Where the World's Views of America Come into Focus
Roberto C. Ordónez
June 20, 2005
Don Julio Lozano Diaz was an example for all Hondurans, a man that disinterestedly served the mother country [In 1954, he assumed the presidency during a political crisis, as President Mariano Galvez left – some say fled – to the U.S. for medical treatment]. He had no children with his wife Doña Laura, he donated his fortune to charity, and left his home to the government, which is now the Villa Roy museum.
As the vice president of [President] Dr. Juan Manuel Gálvez, he assumed the presidency when Gálvez retired for reasons of bad health. When the presidential term of Gálvez ended without new elections, Diaz became the de facto head of State.
The government motto at the time was, “de facto but democratic," and was governed with the advice of outstanding members of the Liberal and National parties, who increased the average wage to 1,000 lempiras per month [today, $1=18.8 lempiras], an extraordinary sum at that time.
In 1956, Mr. Richard M. Nixon, vice president of the Republican Government of General Einsenhower, paid a visit to Honduras ...
It is worth troubling ourselves to remember a few details of that memorable visit.
Mister Nixon arrived at the new Toncontín Airport (there were no other International airports at the time) on a Boeing plane with the markings of a foreign [American] Air Force. He hoped to encourage the awaiting delegation of civil employees and diplomats, as well as the young people from many schools, who waved little American flags and sang the anthems of both countries.
There was a 21 cannon salute, some of which grazed Private aircraft and the radar tower at the airport. Without almost no escort and accompanied by Ambassador Willwaver, the vice president was driven to the U.S. Embassy, located in a grand old house at the center of Tegucigalpa [the Honduran capital].
After the required visit to the Blue Hall at the old Presidential residence, the celebrated man [Nixon] was invited by Don Julio to a banquet in Nixon’s honor a the Tegucigalpa Country Club (located in Comayaguela), during which he and his retinue greeted throngs of important guests, especially politicians of national reputation. At that time, no one invited industrialists or unionists, who now head all such delegations.
But in the days prior to and during Mister Nixon to our country, let’s take a look at what happened.
About three days before the visit, almost like magic, they appeared along the section of road between the Mama Chepa Market and the Country Club. Every type of machine and every type of construction and maintenance man, working day and night from to pave with asphalt almost every street within 3 kilometers of where the visitor would pass.
As the area were little populated and not used buses, taxi drivers or salesmen, there were no protests or complaints of lost wages. Then the tractors entered the breach, clearing away stones and mud more fitting for mules and carts than automobiles.
They were followed by people watering the material to make the asphalt to be compacted by heavy leveling machines, while others stood by impatiently, waiting to pour the boiling asphalt onto the street.
The thing was that in less than 24 hours the street was ready, because the builders, obeying their instructions, left out the placement of drainage, sewers and the construction of sidewalks.
The Water and Electric Light Company was in charge of illumination because the Empresa Nacional de Energía Eléctrica still did not exist. Students from the School of Arts, Trades and Manufacturing made and placed signs that said "Nixon Street."
With the asphalt still warm and the machine that painted white line on the street barely out of the way, the retinue of Richard Nixon began its journey down Real Street, where Chito Paletón, the first admitted "gay" Honduran – and proud of it – tried to perform ballet and classic dance, according to him to delight to the visitor. Police quickly tied him to a tree in the Park of Freedom.
On the corner of Real and 9th Streets the Nixon’s convoy turned right. Young girls excitedly cheered and threw bouquets of flowers and the businesses of Paca and Catalina Streets cooperated, filling their doors and windows with young girls dressed in their university uniforms and throwing timid kisses in the air toward Nixon, as his motorcade passed by.
At the passage of the motorcade past his business, proprietor Don Carlos Chang nodded in a gesture of respect. Don Jose Tusa, proprietor of the business that furnished the students with uniforms and later pawned the jackets for use at the local cinema, left the door ajar to spy on the passing motorcade.
The oblivious cows and horses were banished from the area. The street hens and pigs disappeared, and it is not known whether they were hidden by their owners or eaten for lunch by the thieves.
All the street vendors near the Mama Chepa Market for the first time removed their aprons. The immaculately dressed market scrounger and all those who were though a nuisance or a troublemaker were carted off to the local police station in the custody of Don Braulio Cross.
For many blocks past the market the scene was of excited and animated girls and their friends, all wearing freshly starched uniforms provided by Dona Chefina and Dona Delia [local businesspeople].
I heard none of the speeches at the Country Club, as I was only a street onlooker.
Fifty years later, the street is much worse, broken down, awaiting another president or important visitor, like Vice President Nixon, the hero of Watergate…