Imagine the rains washing your home away, tons of mud and debris burying the life you built. Imagine huddling on a rooftop as the floodwaters surround you and your family, waiting days to be rescued without potable water or food. Imagine you are one of the lucky ones, homeless but alive and camping under overpasses with dozens of others. Imagine all this without the promise of financial recovery or international aid.
Central Americans don’t have to imagine. This is their reality. MLS’s Honduran players don’t have to imagine. These are their compatriots, and they’re living dual nightmares, an ever-worsening pandemic and financial crisis pushed to the backburner by Category 4 Hurricane Eta, a natural disaster to rival or even surpass Hurricane Mitch in 1998 and a storm that’s left much of the country underwater.
“People don't have anywhere to go with their kids. People still haven't been rescued because it completely changed the geography of the country,” Roger Espinoza told me Monday evening as he tried to drum up support and attention for a crisis that’s been buried in the headlines by the US election and COVID-19 updates. “There are people still on top of either their houses or in little areas where there a little bit elevation where the water couldn't get to, people just trapped in pretty much an island now.
You see videos of people being rescued, but you start thinking about all the other people that haven't been rescued yet. We're going into a week already. There aren’t many boats that can go rescue those people. I know people who survived many, many days on their homes without food.”
Food. Shelter. Medicine. Hondurans need the basics, and they need them as soon as possible.
That’s what prompted the Sporting KC midfielder and long-time Honduras international to reach out to his fellow catrachos in MLS in an attempt to spur the relief effort. Espinoza said it started with a phone call to Dynamo defender Maynor Figueroa and the group grew to include Bryan Acosta (FC Dallas), Boniek Garcia (Dynamo), Andy Najar (LAFC), Danilo Acosta (LA Galaxy), Romell Quioto (Montreal Impact), Brayan Beckeles (Nashville SC) and Douglas Martinez (Real Salt Lake).
Espinoza and his family immigrated to the United States in April 1998, just months before Hurricane Mitch ravaged the nation. He remembers sending supplies and aid back to his uncles, but this time is different. This time the world is preoccupied by an ongoing pandemic, and Honduras is no different, only now they’re balancing the financial and societal impact of COVID-19 while simply trying to survive the tropical storm season.
“Honduras is a country with very, very low resources. Already with COVID, there were a lot of people really struggling,” Espinoza said. “And then Hurricane Eta came and that just put people in a different type of crisis, a humanitarian crisis that is very hard for people to continue to have a safe life. After the hurricane, a big percentage of the country was underwater. We need people to know what's happening outside of Honduras, in the United States especially. In Honduras, the people know.”
“There are people whose house is just completely covered in mud, rivers going through people's houses. People going to live in warehouses and that are being rented by humanitarian organizations, and I saw that no one was wearing masks, families were sleeping next to each other in a room that probably about five families to one small room, 10 by 10. People on top of each other with no protection, young kids and older people, too.”
The images are heartbreaking. The stories, even more so. The tragedy is not over. Another storm is bearing down on Central America, with Honduras in its path. Hurricane Iota’s landfall is coming, and MLS’s cadre of Hondurans hope help will follow as well.
“There's a lot of players from around the world, including the MLS players, helping their communities, but it's only one player helping their community,” Espinoza said. “That's not enough for a few thousand people in one community. We need people to jump on board on this because as we speak right now, there is another hurricane reaching Honduras, hours away of reaching Honduras again. They're predicting that it's going to be even worse.
“Honduras did not have the resources and was not ready for anything like this to happen. We can see even in a country like the United States, where you have all the resources in the world, you have all the money, but you see stuff like Hurricane Katrina still happened and caused people to struggle for quite a long time. And so just imagine Honduras going through this right now.”
Just imagine, and help if you can.