Araceli’s Flower

Honduras – July 2008

It’s looking for a while like we might not make it to Honduras. We’re in Santiago Atitlán, Guatemala, and today is meant to be a travel day to Copán Ruinas, Honduras. We set out in the morning but after an hour have to turn back due to the road being blocked by a mudslide caused by heavy rains in the night. Back to Atitlán and then onto a second route but, after less than an hour this time, we discover this direction has also been blocked by a mudslide. This leaves only a lesser used southern route known for bandits that like to hold up tour buses. Our guide seems a little anxious about taking this route and lines up an armored guard to follow our bus to the border.

When we finally arrive at the border, it’s a simple crossing but then we find that the main bridge into Copán has been washed out. I’m starting to get the feeling someone doesn’t want us to arrive. And the rain begins anew. It’s dark and wet when we arrive, but we do arrive and the next day is spent exploring the wonderful ruins of Copán (not to be mistaken for Copán Ruinas, the name of the town besides the ruins of Copán.)

The following day a group of us had wanted to go zip-lining but have been advised that it’s not safe due to all of the rain. Instead, our guide lines up horseback riding to the small village of Los Sapos. A van picks us up at our hotel and takes us to where the horses are waiting. The handler takes one look at me, a head higher than everyone else, and leaves to return with a horse a few hands taller than the others. We mount up and head for the village.

I notice that my horse starts out in the lead, then slowly lets every other horse move past him only to then speed up and get back into the lead once he’s realized he’s last. He repeats this pattern until we arrive at the village, which makes conversing with fellow riders a little challenging. Once we arrive, we are set upon by a collection of girls selling flowers made out of corn husks. There’s a bit of a walk from where we have dismounted up to the village and there seems to be one girl for each of us. The smallest of the group, Araceli, has decided to stick to my side with her flower.

She is barefoot and the path is both muddy and rutted and it’s not long before she’s tripped and hurt herself. She starts to cry and put me into a bit of a guilt trip. I don’t want a corn husk flower and I don’t have any local currency on me, but it seems I should buy the flower she’s still holding as I’m the reason she’s tripped. The one girl who speaks English has come over to help her and I tell her that I only have US dollars. She says that’s okay, so I hand a dollar to Araceli, who has recovered from her tumble. She is hesitant at first because it’s not Honduran lempira, but the girl who speaks English tells her in Spanish that it’s okay, so she hands me her flower and now she’s happy.

Whether a con or an accident, I rode back down from the village with Araceli’s flower securely tucked in my shirt pocket and carefully packed it for the remainder of the trip. It sits today on a shelf among many other souvenirs, irreplaceable and treasured.

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