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Lander resident travels to Honduras to raise awareness about complex international politics

A group of people stand holding signs, two of which read "USA: Hold Yourself Accountable" and "J.O.H, Canada, USA On Trial." One person in the center holds a microphone and a sheet of paper. Multiple video cameras and a phone on a stand are set up in the foreground of the shot.
Taylor Pajunen
Lander resident Taylor Pajunen speaks at a press conferece in front of the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, as part of the Honduras Solidarity Network’s joint American-Canadian delegation. At the event in January, the group launched a campaign to put the U.S. and Canada on trial for their past support of former Honduran president Juan Orlando Hernández.

Lander resident Taylor Pajunen is an activist with a passion for community – and a passion for connecting those local issues to international politics. In January, Pajunen went to Honduras as part of the Honduras Solidarity Network’s joint American-Canadian delegation. The group went to better understand how U.S.-based fruit, palm oil and cheap labor companies affect local communities, and to raise awareness about the complex relationship between the Central American country and the U.S.

While there, Pajunen saw first-hand the ways in which local farmers in the fertile Aguán Valley (also known as campesinos), are working to reclaim land taken by big corporations like the United Fruit Company. She said many campesinos in the community have been murdered in lands rights disputes, despite having original claim to the valley.

“For decades, land has been just exploited and wrongfully taken from people. The campesinos were given historic land titles back in the day, so they technically are owners of the land,” she said.

The Honduras Solidarity Network delegation visited one community in El Chile who was celebrating the one-year anniversary of reclaiming their land and had their original land title hanging up at the party. Pajunen said witnessing their celebration was inspiring.

“We got to go all over the country and see not just how people are resisting colonialism and imperialism, but also see so many wins, which I think is often absent in organizing,” she said.

Pajunen connected the efforts of campesino farmers in Honduras to the broader “land back” movement, which refers to efforts in the U.S. and around the world to re-establish Indigenous sovereignty over ancestral lands. She said much of that work has been in resistance of big U.S. companies.

“Being able to see successful land back projects in Honduras is really important for us to see how that can also work here in the States,” Pajunen said.

The Lander resident spends part of the year working with the humanitarian aid group No More Deaths at the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona. Pajunen said that while the migrants she interacts with come from all over the world, many of those from Central America are coming from Honduras. When she heard about the Honduras Solidarity Network delegation, going down to learn more in person was a no-brainer.

“I was like, ‘Of course I’d like to go, Honduras feels very close to what I'm engaged with right now, but I really don't know much about what it's actually like on the ground,’” she said.

Pajunen said questions of land rights and international politics around fruit production in Honduras have direct connections to the day-to-day lives of Wyomingites.

“In rural Wyoming, we're eating bananas that are from Central America, and from Honduras specifically. If we're going to be eating this stuff, we should care,” she said.

The group also visited with a women’s labor union fighting for compensation and reparations for those who’ve been injured or disabled in sweatshops. Pajunen said the sweatshops are in what are called free-economic zones, which exist across the globe.

“U.S. and Canadian sweatshops can kind of just go in and not have as many labor regulations, and then pop out once people start rising up. That’s kind of what happened with Gildan, which is a T-shirt company,” she said.

The Honduras Solidarity Network delegation also visited the U.S. embassy and spoke out against past U.S. support of former Honduran president Juan Orlando Hernández. The former U.S. ally has been accused of turning the country into a “narco-dictatorship” and is being charged in the U.S. with drug trafficking and firearms possession. But Pajunen said the U.S. isn’t taking accountability for their own support of Hernández’ presidency.

“It’s not to say that Hernández is not at fault, it's to say the U.S. has put all the fault on him when they're the ones pulling the strings,” she said.

While at the embassy, the delegation held a press conference and launched their own campaign to put the U.S. and Canada on trial for their connections to Hernández’s presidency. Pajunen served as a Spanish-to-English translator at the event.

“I would love people in Wyoming to learn more about the specificities of Honduran politics and how the U.S. has been involved and why the U.S. should also be put on trial, not just the Honduran dictator,” Pajunen said. “We don't talk about this, we don't know to know this in the United States.”

Hernandez was in power from 2014 to 2022, and many politicians in the U.S. raised concern about fraud in his re-election in 2017 despite a formal recognition of the election by the state department. His trial is scheduled to start in New York on February 20th.

Hannah Habermann is the rural and tribal reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. She has a degree in Environmental Studies and Non-Fiction Writing from Middlebury College and was the co-creator of the podcast Yonder Lies: Unpacking the Myths of Jackson Hole. Hannah also received the Pattie Layser Greater Yellowstone Creative Writing & Journalism Fellowship from the Wyoming Arts Council in 2021 and has taught backpacking and climbing courses throughout the West.

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