La Pintada is no different than many poor communities. Adults encourage children to depend on foreign donations instead of education to better their lives.
Horseback riding was one of my favorite activities in Honduras. The tour took me up the mountains and through coffee plantations from the Copan Valley to La Pintada, a Maya-Chorti village known for the production of corn-husk dolls. The experience was a bit of an emotional roller coaster.
I was terrified that my horse would throw me off the edge of the cliff or run me into the barbed wires. I was in pain from gripping the saddle with my hands and thighs. I was pissed at Renaldo, my tour guide, for repeatedly making my horse gallop when I told him not to.
I was heartbroken to see the little girls in the village chase us on our horses to sell us their corn-husk dolls. But most of all, I resented Renaldo for treating these girls like a show-and-tell prop.
La Pintada is situated on top of a hill with a beautiful view of the Acropolis at the Copan Ruins. When I got off my horse, a swarm of little girls surrounded me and shoved their beautifully crafted corn-husk dolls in my face. They were persistent with their sales pitch and it made me feel very uncomfortable.
We took a 10 minute hike to Los Sapos, a Maya site dedicated to women and fertility. While I was slipping, sliding and huffing away carrying a dinky little book bag, a six- or seven-year old girl ran happily next to me without any shoes. She made it look so easy.
She climbed with us all the way to the top of Los Sapos, where an eroded stone had been carved into a shape of a frog by the Mayans. Next to it was a rough carving of a woman carrying a baby. As Renaldo talked about the ruins, the little girl climbed up and down the rocks holding a corn-husk doll she was trying to sell me.
The rest of the girls waited eagerly for us at the base of the hill. Knowing that we’d be leaving the village soon, Renaldo asked my friend and I one more time if we wanted to purchase a doll from the girls. He said, “No pressure,” but I’m sure that’s not what he meant.
Then, Renaldo asked the girls to sing us Honduras’ national anthem. He probably thought he was helping the girls. In reality, he was doing more harm than good by exploiting them. The moral of his lesson? Sing for the gringos, or in our case the chinas, and they will buy your dolls.
Buying a doll from them only reinforces the idea that selling corn-husk dolls is better than getting an education. I don’t want them to rely on tourists to buy their dolls for the rest of their lives. I much rather these girls be independent and self-sufficient.
These girls aren’t for show and tell. I felt like Renaldo guilted us into buying a doll. As soon as I handed one of the girls a dollar, they all disappeared like they were conditioned to countless times before.