Maribel’s hands-on attitude to life
By Jorge Cabrera
One ordinary day in 2008, Maribel Murillo was at home preparing the dough to make tortillas for sale, the activity that she had done all her life. Her husband, who was in a known relationship with another woman, appeared and began to argue with her about his plans to sell their house. Maribel was opposed to the idea of losing what she had worked so hard to acquire.
Enraged, he accused her of having a lover herself, and with a machete hacked off both her hands and struck her three times in the head.
I met brave Maribel on one of my many visits to La Nueva Australia slum, one of Tegucigalpa’s most dangerous districts. As she told me her story, I watched her use the stump of her forearm to wipe away a tear on her cheek.
She continued to tell me how her daughter Breily, who was just two at the time, was a silent witness to the brutal attack while playing next to her. In spite of the shock of what was happening, Maribel saw her daughter covered in blood and thought that she had also been attacked. Luckily, she hadn’t been.
Lying on the floor, she managed to get a neighbor to take her to the hospital, where she could hear the doctors saying amongst themselves that she wouldn’t survive. But Maribel did survive. Her husband severed her hands, but not her will to live.
Maribel is now 37, has four children and, as incredible as it seems, still makes tortillas in spite of the lack of hands. She turns a crank on a machine to press the tortillas. Her children and sister also help her.
In Honduras, machismo is a giant problem, and it seems that nobody wants to find solutions. From the moment they are born, so many children grow up watching their fathers abuse their mothers. Words can hurt, blows can maim or kill. Maribel’s story showed me that infinite strength still exists in her, and in each of the battered women.
Violence against women in Honduras has reached epidemic levels according to the Pan American Health Organization. Their data shows that a woman is murdered every 15 hours here.
I watched Maribel make and sell a number of tortillas before she took a break to talk to me. I asked her what her children thought of her father, who has been a fugitive since the day of the attack.
“They are afraid. My youngest (Breily) doesn’t remember anything, but her siblings cry when we talk about him,” she answered.
She continued to describe her work and life.
“I don’t have any problem cooking, washing or even eating, but when I sell my tortillas people don’t always come because they see me as a freak, and children are afraid of me. Life has given us strength these past five years, and I won’t let what happened affect us.”
Seated in front of me was this woman of clear goals, self-confidence, and an unwavering voice. It was inspiring to see that just by selling tortillas, she was able to overcome such obstacles. Her goal right now is to finish the construction of their house, the same one for which she lost both her hands.