My fellow blogger, Hermano Juancito, has already picked up on this story which I had gathered from Adital about the march and open air Mass celebrated on August 11th in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, by Fr. Fausto Milla. Hermano Juancito adds an important footnote to his blog post: "It is not clear that the Tegucigalpa march [referred to in this article] turned violent. It seems that a few persons - after the demonstration and apart from it - were responsible for the limited violence. This is not to condone any violence but to avoid castigating the thousands of peaceful marchers with the deeds of a few."
Fr. Fausto Milla is an interesting guy and Spanish speakers can read more about his life in this 2007 article from Vida Laboral. For English speakers, Hermano Juancito has a translation on his blog.
Daniel Valencia (translation by Rebel Girl)
El Faro Digital
August 12, 2009
In the central park of San Pedro Sula nobody in the crowd could sing "La marcha de la unidad" ("The march of unity") completely because they did not know the lyrics. So, dissimulating, this Tuesday the 11th they hummed in anticipation of the excitement that would thunder out seconds later in the most famous line of that song. And when it came time to sing, many showed that they were not very able at left-wing paraphernalia and wrongly raised the right fist instead of the left one.
At that rally, on the dais, without raising his fists, but forcefully holding a microphone with both hands, an old man of 81, a Honduran with Spanish roots, tall, white skin tanned by the sun and wearing a white cassock with a pink stole, screamed out the chorus at the top of his lungs without any complex: "The people united will never be defeated!"
Coming from a priest and not a real politician, it becomes more important. At least that's what more than 10,000 demonstrators believed, those who accompanied Father Fausto Milla - "the shepherd of the poor", as his followers call him here -- in taking over the center of the second largest city in Honduras, San Pedro Sula. The gathering took place in the park, opposite the cathedral in that city.
That type of behavior is what his followers appreciate, and they let it be known. "Here is our archbishop, the archbishop of the poor and not the rich. Out with Rodríguez Maradiaga, out with the coup leaders!," shouted a man from the center of 3rd Avenue, the road that separates the central park from cathedral, which was guarded by about 100 "chepos" (riot police) who trembled at the sight of that wall of people in front of them.
The man contrasted Milla and Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, who almost immediately after the coup was branded as a coup backer by supporters of deposed president Manuel Zelaya.
Then, before the inflamed crowd, to calm the situation -- the crowd was already receiving the first news of the disturbances in Tegucigalpa, where supporters of the Resistance had set fire to a Popeyes restaurant and a bus on Avenida Juan Pablo Segundo -- Milla raised his voice and said: "Brothers, let us make peace and not violence. Repression can only be fought and and overcome through peace. Here we do not have to face the oppressive families, we do not have any famous last names. The police are our brothers, they are López, they are Ramos, they are Pérez," he told them, prior to an outdoor Mass, since the cathedral was closed and guarded by police.
Milla, along with a large group of people appeared marching along 3rd Avenue at 4 pm. The priest had walked from Santa Rosa de Copán, where he is pastor, and along the way he joined the marches that came to the city from the villages of Yoro, Colón, Atlántida, Ocotepeque, Lempira, Santa Bárbara and Cortez.
Before their arrival, San Pedro residents allied with the Resistance had come to the central plaza of the city, and they waited with a meal, water and food for the demonstrators who also marched from Progreso, Lima and Ceiba.
The revolutionary priest
Fausto Milla has been in hiding, according to some supporters of the Resistance. The priest, however, though he confesses that he has received many threats, has always been where you can find him: in his church, in his territory rich in indigenous, peasant culture.
Since the coup, Milla has been one of the main Catholic religious leaders who has criticized -- and condemned -- the "abuses" in the interior regions of the country, and who has publicly opposed the position of the highest leader of the Catholic Church, Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga.
And Milla's position was not born at this juncture. During the seventies and eighties, while defending the rights of indigenous peasants, Milla endured persecution from the Honduran army in his Corquín parish in Santa Rosa de Copán.
In his curriculum vitae prepared by the NGO Comunicación Comunitaria it is written that he was among the first priests to publicly denounce the Río Sumpul Massacre, which occurred in El Salvador on May 14, 1980. According to Milla, both the Honduran and Salvadoran armies participated in that massacre.
As he did then, today Milla insists that the true Church is in the people, not in churches or cathedrals, and so, he says, he defends the people. A people that deserves to have their stolen sovereignty returned to them. "I have been a Honduran for 81 years. And I have lived and seen many things, but never anything comparable to what we are all seeing this day," said Milla, at the beginning of his message.
"When there is inequality there is no freedom," he added. "And this people is no longer fighting a civil war between supporters of two political parties. This people is in a fight to achieve this equality, generated by those oppressors who have robbed us now of what we have the most right to: sovereignty. They are criminals, and I am not the one who says it, Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution say it: the people are sovereign, whoever steals that sovereignty is a traitor to the motherland, he is a criminal!"
Then, raising his voice even louder, the priest threw out the message that received ovations from the protesters: "Some of those who participated in the drafting of the Constitution have told me that they now regret having written Article 3, because Article 3 calls for insurrection, brothers, for returning this sovereignty to the people of Honduras from whom it has been stolen! "
The action lasted about 30 minutes more, because a torrential rain fell on the city. And as the city has no drainage, right in the center, around the plaza, the river of people in San Pedro Sula had to face a river of water.