Tuesday, October 20, 2009

El Progreso - Blast from the Past

At first glance El Progreso seems like a bustling labor driven city. A place where you´re just as likely to pull up next to a horse drawn cart at a red light as you are a luxury SUV. On the corner where pioneering old ladies have sold their tortillas for decades you now find them sitting in bunches in front of one of the city´s Pizza Huts. This is El Progreso, Honduras. A city that experienced its glory years as a country club resort for the top executives of United Fruit. This was years ago, in the 50´s and 60´s, when the lawns were manicured and the royal palms lined the central boulevard. Back when the rest of Central America didn't have a rail system or airports, El Progreso did. Of course the famous strike of 1954 saw over 60,000 workers marching across the Puente de la Democracia and into El Progreso demanding fair wages and workers rights. They even secured a national holiday in honor of their courage and conviction, 1st of may is now called Labor Day in Honduras. Indeed history has left its mark on El Progreso.

The Progreso and Honduras of today is a bitter contrast to the days when it was better known as the Banana Republic. Times are rough, unemployment is up and jobs are scarce. However, while the economic crisis continues to sink deep into the veins of the world´s commerce, it seems that over the past few years El Progreso has experienced steady growth. The past three years alone have brought a brand new beautiful UTH University, a new MegaPlaza mall and a new Antorcha supermarket. Each development bringing with it jobs, investment, and opportunity.

Without so much as the blink of an eye, one could cruise right through El Progreso and not even notice it. At first glance it seems like an uneventful city with not much to offer the casual visitor.

However, there is a shining star in town. A place where youth from across the city join forces to unite under a common cause. This place of course is OYE. After mere seconds of hanging out downtown in the OYE offices you are instantly greeted by any number of teenagers who pass through the doors everyday. Ask them why they are here and they will tell you with a big smile that they love OYE. They are OYE scholarship recipients. Ask them about their dreams and hopes for the future and they will fill the air with responses like; teacher, doctor, engineer, computer programmer, OYE STAFF!!

Within OYE´s doors lies the future of El Progreso. The future of Honduras. They are the next generation, the ones that are getting ready to take charge and lead. If you ask them how they will accomplish this they will tell you; Because my Voice is Powerful. Mi Voz es Poder. Look, it says so on my OYE shirt they will say, for everyone to see. They will tell you that they already know that true and real change will only come when we commit ourselves to giving back to our communities. My Voice is Powerful. My name is Justin Eldridge-Otero and I am a proud member of the OYE family. I invite you to come experience OYE in Honduras and see what REAL change looks like.

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