A view into one of the valleys of Tegucigalpa from the grounds of the Basilica of Our Lady of Suyapa.
View of Virgin of Suyapa Church as seen from the grounds of the Basilica of Our Lady of Suyapa.
The Basilica of Our Lady of Suyapa is massive when compared to the Virgin of Suyapa Church.
The altar in the Basilica of Our Lady of Suyapa.
Viewing the altar from an angle at the Basilica of Our Lady of Suyapa.
Detail of the altar in the Basilica of Our Lady of Suyapa.
The tiny figurine of Mary is visible in the center. The Latin phrase translates as “You are all beautiful, Mary. The original stain of sin is not on you”.
The ambo in the Basilica of Our Lady of Suyapa.
Detail of a stained glass depicting Mary and Joseph. This is in the Basilica of Our Lady of Suyapa.
The stained glass window depicting the birth of Jesus. This is in the Basilica of Our Lady of Suyapa.
Detail of the stained glass window depicting the birth of Jesus. This is in the Basilica of Our Lady of Suyapa.
The stained glass window depicting Pentecost. This is in the Basilica of Our Lady of Suyapa.
The pieta in the Basilica of Our Lady of Suyapa in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

We piled back onto the bus for the 20-minute ride to our next stop, a small park, Parque la Leona, overlooking the old-town section of Tegucigalpa. Our travels took us over some of the only remaining cobblestone streets in the city. The roads are incredibly steep, narrow, and have numerous curves. On several occasions, I was surprised the bus was able to continue making forward progress.

This sign seemed appropriate was we entered the old part of Tegucigalpa after leaving the Basilica of Our Lady of Suyapa. The sign reads, Jesus Christ is the Way.
A mural on a building near the Parque la Leona in Tegucigalpa.
Detail of the mural on the wall near the Parque la Leona.
A very narrow entry to the home on the right.
A narrow street in the old town portion of Tegucigalpa.
Looking down at the central business district, one can see the Cathedral of Tegucigalpa.
In this view from Parque la Leona, one can see the National Stadium.
A row of lights along a sidewalk at the Parque la Leona.
Looking up the valley from Parque la Leona.
One can see the broken glass used on top of walls to deter entry. One can also see the odd growth on the power lines.
A house across the street from the Parque la Leona.
Another house across the street from the Parque la Leona.

The current Presidential House is next to my hotel; however, from the overlook, one could see the previous Presidential House.  It looked like an ornate castle, just a block or two away from the Tegucigalpa Cathedral.

The current Presidential Palace in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
The cupola in the center is at the Museo Historico de la Republica in Tegucigalpa. That building was the former Presidential Palace.

The bus motored down the alleged steepest street in town after departing the park. I cannot speak to the veracity of that claim, but I can say it was by far the steepest street on which I have ever been! At the bottom of the hill, the bus stopped to let us off. From there we began our walking tour, heading to the church at Dolores Park. All totaled, we walked just over two miles (three kilometers) today.
As we walked along the street, I could not help but notice the plethora of wires and cables strung from power pole to power pole. It just looked like a mess to me. I am glad I am not in charge of troubleshooting when there is a connectivity problem.

A very steep street in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
A shop on the corner at the base of the steep street.
The wiring and cabling in Tegucigalpa seem to be quite a maze.
Everywhere one looks, wires and cables zigzag across the street.

When we made it to the small church on the plaza, Dolores Church (Church of Sorrows); I was amazed at the number of pigeons perched on and flying around the front of the church. Since the church was under construction from about 1732 until 1815, I guess the pigeons had plenty of time to find the spot! A small boy in the middle of dozens of pigeons in the plaza mesmerized many of us in the tour group. The pigeons focused on him because of the bird feed he threw to them.

Several small shops selling a multitude of items ring the plaza. Because of the security detail, it seemed the people in and around the plaza were as interested in looking at us as we were in looking at them.

A woman selling tortillas to passersby. She sat beside the Iglesia de Los Dolores (Church of Sorrows).
Detail of the main entrance to the Church of Sorrows.
Detail of one of the reliefs by the entry door.
On 5 Avenida approaching the Church of Sorrows.
Looking at the Church of Sorrows from 5 Avenida.
A young boy feeding the pigeons in the Plaza of Sorrows.
Moments later, something spooked many of the pigeons.
A shopping area directly to the east of the church.
One of the entry points to the shopping area.
Several people gathered around one of the entrances to the shopping area.
People walking by the fountain and statue in the Plaza of Sorrows.
A man and young boy at the base of the statue in the Plaza of Sorrows.
A few shops on the edge of the Plaza of Sorrows.
People walking through the Plaza of Sorrows toward the church.

