Ben Peek (benpeek) wrote,
Ben Peek

The Yellow Disease

"The picture above relates to time we spent in the town of Chichialpa and a problem we uncovered while filming stuff about an environmental disease affecting banana workers. While in Managua we saw some cane workers picketing the National Assembly and went over and asked them what was up. They told us of a disease that had killed five thousand people over the past three years in Chichigalpa. Chichigalpa is owned literally by Carlos Pelas, the wealthiest man in Honduras. He owns, among other things, Flor De Cana rum, which is produced in Chichigalpa. How powerful a man is he? He kept his wealth and his plantations during the Sandinista regime, which meant he paid off certain high-ranking Sandanistas. Do the name Daniel Ortega ring a bell, Recently he had the National Assembly declare a 40 story office building a hotel so he wouldn't have to pay taxes on it.

Anyway, the workers called the disease the yellow disease because it gave its victims a jaundiced look. It affected the kidneys, sometimes shrinking them to the size of walnuts, so the victims couldn't urinate and swelled up. Often their faces would get so swollen, they became monstrous, unrecognizable. Eventually there was a complete organ breakdown and they bled from every orifice. They attributed the disease to a powder they spread over the cane field by hand, without masks or amy protection. At the beginning of each season, Flor De Cana gave the workers a blood test, but wouldn't tell them what it was for. Some workers were told they couldn't work any more, and this was essentially a kiss of death, as those workers shortly fell ill (within 3 years) and died. The chemical is now in the ground water and the wells that provide water to the town, so everyone in the town is on a deathwatch."

--From Lucius Shepard's message board (posted by Shepard himself).
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