Helga Sierra
HELGA SIERRA - MOVEMENt- SKETCHES-6.jpg

Journal: Stories on Creativity & Adventure

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Art: Blue Haired Woman & W.I.P. Fear in His Eyes

Be advised, this is a long post.  However, I will be sharing new art I've completed or is in process as a result of the current political situations in Honduras.   If you make it to the end thank you.  I'm about to share an experience that I lived on December 17, 2017 and my reactions to that specific experience in creating new art. 


"Blue Haired Woman" . 2009, revised in 2017

 

"Blue Haired Woman" 2009, background revisited in 2017. 

 

I started painting this “The Blue Haired Woman”, on June 29th, 2009.  A day after the “coup” in Tegucigalpa. Regardless of party, the country was sad.  Some poeple were happy, some were upset.  I still had this painting and added some colors to it back in June, I wanted to make it more into my current style and I had honestly never liked the original green background.  I finished it 2 days after the elections this year, the country is still sad.  

Honduras has suffered and is still suffering.  

It’s like our identity has become that of an abused child, who never had a father to tell her how beautiful and important she is. 

It is now 11:49pm and I can’t sleep (Dec. 17th). I’m still sad about the situation that I’m about to share.  As a result I'm making a painting titled "Fear in His Eyes" Here’s a painting I made, and you can read the description of what has happened below.  

 

My reaction and emotional response based on my experience and observations of the current state of Honduras. 

 

Background

Today at 5:30pm or so, the electoral college announced who our new president is.  We have been waiting since November 26th. They announced that the current president, was voted president once again. However, a vast majority of the population is against this as in our Constitution it is illegal to be re-elected president.   Due to different political actions taken earlier this year, the current president was allowed to run…Yet the point of me sharing this is not if this election is legal, whether or not there was fraud, our country is past that problem.  Let me remind you that both candidates are simply human.  One candidate is celebrating the birth of his daughter the other  just lost his sister in a helicopter crash.  I don’t thinking he’s jumping for joy that he was announced president. 

Today around 8pm, I was driving home (I live about 30 minutes away from the city center) after having a meeting with a friend about my artwork.  We had been postponing this meeting for 2 weeks, due to the current political situation, but were finally able to have it.  I drove home as I normally would, yet to my surprise less than 3 hours after announcing the president, supporters of the other candidate/party had taken the streets.

I was alone in my car and ahead of me was a roadblock with protestors. 

I saw fire, a line of rocks, about 20 men with hankerchiefs covering half their face, a motorcycle and more fire….

I drive a small car, if I had a pick-up truck I would have driven over it, just kept driving.   I started turning around to head back into the city.  My parents didn’t answer their phones but as I was turning around to head back, my father picked up his phone.  He said, “Ask the men, politely, if you can pass, don’t hang up, leave me on the speakerphone. If they don’t let you pass you can go to your grandmother’s house.”  He asked me if I had my laptop with me, I said “Yes”, which meant if I couldn’t go home, I could at least work the next day, as I work remotely. 

 

 
 View of Tegucigalpa, taken several days after the elections. 

View of Tegucigalpa, taken several days after the elections. 

 

As I rolled down my window a young man approached me, I asked “Can I go through? It’s late, I need to get home.”  My heart was beating fast. I was nervous, a natural response in that situation. 

I asked again.  

Something in him changed, he said sure, “Let her go through”.

 Another man, with malicious eyes, said go the other way, take the other route…to which I replied, “I can’t, it’s too late to go that way”  The other route he was asking me to take is one that is dangerous and I don’t really know the way.   

I asked again, “Let me through, I need to get home, they are waiting for me it’s late."  

They let me through.  

I drove over the rocks through the road block, window rolled down, “Thank you," I said. My dad still on the phone told me to be careful. I rolled my window up. 10 feet ahead of me I saw 3 more men setting up about 5 lines of rocks and 2 more tires that they were about to set one fire. “Let her through, if the guys at the bottom let her through she should pass.  Be careful”. I drove as fast as I could.   I kept driving. 

I drove fast.  

My heartbeat was going as fast as I was driving.  

Obviously, I was scared.  I was alone in my car.  I’m a woman, outnumbered by about 20 guys. If my dad had not picked up I would not have asked them to let me through.  In that moment, I was most vulnerable. 

As I drove away, I quickly thought of 4 things:  

 
 Photo taken at Los Pinos, community that deals with gang/drugs/violence on a daily basis.  Taken in the Spring of 2015. 

Photo taken at Los Pinos, community that deals with gang/drugs/violence on a daily basis.  Taken in the Spring of 2015. 