Inside, the Church of Sorrows is very colorful. I do not believe I have ever seen the primary colors used so predominantly in a church. The colors and the Baroque style made it very eye-catching. The people we observed in the church praying seemed to be very poor.

The altar in the Church of Sorrows was unlike any I have ever seen in the world. Never have I seen the figure of Mary play such a prominent role.
The opening to the cupola above the altar is visible here.
Detail of the figure of Mary at the altar.
Detail of the upper left corner of the altar.
Detail of the mural at the base of the cupola above the altar.
Detail of the upper right corner of the altar.
The intricate plaster ceiling medallion made all the more impressive by the paint.
A woman praying in the side chapel of the Church of Sorrows.
A woman praying at a side altar in the Church of Sorrows.

Leaving the Church of Sorrows, our next stop was the Museo para la ldentidad Nacional (MIN)(Museum of National Identity). We walked for a couple of blocks along Avenida Cristobol Colon (Christopher Columbus Avenue) to get to the museum. The street in front of the MIN was just for pedestrians. It was visually amazing because, for one block, dozens of colorful umbrellas completely covered the pedestrian mall. The umbrellas stretched between the MIN and the Galeria Nacional de Arte (National Art Gallery). It was a fundraiser for the MIN.

A man walking along 5 Avenida toward the Church of Sorrows.
This woman was leaning against a car parked on Avenida Cristobal Colon (Christopher Columbus Avenue). We passed her on our way to the museum.
Umbrellas were suspended above the pedestrian street (Calle Peatonal) between the Museo Para La Identidad Nacional (Museum of National Identity) and the Galleria Nacional de Arte (National Art Gallery). Our guide was sharing information about the installation.
A group of people walking under the umbrellas.
Detail of the umbrella installation.

In the late 1800s, the building housing the MIN was the first hospital in Tegucigalpa. In the mid-1920s, the government took over the building as the Palacio de las Ministerios, Ministerial Palace. The MIN opened its doors in this historic building in 2006.
When we entered the building for our tour, we found schoolchildren had pre-empted us. We waited for 30 minutes or so. While standing there with my camera, I found out I could not bring my camera into the museum, a crushing blow.
During the wait, the tour guide asked if anyone was interested in seeing the National Theater. He said it was only a block away. A few of us took him up on his offer. The 99-year-old National Theater sits directly across from a small park. It was a quaint theater modeled after one in Paris. A staff member related that the theater would soon be undergoing a significant restoration in preparation for its 100th anniversary.
A few minutes after arriving back at the MIN, we began our tour. A guide led us through the exhibits, describing Mayan artifacts, dinosaur bones, and silver mining artifacts. It was helpful having the guide lead us through with descriptions in English. Otherwise, for me, it would have been a little more challenging to understand the exhibits. The culmination of the tour was a 15-minute movie on the Mayan culture, mainly focused on the Copan site that is very near the border with Guatemala. It was in Spanish, so I only understood about 25 percent. Luckily, that was enough to get the gist.
When we left the MIN, we walked several blocks to the old American Legation. It was the first “Embassy” in Honduras for the United States, but the only identifying feature left today is the eagle above the main door. A bunch of wires and cables somewhat obscures it.

People along the Calle Peatonal.
Several vendors set up shop in the middle of the Calle Peatonal.
Shops in buildings lined both sides of the Calle Peatonal.
Pedestrians on the Calle Peatonal.
There were a lot of people on the Calle Peatonal that day.
Pedestrians on Calle La Leona.
An American eagle sits above the entry to what was once the American Legation building in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. This was about a block away from the Central Park.
Taxis awaiting fares along Calle Palace.
A sea of motorcycles complete with protective cardboard covers to protect the seats from the intense sun.

A block further down the road we found ourselves at the Plaza Morazan. What was most striking to me was the number of motorcycles and scooters that were parked, each one with their seats covered by a piece of cardboard. That was obviously to keep the bike seats from “burning” the butts of the owners when they returned.
The namesake of the plaza is Jose Francisco Morazan (1792-1842), a revered founding father of Central America. He was born in Tegucigalpa. There is a statue of him atop a horse in the plaza. There were dozens of people relaxing and talking in the “shadow” of the figure.

The Cathedral of Tegucigalpa faces the Central Park.
People walking by the statue memorializing Franciso Morazan, the father of Honduras.
Two men at the base of the statue memorializing Francisco Morazan.
The Central Park as seen from the steps of the Cathedral of Tegucigalpa.
People gathered around the base of a tree in Central Park.
A woman walking through Central Park.

Although the statue was impressive, the main draw of the plaza is the Cathedral, built between 1765 and 1782; it is dedicated to Tegucigalpa’s patron saint, Saint Michael the Archangel. The richly decorated interior immediately pulls one’s attention to the sizeable Baroque altar.

