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Showing posts from May, 2011

The Spring Edition of "Misionero"

Here is an update on what's happening at SAMS:

Misionero Spring 2011

Making a Living: Struggling to Survive in Honduras

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In Copan, I had an extensive opportunity to talk with Norfa, my Spanish teacher, about what it takes to earn a living in Honduras.
Minimum wage in Honduras was, until recently, about $250 a month. It was recently raised $336 a month, but unless you work in a large company, you will make much less.
For example, if you work as a cook, maid or gardner, you will probably earn around $100 a month. With unemployment over 50% in Honduras, these are the only jobs available for many Hondurans. If you have a family of four or five, that is not going to be enough.
For example, in town, you will end up paying $200 month for rent and maybe $250 month for food, a basic diet consisting mostly of tortillas, frioles (red beans) and eggs. Possibly, you can save some money by raising chickens in your back yard, as is common in Copan. Then throw in $150 a month for children's clothing, school supplies and household necessities. You can see, with this budget of $600 a month, there isn't much mo…

The Spanish Courtyard: Building Green in the Tropics

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After living in Copan for more than a month, I have slowly come to realize that there is more than meets the eye in the Spanish courtyard garden, or 'patio' in Spanish.
The courtyard garden, in its simplicity, is actually another outdoor room. Where I was living, it was the corridor from the street. The vines and flowers provide a source of beauty, peacefulness and relaxation.
In the health design literature, many studies have shown that gardens and green spaces actually increase the healing rate among hospital patients. Researchers theorize the reason for this 'biophilic response', as it is called, is related to a deep hardwiring within us going back our ancestral home on the savannahs of Africa, our Eden. For this reason, similar natural environments lead to stress reduction, which in turn, allows the body to heal.
But beyond health, the garden also provides natural cooling and shading. The best gardens for the tropics are deep-valley design, which limit direct acc…

The Ruins of Copan: Learning from the Mayas

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Near the town of Copan Ruinas is the ancient Mayan city, called Copan by the Spanish, and Xukpi (Corner Bundle) by the Mayans, who built it.


This metropolitan area flourished from 200 to 850 CE, until it was mysteriously abandoned. Above is the ball court in the ceremonial center of the city. The purpose of this center was both political: to inspire fear and obedience from the common people; and religious: to intercede with the gods for the preservation of the city. While there were human sacrifices here, mostly animals were offered to the gods, similar to ancient Greece. (And no human sacrifices were performed on top of pyramid temples --those were the Aztecs. Pay attention, Mel Gibson!)

From a design perspective, the continuation of the Mayan and other indigenous cultures in modern Latin American architecture is most interesting. The Mayan pyramids and palaces were constructed from limestone blocks and mortar, similar to the concrete blocks used today. The Mayan stuccoed ceilings, fl…

A Vocation in Honduras

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My friend Patti Hanlon lent me her copy of Henri Nouwen's book, Gracias . It is a story about  Nouwen's journey  through South America, as he sought to discern  God's calling to serve here. The book is written as a journal, with much insight to reflect upon. It is also the type of book to jump around in. It obviously has special meaning for me. But Nouwen's conclusion is relevant to us all, whether we serve here or remain in the U.S. (Nouwen decided to remain in the U.S.) He writes, "After many centuries of missionary work, during which we the people of the North tried to give to them (Latin Americans)  .....we now come to realize that our first vocation is to receive their gifts and say, 'Gracias'." Many of my wise friends have been pointing me in this direction. We cannot approach this work, without assuming humility and the realization that we need Honduras for own inner transformation, as much as they need our material gifts. We  need to learn, with…