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Gaining and Losing Tablitas

The view from Tablitas overlooking the Moskitia forest

Tablitas has a mystical yearning tone that echoed in my heart ever since my first trips to La Moskitia, Honduras in 2010. We were at first only able to get as far northwest as Torre Montero, but could go no further due to the violence in the area that had claimed many lives. The story I heard is that competing drug trafficking families were at war, and the area was not safe for anyone, not even the villagers that called the pine savanna home. “There you can see great green macaws,” I was told. I longed to see one, but each year, I was told, “It’s not safe.”

Finally, there was one year when it seemed as if we could risk the trip to Tablitas. But the day before we were due to leave,, we had seen a truck full of armed traffickers pass us on the Pt. Lempira Road. So we decided it was best to wait until another year when we could not only finally use a truck that was not at risk of breaking down, but take two trucks with us for safety.

The team during my first trip to Tablitas

Then one year it actually happened. The area had calmed down enough that we were able to go this fabled land. Soldiers accompanied us to keep us safe, and they too were captured by the aura of Tablitas. Villagers asked us if they could go but the two trucks soon filled up and we left many behind. We camped in a low spot away from prying eyes and during the day, we ventured out to find a relatively high density of scarlet macaw nests. One magical evening, off in the distance in the fading light, I saw my first great green macaw.

The local villages started to monitor and patrol this area and on several occasions I was able to go with them. I was ecstatic to return to take in this towering rise that is Tablitas, and which overlooks still intact forest. However, on the fringes and in the distance one can see the illegal land encroachment nibbling away at one of the great forests left in Central America.

Just a few weeks ago I returned to the site as part of our annual macaw count and was even more impressed and in awe. We camped right on the dirt road and I could look out over the misty shrouded forest from my hammock. During the counts we saw several great green macaws, which are now critically endangered with an unknown number of birds still left in Honduras. I suspect there are not than many left, as we have only counted about 30-40 in the large area we are monitoring (2500 square kilometers). Seeing great green and scarlet macaws preening their feathers together in one tree one morning, their colors a rainbow in the tree, I decided then that this is where I’d like to have my ashes spread.

Rev. Dr. LoraKim Joyner muses about whether conservation can ever work, especially here in La Moskitia, where the challenges are great.

But this is contested land. I am not sure that conservation can work here (although it already is as I muse in the video above). Those with power want to forbid the villagers entry to monitor and protect the nests. I may never see Tablitas again, and the only ashes that might be scattered are those from when the wind blows over the burned-out stumps of felled nesting and foraging trees of these endangered macaws. It doesn’t have to be this way. The land and wildlife in all its beauty could be the reward that those in power can offer the earth and generations to come.

Wild beauty nearly as far as one can see in Tablitas

The Catholic Diocese in Pt. Lempira, upon our invitation, made a visit to Tablitas just a few weeks ago and wrote a proclamation. The priest’s words call out to the local leaders:

We ask the indigenous leaders who are concerned with the creation of this protected area, not to think of the interest of a few, who wish to benefit in the short term from the natural resources of that area; that they think about the common good of the Miskito Indigenous people, and of the next generations of La Moskitia; that they be remembered for the sacrifices they have made for the conservation of their territory and the natural resources that exist in it. Preserving the assets, they have received from their ancestors must be their main interest, never the sale or destruction of the inheritance received.

Therefore, we strongly urge you to find the appropriate formula for the effective protection of this area. The Land and Environment Ministry of the Catholic Church is at your disposal to accompany you in this process, in whatever is within our reach.

I too ask you of La Moskitia and of this world to heed these words so that beauty may yet conquer inequality, dispossession, and destruction. We at One Earth Conservation are at your service to bring flourishing and justice to this land, doing our best to live under the vision of unconditional solidarity.

May it be so.

LoraKim Joyner

The soldiers who accompanied us joined whole heartedly, even sewing on our "Unconditional Solidarity" patch onto their uniforms

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