 

1. This is the reality that most of the people in the city live daily.  People in Honduras live freely, to an extent, but most people SURVIVE and SURVIVAL is NOT living.   Why do I say this is the reality? I immediately thought of the kids I’ve been able to serve in at-risk communities (which represent about 60% of our population in terms of poverty level).  Over the years they have become my friends, but they live like this daily.  They live in gang-infested areas where they are constantly afraid.  I thought of all the women, children and men who have maybe been raped because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.   I thought of the kids that had no other option except to be a part of the gang, because at first it was easy money for the family, but one day were forced to kill someone so they could save themselves.   

At this point you might be thinking, I’ll stop reading this, why on earth is Helga thinking of these things, but I can’t help it... 

2. I thought of the refugees from war-torn countries like Syria, Nepal, many places in Africa.  I recently started following a new photographer on Instagram, Cory Tran, A couple of weeks ago he shared stories as he visited a refugee camp of 1 MILLION PEOPLE living in harsh living conditions. 

  • These were 1 MILLION REFUGEES IN ONE CAMP LIVING IN TERRIBLE CONDITIONS (but they are at least not in the war zone, right?). Wrong, the aftermath of any war is brokenness.  It reminded of my friends who were refugees and were granted residency in the United States.  
  • I spent about 3 years during college getting to know a group of refugee kids from Nepal, and I knew little of their stories, but the ones I do know are full of trauma. I had a friend in college, from Africa, who’s dad had been a wealthy doctor in her country.  The moment war began, everything was taken from them, they fled to a camp and lost everything. What her dad has worked for was like a blank slate in the United States.    Refugee camps are honestly an awful situation, war is awful. END OF DISCUSSION.  However, these people lived situations like the one I just experienced all the time. ALL THE TIME. 
 Ivette is a refugee living in Texas.  I took this picture in the fall of 2012, when I served along 50+ volunteers for a group called World's BackYard under the organization  Pro2G .

Ivette is a refugee living in Texas.  I took this picture in the fall of 2012, when I served along 50+ volunteers for a group called World's BackYard under the organization Pro2G.

3. What if something had happened to me as I crossed that roadblock?  They could have easily thrown a rock at me, something with fire.  They could have easily taken my car.   To which I simply knew "Well, I love Jesus, my sins are forgiven, no problem, I’m going to heaven. Simple."

4. I then wondered,

“WHAT IS THE ROOT PROBLEM OF MY COUNTRY’S CURRENT SITUATION?” 

 What happened in our country that has gotten it to this place? Is it solely corruption from those who’ve had the opportunity to abuse their powerful positions?  Is it the lack of cultural expression? Is it the lack of education?  Maybe it’s a combination of these things.  Maybe it’s something else that our forefathers did. Maybe it comes all the way from colonialism and always believing that we are below some other power.  Some of my friends may automatically say ohh its corruption… 

  • I don’t know the answer to this question, but figuring out what the root problem/problems are and creating solutions should be the answer.   I know that the way we (Honduran people) are trying to solve the current problems DOES NOT ADDRESS THE ROOT ISSUE OF A BROKEN SYSTEM. In fact, the way people are reacting is only perpetuating a cycle of poverty that has plagued my country for years, and to be honest as humans we are only accountable for our personal actions.  
 Photograph taken in Valle de Angeles, December 2016. 

Photograph taken in Valle de Angeles, December 2016. 

Long post, but my story continues, and maybe my little action made a difference today. 

I continued driving as fast as I could, all these thoughts in mind.  

I planned on stopping at the Police Office that’s on my way home to report the incident at the road block.  I was the last car they were letting through, at the roadblock.  I counted 5 cars going towards the city, I didn’t see any lights behind me. 

At the police station:  

I turned my hazards on, turned the light on inside the car, and a policeman walked over.  I told him what I saw, and that I believe I was one of the last cars to pass through.  3 other police officers approached me.  I saw fear in their eyes, my voice was somewhat shaky, my heart agitated.  They asked me if I had seen the people throw any rocks, they had just gotten a report that the windows of a nice SUV had been broken.

 He's ready for his orders. Is he keeping the peace? 

He's ready for his orders. Is he keeping the peace? 

 My view from the coffee shop (Dec 13th. 2017).

My view from the coffee shop (Dec 13th. 2017).

 They wait for orders on December 13th, 2017.

They wait for orders on December 13th, 2017.

Note: the 3 pictures above show soldiers, a different force than the police, however I have not taken any pictures of the police. 

For some reason, my conversation kept going with the officers for about 15 minutes. I needed to get home, but they kept talking to me. 

The first office said, “You know, I don’t know what your politcal stance is, but we are A-POLITICAL, I have to serve the people of my country regardless of who is in power, regardless of party.  We just received a message that the people who are protesting will not care for the lives of the police officers that try to stop the protesting (meaning if it comes to it, the police officers could be killed).  This grown man, a trained police officer, was scared.  As we talked, one of the men went back into the station.  A woman officer approached the car, she said “We don’t have any backup.  The next shift probably won’t make it as they are on leave for the weekend.  We might have to close the station at midnight.  We’re afraid we don’t have back up but we can’t leave the post.”  She was afraid people could come set the police station on fire. 

