Last Night I Dreamt of San Pedro

I don’t think I’ve told this story from my Roatán trip yet. So:

Yo Amo San Pedro Sula

Delta offers direct flights between Atlanta and Roatán on weekends, but during the week one must connect through San Pedro Sula on the Honduras mainland. (That may change if the current attempts to touristicise Roatán succeed.) So while I’d flown directly on my way in, I had to go through SPS on my return. Delta had booked me a fairly tight connection; but the SPS airport is quite small, so as long as my incoming flight was on time – which it was – there should have been no problem making my connection.

Well, the connection was indeed physically quite possible to make; but it turned out to be legally impossible. Apparently u.s. law requires incoming flights from Honduras to close an hour before takeoff. So although my plane to Atlanta was sitting right there with my reserved seat empty and waiting, I wasn’t allowed to board it. The gate agent told me: “I don’t know why Delta keeps booking people on these connections when they know we can’t let them through.” And of course there was no other flight until the next day.

So I and three other attendees ended up spending 24 hours in SPS instead of the expected 40 minutes. Delta, acknowledging their screwup, paid us for a hotel and transportation thereto, as well as (partially) for meals. So I got to see a side of Honduras I otherwise wouldn’t have.

Roatán is a tropical paradise. San Pedro Sula, not so much. It has a reputation of high levels of violent crime – including gangs attacking buses traveling from the airport to hotels, as I cheerfully recalled while traveling from the airport to my hotel. (I gather that the situation has improved a bit in recent years, however.)

Coca-Cola sign above San Pedro Sula

From what I could see, the city is mostly a vast slum stretching for miles. Streets were lined with piles of garbage, and every once in a while a uniformed man with a rifle just standing there. Signs of desperate poverty were everywhere. (I’ve looked up photos of SPS online, but they all look much nicer than what I saw.) Nearly every car was dented – no mystery when one sees how they’re driven, at top speed with literally no more than a couple of inches’ space between one bumper and the next. Despite this, beggars – one with part of her face missing – were wandering in and out of traffic as the cars flowed like water around them. I saw a wagon bearing an enormous tower of junk and scrap, pulled by a sad-looking horse; traffic flowed expertly around this also. Above and around all this misery towered beautiful rolling green mountains, their tops lost in mist – and marred only by an enormous Coca-Cola sign looming above the city.


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