Abajate – A Cultural Event

Showing of The Titanic

Bijoux Theatre

San Pedro Sula, Honduras, Central America

2 April 1998

I so enjoy the gift of the other culture.

The world’s largest grossing motion picture was an epic cultural event for the Sampredranos (the citizens of San Pedro Sula). I joined in with them and it was more than a simple cultural experience; it was an adventure in attempting to assimilate into another culture for Doctor Laub. The enjoyment of participating in the culture of these Sampredanos was immense.

I felt good in that I had learned how to enjoy life when not at an opera or a symphony, nor at mass, and not at a soccer game: Hoo-rah. As a bonus, from this experience we made our LTPR’s (long-term personal relations) stronger and more memorable with our gracious host (Dr. Jorge Saybe) and his wife.

In our professional intercourse at Hospital Leonardo Martinez V.,  while conversing with all while performing surgery, we had heard pretty good reports on the movie Titanic. Titanic must have has had peculiar attraction to all the people of this world. The individuals, those performing surgery that day were persons from 2 different cultures: Central American and the USA. All of them specialists, but forming into one group. We were very different but at the same time very much the same, cemented with the commonality of purpose of performing humanitarian surgery. And we were very much the same when we attended Titanic.

During surgery, we reduce tension with conversation light and airy, with jokes. At dinner at my gracious host’s table, the talk went, “Mi amor, Titanic has sold out for three months, totally, every night,” Zoveida said.

“Okay, Zoveida. Let’s arrive 45 minutes early to try our luck.”

My host, Doctor Jorge Saybe, and his beautiful wife Zoveida seldom participate in social acts or attend events of public entertainment.Titanic was an obvious exception to their standard practice.

So Dolores, the 4-foot 8-inch tall, sturdily built and smiling kitchen servant quickly prepared the Arab-style boquitas of kivas, tebouleh and hummus and ground garbanzo and ground beef. She made us little torpedos, deep fried with raw beef, onion, and wheat mixture; prepared cabbage leaf covers around rice, salmon mousse; deep fried cheese sticks; and jugo de sandia (juice of the watermelon). We were armed.

At that time, I was excited and prepared to enjoy an emotionally stimulating, semi-private activity with close friends, but in no way did I expect the size and boisterousness of the crowd gathered outside this theatre. A huge knot of excited and agitated people blanketed the entire elevated front plaza of the theatre, and even blanketed the big circular stairs. Humanity was pushed down onto the sidewalk, and we covered part of the street. The crowd acted as a single amorphous amoeba-like unit. Coming close, it was not unnoticed that self-security was attempted. I counted fifteen rifles on the backs of young men and boys, four pistols in the back pocket or in the belt, and innumerable machetes (ubiquitous, substantial 36” by 3.5” universal instruments of this culture). And the excitement hit us when we were still 50 feet from the crowd. We felt the emotion and we became part of that unit before we even joined the group physically. The emotion was a cross between the feeling at the Super Bowl and that of the circus. Acting as part of the mass, each person passed toward the glass door, sort of like a swarm of bees glued onto the front of the Bijoux. Disappointed people were streaming away.

“Jorge, they’ve been sold out for awhile; it’s useless.”

Just as we had joined the emotion of the group, then disappointment grabbed at us. The trampoline of life had thrown us up and now we were down emotionally below ground zero. But then, as we approached, a man came directly to us. “Olá, Jorge. Quantos boletas quiere?” (How many tickets do you want?) My first scalper at a movie theatre! For five lempiras over list price, we were in possession of tickets! A new high! A miracle had occurred, but we had to conquer the ensuing challenge to penetrate the amoeba: to traverse the crowd, make our way through its cytoplasm, together, through the collage of smells, machetes, greedy hands, and gang members who desperately staying wanted to avenge the electrocution of a Honduran in Arizona today. It was perceived to be done by the big and bad EEUU in order to “show Latin America not to send anymore immigrants.”

We joined hands and barreled in as a new and formidable biological unit of the Titanic Expectant Crowd (TEC). The TEC swept into us. It was not as if we were in the waves and currents of the open ocean; this was the surf itself. We took a chance against all the dangers of the surf of the ocean. Jorge had all 4 tickets. I had to keep him in sight. I put my hands in my wallet pocket and my eyes, ears, ESP, and experience into high alert to watch for the unexpected. I was swept to the left and then to the right and I tumbled into the theatre via the glass door at the entrance of the Bijoux itself. The door was open just a slit to let a single person in at a time. I popped in without any ticket and explained in Spanish that somethingboleta.. perdido…

There was no place to sit in the theatre except on the far left side of the front row. These were the least desirable seats in the house, and more than that, there was sticky spilled Coca Cola on the floor. Those seats were surrounded by obese women in tight clothing, saying excuse me, excuse me, excuse me, with young buck-type males sauntering around, all sorts of girls who were just then emerging into womanhood, moving in and out without even a “dispensemenos.” The next challenge was for us to try to “negotiate upwards” for seat position. We went in and out of rows, all of us as scouts, waving and using sign language to each other, holding up fingers and pointing to where one, two or three seats were. We ended up in the middle of the third and fourth row from the rear: separated, but in perfect position to meld into the amoeba’s cytoplasm and to absorb the fun.

Titanic’s opening scenes are huge, exciting, and depict the emotion of one of the wonders of the world; humans boarding what was the equivalent of a 1,500-person airplane ready to traverse the world. Those who were actually embarking the Titanic were forming another biologic unit; and they, in that unit, would experience human pleasure and travail that few others ever would.

No laughs from the movie crowd. All were in awe until 3/4’s of an hour into the drama, when the lead male, Leonardo DiCaprio, the young jewel of testosterone, a man from Chipawa Falls, Wisconsin, is sketching the beautiful Rose, clothed in a huge diamond necklace – only. This exciting scene, a forbidden erotic moment, held the crowd in a quiet expectation. The audience was being served a scene of sketching Rose from the lower abdomen upwards. As a group, we were glued to the screen, tense and breathless. And then from the right side, five rows ahead, rang out the words, “Abajate! Abajate!” The crowd broke into hoots, cheers, laughter. In English, it was, “Put the camera lower, lower!”

A cultural night.

Thank you.

Todos personas en mundo son equales.

All persons in the world are equal.



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