 
OremosporHonduras13byHelgaSierra.jpg
 

The police officer that went inside came back out.  I noticed he was now wearing a helmet, his bulletproof vest and was carrying his rifle.  A natural response, he’s an officer, he needs to be prepared.  More cars drove past, and they were instructed by the police to turn around and head home.   

I kept talking to the police woman, and we talked about the repercussions in the system, the economy, people’s jobs, the fact that if the military see people throw rocks and become violent, their system allows them to shoot at them unlike the police officers which are instructed to only retain the violence.  

She said, “You know I haven’t been able to see my son in a month.  The weekend we were on break was the weekend the COBRAS (a special unit) went on strike.”  I asked her where she was from.

“Ceiba,”  she replied.

Ceiba and several areas of the north coast have been blocked.  Vandalism has become “normal”, major roads are blocked and food trucks can’t deliver groceries. 

“Thankfully my sister bought my baby’s milk for the whole month, which at first I thought was an extra expense but now I’m thankful she did.”

Fear.

 
work in process_fear in his eyes by Helga Sierra.png

"fear in his eyes"

Acrylic + Charcoal + Gesso on Gray Watercolor paper. I started working on this painting.  I wanted to convey, not only the fear that I felt, but also the fear I saw in the police officers' eyes.  Notice only part of the piece is dark, as I believe that hope still remains.   The painting is not done, as the layers I worked on need to dry. 

 

As I sat in my car, I thought…why am I still here? I could have easily kept driving home.  

Another police woman approached us, at which moment I thought to myself, “They are scared too, and their job is to be at front.  I’m not leaving until I pray for them.”

“Can I pray for you?” “Can I pray over this station and your families?”  

“Please” they answered. 

More cars kept coming by, the policemen telling them to turn back and go home. 

 Graphic created after the 2017 elections and current situation in Honduras.  Photograph of the Monument for Peace taken in June 2017. 

Graphic created after the 2017 elections and current situation in Honduras.  Photograph of the Monument for Peace taken in June 2017. 

I prayed, one of the ladies was a Christian, she prayed out loud with me.  Mostly, I prayed for peace and protection, for their lives to be protected. Their is fear in the uncertainty of tomorrow. 

My mom called, and I explained that I was still on the way and had pulled over to tell the police what had happened. 

As I drove, another thought came to mind.  I thought of different friends, who are really wealthy or whose family members have at one point or another had high positions in government.  Some of them also live in daily fear, they have body guards that protect them daily, not just in a warlike situation.  Just like the kids who live in the gang-infested neighborhoods these friends fear for their lives.

SURVIVING IS NOT LIVING. 

 

I drove fast.  I made it home. I told my parents the story, updated my family group text, but as I wrote this text, I concluded something else. 

Today my act of courage looked a little different.

Maybe I was the last person to go through the road block simply so I could pray for those police officers who also feel afraid for their country, for their lives. 

Not only is it my duty as a Christian to pray for Honduras and pray for peace, but I also sense there is a spiritual battle to which we must fight for.  As I prayed for the police officers I sensed that the devil thinks he has won, to which he hasn’t. I still firmly believe that God is in control, regardless of who wins in politics.  You see the devil is happy when families are fighting, when there is war and destruction, when his agents are at work.  Victory belongs to God and his children, prayer is my weapon of choice and a stronger one. 

 

If you made it this far in reading, thanks.  I now ask you to join me in praying for Honduras, in praying for peace.  

 

We are a small country of almost 9 million people, who are constantly dealing with difficult situations.  We are a country which somehow has been chosen as a place to be attacked.  We are a country known for corruption and our rate of murders.  We are a country dealing with brothers and sisters going against each other because of greed, powerlessness, whose current actions are teaching younger generations that fighting/violence is the way out. 

    No. That is not correct. Violence is never the answer. War (in its different forms) brings death, pain, disease, poverty. 

Honduras is beautiful (Trust me I would know, by age 18 I had visited over 20 countries, by now I’ve been to over 27 countries)…, Honduras full of beautiful people who are hospitable, warm, welcoming, kind, hard working. We have beautiful mountains, seas, food, etc. 

Today the beauty is overshadowed by terror, so prayer is the most powerful weapon so beauty might be seen again. 

Stay tuned as I finish my painting "Fear in his eyes" 


More on the Blog

My original plan was to release a blog about Lisbon this week, but due to this event I have postponed it.  My internet signal is lower and thus will wait to post my Guide to Visiting Lisbon as well as my top photographs of 2017.  In the meantime, there's always more travel, art and adventure you can catch up on.