Remember: Cesar Castellanos “El Gordito” de Honduras

For some reason I felt compelled to say something in memory of Cesar Castellanos today here. Occasionally a politician comes around that inspires total confidence where you know, it’s obvious, that he is the rare gem of honest guy in “public service”.

He was one of them. He became known to the nation working in their National Party, one of the two major parties in Honduras. He was known as generous, everyone loved him because they felt that he was truly motivated to do his best for them at his job. They called him not just “El Gordo”, but “El Gordito Trabajador”, somebody who showed with his walk that his talk was the real genuine thing.

He was a real Christian, of a church of the kind many call evangelical, but no hypocrite he.

Everybody in the country knew, without a doubt, that he was going to win the next election, all the common folks that always voted for the other party, they were all going to vote for him. Sometimes there’s doubt, but in this case if another had won then it would have been too obvious, too much in your face and the presidency was lost to the corrupting influences.

He won the mayor’s office in 1998, and his first act was to gather together all the municipal employees and tell them that no act of corruption would be tolerated and would result in immediate termination. And nobody doubted that was exactly what he would do.

BUT. He also, in that same honest talk, he told them that if any of them had any personal problem, to talk to them and he would find a way to help them. And they all know that was exactly what he would do.

After all, he had already done it. As neurosurgeon, he had already gladly helped hundreds, even thousands of poor in all kinds of ways.

When he prepared his last trip, a helicopter flyover to survey the damage done by Hurricane Mitch in 1998, he was already anguished over the hurt borne by the city.

The helicopter lifted off from Toncontin Airport, but had difficulties almost immediately of some kind and fell onto the asphalt of a street that borders the airfield. It crashed and the occupants were all killed on impact.

That’s the official version. Air force officers confiscated film from cameras that were being used by reporters to capture the scene. There are no pictures publicly available that I know of.

Castellanos invited the vice mayor to ride along with him, but the vice mayor begged off, saying he was “busy” with other things.

The next scene in the drama opens at their City Hall, where the city was preparing to recognize the vice mayor as successor to El Gordito.

What was not told on CNN or any of the international news agencies, was that the poor of the capital city spontaneously and massively and literally mobbed the building, ringing it all around, yelling and chanting and sending a message to those inside.

The message: We know you murdered him, the mayor’s office belongs to him and nobody gets out alive if you don’t install his widow as mayor, it belongs to her. They bowed to the obvious and relented, and so they legally and officially made her mayor.

Of course it’s not the same, and widow Vilma de Castellanos would be the first that she was not as strong a personality as her husband’s.

Honduras lost a hero and gained a martyr that day. It is good to remember good models for the rest of us from time to time.


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