How To Draw Honduras
Germán Andino was born in San Pedro Sula, the same place where Alberto Arce learned firsthand about the extrajudicial killings committed by the police. Germán is also the illustrator of Alberto’s book, Novato en nota roja, about his experience as the only foreign correspondent living in Honduras from 2012 to 2014. The book was published earlier this year and features striking illustrations by Germán, including the cover, a replica image of Kevin Carranza Padilla, or “Teiker” as he was known. The photo, which appeared in El Heraldo, helped Arce to establish a link between disappeared gang members, the police, and the journalists involved in this circle of impunity. We interviewed Germán to discuss his relationship with Alberto and learn about his own unique attempts to document the violence in Honduras.
Radio Ambulante: How did you end up drawing illustrations of the stories you report in Honduras?
Germán Andino: I’ve been drawing forever, but I don’t remember exactly how I got started to illustrating the texts I would write. I think the first journalistic illustrations I did were requested by Antonio Pampliega for Revistazo. (Check out that work here)
RA: How did you meet Alberto and how did you become involved in the illustration of his book?
GA: Alberto and I met in 2012. If I remember right, Arce arrived in Honduras as an AP correspondent. We met at a party in the neighborhood where we used to live in Tegucigalpa. The idea of doing a comic came about a few years ago in Arce’s house, during one of many smoking and drinking sessions. The original idea was to write a script for one of the stories that are now part of his book, Novato en Nota Roja, the story of Ebed Yánez to be exact. Between one thing and another, we weren’t able to finish our first attempt at the comic and afterwards, I decided to draw my own stories while I was illustrating Novato en Nota Roja.
RA: Did working with an “outsider” have any kind of influence in your perception of Honduras?
GA: I’m more aware of how well-adjusted I am to things that would be considered out of the ordinary, but I don’t think I’ve changed my perception. It’s better to say that now I understand the perception of outsiders when they come to a country like mine.
RA: In the episode, Alberto talks about the obligation of storytellers to the people of Honduras. How would you interpret that statement?
GA: For me, the responsibility of a journalist is to get the gears of a person’s conscience going so that later they can get the larger mechanisms of society moving. And for that, images work really well. Nevertheless, I have to recognize that in places like Honduras where the fabric of society hangs on a thread, the journalist’s work doesn’t do much. It’s not important. In that sense, what I do leans toward the arts and not toward “objective” journalism that tries to change things because most likely I won’t be able to achieve that.
RA: You have collaborated in the past with other journalists and various media outlets to report on the violence in Honduras. Can you summarize those experiences?
GA: My collaborations with other journalists range from “patrols seeking dead bodies” that feed on and sell the blood of Hondurans, to exhausting sessions to get to know Honduras that last years. Those are the ones that are trying to understand the country and tell its story, like in Alberto’s case.
RA: Can you describe your current project? What does the title The Habit of Silence mean to you?
GA: My project is a multimedia webcomic: I’m mixing my drawings with the audio of interviews, background noise, music…with the goal of enriching the reading experience and presenting an innovative digital format.
The topics I cover in the stories I have reported on in the last few years are the same ones that have been appearing over and over on international media since Honduras was named the most violent country in the world. The difference is that my characters, who are real people, explain, from a more streetwise perspective, how you live in a country like ours. I try to explore the topics of violence, gangs, and everything else, using the simple lives of these people that are used to being quiet most of the time out of fear. But at the same time, they explain our society really well. From there, I got the title, The Habit of Silence. It’s the habit of keeping one’s mouth closed and staying alive.
This comic tries to tell stories about what is normally not spoken about because of this fear. I’ve spent the last year, on and off, living in the most dangerous parts of neighborhoods controlled by gangs in San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa.
RA: How do you relate the graphic novel with your work as a journalist?
The comics are a different medium. To me they seem a more potent way of storytelling than just writing articles. You just have to search for the balance between what you write and what you describe with the drawings. All in all, the work is very subjective, but not much different than the process behind writing any kind of text. In my case, I don’t see the difference between a graphic novel and journalism. One doesn’t depend on the other. They’re one in the same.
RA: Are you working on any other projects at the moment?
GA: The first story of The Habit of Silence, “Transforming Numbers into Pirate Ships”, is a story that I reported in Tegucigalpa. You can see a teaser of it on my website . My upcoming project is the next chapter, “Diary of Beasts.” The comic tells the story of when I lived with the gangs in San Pedro Sula for a year.
German is an illustrator and journalist. He lives in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. You can visit his website at www.germanandino.com
To listen to our episode “The Correspondent” with Alberto Arce about his time experience in Honduras, click here.
Thank you to Steffen Stubager for sharing his photos. You can visit his website to see more.