The wear of 60 years of living a difficult and trying life shows on the face of Maria.
Living on the outskirts of a small Honduran village, a household which was once teeming with children, fifteen to be exact, is now nearly empty. Three children left her in death, three remain near her, while the other nine have moved far away and now have minimal communication.
Her home sits on land generously donated by a former mayor of the village. Before she received the land, over twenty years ago, she rented various homes. It is a blessing to have a home to call her own.
Maria lives in a one-room adobe home, with one of her children–an adult son, Jose. Jose lives with her because he is unable to care for himself. Two of her daughters, and a handful of her grandchildren live nearby and visit regularly.
Jose suffers from a combination of autism and a seizure disorder. Sometimes, the neighbors will pay him to run errands for them, and the little bit he occasionally earns contributes to the money needed for Maria and Jose to care for themselves.
The only other source of income they have comes from Maria selling vegetables and second-hand clothing given to her by friends. This provides a scanty living for the two–approximately $20 a week.
Jose also possesses their only form of transportation–a bicycle.
The only other way for them to travel is by foot, or through the generosity of others who occasionally have helped Maria by paying for a taxi. With Jose’s medical issues, as well as Maria’s, who is diabetic, travel for regular medical care is difficult. The medical center where Jose receives treatment and medication is more than 30 miles away.
Maria’s grandchildren who live close by, are clearly a light and joy in a world that can sometimes feel sad and discouraging.
You do not yet see their faces impacted by the difficulty of living in poverty.
Still, poverty is there. They have no potable water in their home, no running water in their faucets. In order to obtain drinking water, they must travel nearly two miles to a local gas station. Two miles doesn’t sound like much, but walking two miles is much farther than walking ten feet from anywhere in your home to access clean drinking water. All the water used each day, must be carried the two miles from the gas station to their homes.
There are no flushing toilets, simply a bucket to sit on, surrounded by cloth for privacy. The actual toilet is merely a hole in the ground. When the hole is full, it will be buried and another latrine constructed–maintaining conditions as sanitary as possible.
While there is much to long for in these circumstances, Maria desires only a few things. She longs for the companionship of all her children, some of whom have not spoken to her in over three years. The sorrow of this loss is evident in her face.
Her other desire, is to acquire a possession that you most likely have always had.
Cooking is one thing that brings her joy. She longs for a space in which she could prepare and share a meal with her family.
Even in the most ideal of situations, her kitchen still would not have running water, as that is something that simply is not available, It may not even have walls, but her dream kitchen would be more than a free standing stove and a small table.
Maria did nothing to put herself in these circumstances. It is not due to her mistakes or any poor choices she might have made. Maria was simply born in a different village, in a different country where many of the conveniences we take for granted, such as readily accessible drinking water, simply are not a reality.
Written by Shalyce Cluff; Photography by Jose Miguel Amaya