Las Lomitas

Looking down on Las Lomitas soccer field from hillside.
Las Lomitas, where we live in Honduras, is one of those special places that does not earn a label on a map, even though it has existed for 30+ years.  Geographically, it is located Honduras, Central America. Specifically it stands about 2500 feet above sea level on the Eastern face of a small mountain located to the Northeast of Lago de Yojoa. Politically it falls under the jurisdiction of the municipality of Santa Cruz de Yojoa, Department of Cortés. Approximately 600 people inhabit this small “aldea” (village).

The rain shadow created by Lake Yojoa greatly affects the climate in Las Lomitas. It receives nearly double the rainfall of the surrounding area, totaling over 130 inches per year. The most abundant precipitation happens from May until late January, with a short drier period from February until late April. Intense storms seem to be more common in May and June, dropping 6+ inches of rain in a matter of a few hours, although most rain is confined to the late afternoon into the night.  Temperatures range from 50°F at night in January to over 100°F during the day in the hottest period of April-September. However, for the majority of the year, temperatures fall in a comfortable range from lows in the 60s to highs in the lower 90s. Consistent rain and higher altitude provide most of this cooling effect. Humidity stays extremely high nearly year round. Due to its southern location in the Northern hemisphere, daylight hours do not vary greatly. The sun rises around 5:30AM and sets around 6:30PM all year around.

Las Lomitas has no public transportation. Within 30 minutes, one can arrive on foot to the closest community to the West, Los Caminos, which does have regular bus service. To arrive to the large paved highway to the East with excellent bus service in Las Flores, Lomiteñans walk about an hour downhill. Road conditions vary wildly throughout the year. The road surface is gravel/dirt and heavy rainfalls tend to badly damage it. In its poorest condition or during heavy rains, only 4x4 vehicles are capable of climbing to town. Automobiles (mainly trucks) do pass through Las Lomitas with some regularity (about one an hour), although only three are based out of the community including ours, so rides are available if the driver is willing. There are also currently 4 motorcyles in town. Those that own horses do utilize them regularly as transportation.
The people of Las Lomitas (Lomiteñans) dedicate themselves primarily to agriculture. The men of the community perform manual labor in the plantations surrounding the town working primarily with machetes and hoes, however actual ownership of the land by Lomiteñans is very low. Most of the area´s agricultural efforts are related to production of coffee, plantains, and yucca (also known as cassava) although nominal amounts of rambutan, orange, lime, tropical flowers, passionfruit, and bananas are harvested as well. In addition to this local work, many men join work crews that leave in the very early morning by bus to work on sugar cane and grass plantations in the lower areas. Sustenance farming of corn (used for making tortillas) and black beans is also very common, but in small patches of land.  During the local coffee picking season (Nov-Feb), nearly all Lomiteñans, including women and children, work in the coffee fields picking coffee. The typical work day is from 6AM-2PM with Saturday being a half-day and Sunday a rest day.

For the most part, Lomiteñan women work in the home, with cooking, cleaning, and watching children occupying nearly all waking hours. Most women awaken around 3AM to start preparing for the day by cooking breakfast and washing clothes (by hand) so that they can dry during the day. Average dress in Las Lomitas is similar to the US, but with nearly all clothes being second-hand. Nearly 100% of the cooking is done over traditional mud stoves (hornillas), heated by firewood. Contraception is still very uncommon in rural Honduras, so families can become quite large quickly, so the job of watching the children is no small task. Although many Lomiteñan homes have dirt floors, this does not prevent most women from sweeping them religiously, often many times a day. 
The school year in Honduras begins in February and ends in November. Children attend class three hours a day. Free public education is offered from Kindergarten until 6th grade, but recent governmental reforms may push that until 9th grade. Although public education is offered beyond 6th grade, parents are responsible to pay for classes. In Las Lomitas, there is one Kindergarten teacher and one elementary school teacher. Children in Grades 1,3, and 5 attend morning classes simultaneously, with Grades 2,4, and 6 attending after lunch. Children in Las Lomitas are lucky if they manage to learn to read, write and perform basic mathematics by the time they graduate, about 5% will continue on to receive additional education. The literacy rate of Las Lomitas probably hovers around 50%.
Unlike some communities in Honduras, there is no “typical home.” Construction materials range from sticks, mud, and wooden slats for the poorest (bajareke homes) to nice block 
homes for the few who have saved enough funds or have acquired work outside of the area guarding cell phone towers, working in textile factories, or working for tilapia processors. The majority of the community’s homes are made of adobe (mud and straw) blocks, bamboo slats, or rough cut lumber planks. Many homes have dirt floors and as a result are subjected to recurring issues with the parasites that inhabit them. As far as animal ownership is concerned, the vast majority of Lomiteñans own chickens (for eggs and meat) and dogs (for home defense). A few denizens own a horse (for transportation) or cow (for milk). Some additional animals that may be seen around town are domestic turkeys, guinea fowl, Muscovy ducks, hogs, and rabbits (all as food) or cats and parrots (as pets).

 For the most part, the local diet revolves around rice, beans, eggs, and corn tortillas. This is occasionally supplemented by milk, homemade cheese (quajada or queso semiseco), soda, plantains, bananas or local vegetables and only rarely includes chicken, beef, pork, fish or local game (armadillo, rabbit, squirrel, dove, iguana, agoutis, paca, and chachalacas are all on the menu). Some families gather additional wild plants such as pacaya  (a bitter immature palm seed pod), juniapa (a licorice-tasting large-leafed herbaceous plant) , or flor de isote (a huge bittersweet flower that grows from a dracaena ). Most of these plants are cooked and then fried with scrambled eggs and have a very strong flavor. A Honduran favorite is also enjoyed in Las Lomitas – tamales.  Tamales are made by wrapping corn dough and a piece of chicken or some vegetables in a banana leaf and then boiling it over a fire for several hours. A similar food, mantuca, is made the same way, but with fresh sweet corn.  The Lake Yojoa region is known for a plate including a whole fried tilapia, fried green 
                                                                      bananas, and accompanying cabbage and onion.

Las Lomitas seems to be about 50% Catholic, although not many practice their faith with any regularity. The remaining 50% are primarily evangelical Christians that either attend the “Open Arms” church we attend (~10-30 regular attendees), the “Alpha and Omega” church (~15 members), or do not attend at all. The “Open Arms” church is pastored by Erick Carranza, a dynamic young man that arrived in Las Lomitas five years ago and has three services a week. He is a good friend, and we work closely with him. The hyper-conservative Alfa and Omega church is pastored by a man named Cruz and has seven services a week. From what we understand, the Alfa and Omega denomination is a very inwardly-focused pseudo-cult and for the most part do not seem well-received by the community.

From what we have seen, Las Lomitas seems to be a fairly average small, rural Honduran community; however, what we have described here does not necessarily automatically apply to all small, rural Honduran communities. Although many factors will be similar across aldeas, most communities’ microcultures do vary over an enormous range, with each community having a unique perspective and approach to life.

1 comment:

  1. There's not a chance you know Leonel Vanegas is there?