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Cristian Decides It's Time To Become A Man

I asked once, to no one in particular, how I might respond the first time I discovered that one of my boys had gone and impregnated a girl...or worse: "Rain & Death In The Garbage Dump". The other week I surprised myself at the way I responded; though to be honest, there's only so much response one can give at a distance of 3000 miles.

Cristian has not impregnated anyone, at least not that I know of. He did though, at the mature and responsible age of 17 decide that it was time he took a wife. Last week one evening, while their respective families were in church, Cristian's girlfriend Lezmy, packed up her few meager belongings, leapt from her bedroom window (her aunt was in the other room) and trekked up the hill that separates her family's home from that of Cristian's. By Laureles custom the two are now married -- at least until one of the two decides that they aren't any longer -- but that's also a Laureles custom; there will probably be a child or two though before that happens. They call it "robbing your girlfriend" because presumably, the family of the girl, those people that have cared for her and raised her, are not privy to or in agreement with the idea of the young girl and boy suddenly moving in together and setting up a home. Nevertheless, this is par for the course in Los Laureles and the way that most young couples end up getting together. As an aside, I know of one young couple where the boy hid his girlfriend under his bed for a week until the father of the girl gave up hope and stopped looking for her; at which point she promptly reappeared in public and announced that she was pregnant. The thing of it is, it's not exactly something that's frowned upon because everyone does it and very often it's the mothers of the girls that are literally pushing their young daughters out the door and onto their boyfriends; it means one less mouth to feed.

I understand that youth grow up faster there and that the norms for what is and isn't acceptable, at least with regards to the age two people ought to marry, is certainly much different in Honduras, especially amongst the poor of Honduras. What I can't abide though is this notion, especially prevalent among the males, that manhood doesn't really arrive until you've moved into your own place and brought a girl there to live with you and take care of you. Until you "rob your girlfriend" and start your own family you're suspect and less than a man. Manuel, who lived with me for time, was always scolded by the older women who told him that he shouldn't be living with me, that he ought to steal a girl and go find his own place. He would chuckle and keep walking but I knew their words always stung him and that part of him really did want to do just that.

When I talked to Cristian about this the other night this is the sentiment that he essentially expressed. That he felt it was time that he become a man and that Lezmy would suit him just fine -- the unspoken subtext was "for now". I threw everything that I could think of at him and in the gentlest way possible. I asked him to think of both their futures, of what he was throwing away for both of them, the estrangement that it might cause with her family, and the fact that he had a job that couldn't even support himself let alone another person. Finally, I asked him to remember his committiment to Christ, one that he had made a year prior. I asked him if it was correct to "steal his girlfriend" as it were, or if instead the correct way to proceed would be to get married in the church. He answered no, that it wasn't correct and that they really ought to be properly married. Knowing which was the right path to take I told him that he really needed to return Lezmy to her family because no true minister would marry the two of them in their current state. To which he replied that he would not be doing that, he was content with Lezmy where she was, as was she.

I had nothing left to say, I fancy myself a fairly persuasive person and can usually get people to come around to my way of thinking -- nothing can persuade teenagers with hormones that are accustomed to doing whatever they please. I told him that I loved him, that his decision carried with it unforeseen consequences, but that I loved him regardless and that I always would. He giggled. I hung up.

 Cristian Josue Chirinos Alvarez, 12
February, 2008
At the beach one Sunday after church
Just 2 months after I'd first met him


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