The west facade of the Cathedral of Tegucigalpa.
The very large altar in the Cathedral of Tegucigalpa.
A statue of Joseph and Jesus in the Cathedral of Tegucigalpa.
Detail of the altar and crucifix in the Cathedral of Tegucigalpa.

A few blocks to the east of the Cathedral is the oldest church in Tegucigalpa, San Francisco. It dates from the 1590s.  It was closed, so we were not able to go inside. The building next door housing a military museum used to be the monastery associated with the church.  It was closed too.

The front of the Military History Museum in Tegucigalpa.
A man coming around the corner from Avenida Cristobol Colon.

Just around the corner from the old monastery building, we boarded the bus again. The next stop was an overlook atop Mount Picacho. It provided some fantastic panoramic views of the city. Mount Picacho rises nearly 1,000 feet (305 meters) above Tegucigalpa, which is itself at about 3,300 feet (1,006 meters) in elevation. There were several other people there enjoying the weather and the view.

A panoramic view of Tegucigalpa from the el Picacho Mountain.
A woman looking over Tegucigalpa from El Picacho Mountain.
A detail view of Tegucigalpa from El Picacho Mountain.
In this view of Tegucigalpa, one can see the Basilica of Our Lady of Suyapa in the center of the frame.
A closer view of Tegucigalpa as seen from el Picacho Mountain.
The National Stadium and the airport are visible in this view from el Picacho Mountain.
A view of Old Town Tegucigalpa from el Picacho Mountain.
A group relaxing together on el Picacho Mountain.
A football game as viewed from el Picacho Mountain.

At the far west end of the ridge is the Cristo del Picacho statue. Our bus took us to the parking lot. There was a small entry fee, about US$0.50, included in the tour fee. Once on the grounds, one is in a garden setting. A path meanders through the gardens, leading to the statue of Christ. The figure is about 65 feet (20 meters) tall. It sits on a 33-foot (10 meters) base, making the entire height just under 100 feet (30 meters). It is a recent addition to the Tegucigalpa skyline, finished in 1987.

A sign designating how much one should contribute to complete the walk to the base of the statue of Christ on el Picacho Mountain.
The path one takes to get to the statue of Christ.
The Christ statue is just short of 100 feet tall.
Looking up from directly below the statue of Christ.
The pedestal is 33 feet tall. The statue of Christ is 65 feet tall. That means the structure is near the height of a ten-story building.
The foot of Christ.
The hand of Christ.
View of the Christ statue on el Picacho Mountain from my hotel room.

At the opposite end of the parking area was a replica Mayan temple. I opted only to look, not walk to the top. After all of the walking during the tour, I was tired.

A group walking away from the pyramid on top of el Picacho Mountain.

From there it was back to the Embassy and then my hotel for some rest and a private meeting with Captain Morgan.

The statue of Christ towers over the trees.

Made it to Tegucigalpa

Tegucigalpa, Honduras – September 4, 2014

My flight on Delta Airlines required me to wake up at 02:30. Leslie and I had arranged the day before to have a taxi pick me up at the apartment complex at 03:30. I made it to the pick-up point at about 03:20, just as the taxi was arriving.
I loaded my bags, and we were off to Reagan National Airport. I arrived at the airport shortly before 04:00. I checked my bags curbside and entered the terminal. I found out that TSA would not open the security checkpoint until 04:30. I sat at Dunkin Donuts and had a cup of coffee while I waited. It was directly adjacent to the inspection area.
I entered the TSA line at 04:30 and went through with no problem. At the gate, I sat down and ate the Egg McMuffin I had just purchased.
The flight from D. C. to Atlanta was packed. I do not think there were more than one or two seats open. Luckily, it was a relatively short flight.
In Atlanta, I had a couple of hours between flights. I stopped at TGI Friday’s to have a glass of V8 and some toast.
The flight to Tegucigalpa boarded the flight on time and pushed back from the gate a couple of minutes early. A short twelve minutes later and we were in the air.
The Boeing 737 would be in the air for about 3:30. The plane was anything but full with only about 35 passengers. I sat in an exit row with nobody else in the entire row on either side of the plane. We flew over New Orleans and then straight south to Tegucigalpa. We arrived at about 11:30.
After going through Immigration and Customs, an Embassy driver met me. He parked across the street from the airport. We wheeled my two suitcases and carry-on to the waiting vehicle. He drove me to the hotel, where I was able to check-in. When I came back out of the hotel, he drove me to the Embassy.
I quickly discovered that there is no such thing as a straight road here. Besides, the streets snake up and down the mountainous/hilly terrain.
When I returned to the hotel that evening, I was so tired I was in bed by 19:00.