By Susannah Clark
Shuffling away from the Customs office at the airport in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, I braced myself for the sights and sounds ahead. This was my first time in a Third World country, my first exposure to extreme poverty, and my first attempt at speaking and learning Spanish.
The images of barefoot contessas and machete-clad tally-men dancing in my head were quickly trampled by a red-headed gringa with pigtails.
Yes, my first sight in Latin America was a Wendy’s. And no, yo no querrío papas fritas con eso.
While I managed to get my life-changing authentic Honduran experience 50 miles outside of the airport, the stench of grease-drenched hamburger meat left me with a sour stomach.
Or maybe that was just Travelers’ Diarrhea.
Globalization has spread over just about every nook and cranny of the English Muffin that is our planet. The bus ride to our hotel included a tour of a regular fast-food-superhighway, with a life-size statue of Colonel Sanders for good measure. There was even an Applebee’s, which is rather ironic, considering Central America has a history of being America’s Least Favorite Neighbor.
I will admit that my Rousseau-ian expectations of a romantically primitive “Third World” were exceptionally naïve. And while I gained a non-self-serving perspective in my short stay in Honduras, I can’t help but cringe at our Western pollution. There is a glowing Latin American essence that is dimmed by the plasma Golden Arches.
My repertoire of international fast-food intake does not stop with the Americas. My father and I made it a point to eat at the McDonalds on the Champs-Élysées in Paris, simply as an ethnographic experiment. Alas, there were no camembert Big Macs or crème brûllèe McFlurries. The menu was the same, but overpriced.
While some may find comfort in familiar corporate logos so far from home, I’d prefer to get away from such false idols. I didn’t get a typhoid vaccine so I could eat at a Swedish Outback Steakhouse.
You get enough crappy food on the airplane, why deprive yourself of the adventurous flavors in front of you?
There was however, one American logo I was proud to see plastered on a Honduran wall.
For the past three years, Students Helping Honduras has bombarded the Mary Washington community with Facebook and Kegs for Kids invitations to provide funding for Copprome, a struggling orphanage in El Progreso, Honduras. SHH gave me and 34 other eager volunteers the unique opportunity this winter to build houses and relationships with talented, hilarious, and deprived orphans. The fruits of our labor are painted on an intricate mural covering the orphanage’s new SHH-funded education wing: a tile bearing the emblem of all-too-familiar white columns, painted next to the letters U-M-W.
Granted, America’s imperialistic and economic pursuits in under-developed countries have spread, among other infectious imports, obesity, nuclear weaponry and the oxymoron that is enforced democracy.
But within our ethnocentric ventures, there are a few good intentions sprinkled on top. Some of us are just spreading love.