I took a battered old taxi from one part of San Pedro Sula to another on a typical oven-like afternoon. This is a sun-sizzled ciudad… The middle-aged driver was as battered as his rusty, dilapidated vehicle. He charged a fair rate however, so off we went – without my giving it much thought. The conversation was varied on our journey to Galerías Shopping Mall; with his tales of being robbed at gunpoint keeping me entertained for the best part of the ride. It was then, before closing in on the main road leading to the mall, that he broke off about one of his sons…
“My son was mad when I wouldn’t go and get him from the police station. I had him stay the night, you know – to teach him a lesson. He was very angry… he said I was a bad father. Well, I didn’t send him to go playing around with that gang bullshit. The police station was where it got him.”
“I said to all my sons, listen, when you reach eighteen you’re on the path to becoming your own men. I’m your father and I’ve honored you these eighteen years by providing for you, working myself to the bone, doing all that I had to, so that you wouldn’t go without. I’ve had you all studying, I’ve done the best that I was able to do…”
“I made sure you respected my rules when you were under my roof. I taught you all respect, manners and discipline as best as I could. I tried harder than my father tried with me. I did what I thought was right – even when I was wrong.”
“But when you’re eighteen, you’re free to do as you want. I won’t stand in your way. I won’t be there to stop you. I never taught you to look for problems, to do stupid things, I never taught you to be thieves and drug-addicts, alcoholics and bums. Even if I was hard on you it was always with your best interests at heart. I wanted to raise men, not cowards. I wanted to prepare gentleman, not down and outs. “
“As hard as you try with your children, they’ll rebel as soon as they can.”
“Maybe it’s in their destiny.”
“I said to all my sons, what you didn’t learn at home – you’ll learn in the street.”
“The street’s gonna teach you… haha, oh, it’ll teach you something…”
“And don’t think the street’s as forgiving as me. Don’t think the street cares about you.”
“The street will kill you if you let her. There’s always someone crazier or more savage than you. If you want to go around living the wild life, accept the consequences.”
“We all get what’s coming.”
“I remember going to get my son the next day at the police station, after letting him stay the night there. On seeing him, I almost gasped at how scared he looked. I was allowed up to the cell to speak with him. He came running over; I don’t think he’d slept at all. Some other delinquents were in there as well. “
“I didn’t get mad. He wouldn’t even look me in the eyes.”
“I just said: life’s hard right son?”
“You want it to get harder?”
“If I get you out of here, are you going to pull yourself together?”
“Yes, I promise…”
“I promise – what?”
“I promise Sir.”
I smiled as the taxi driver regaled his experiences. Nobody captures life better than a life-battered Honduran. Before parting ways, the taxi driver gave me a piece of advice.
“Listen to he or she who is older than you, we’ve seen a couple more things than you have. It’s what your children won’t understand until they get old themselves”.
By Ben Anson.