Horseback riding was one of my favorite activities in Honduras. The path 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. Clearly, for his entertainment.
I was heartbroken to see the little girls in the village chase us barefoot in an attempt to sell their corn-husk dolls. But most of all, I resented Renaldo for treating these girls like show-and-tell props.
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 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-year old 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. 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.
This reinforces the idea that selling corn-husk dolls is better than getting an education. Relying on tourists for the rest of their lives or become educated, independent and self-sufficient - if he only realized the choice he made for them.