Hector: ‘I’m thirteen years old, and I have three children’

It’s 6:30 a.m. The assistants who live in the house, including Silva and me, are already dressed and ready for a new workday.

First, we head to the bathroom. It’s necessary to fill a blue barrel with water. If hot water is available, it means the boys and girls won’t shiver under the shower. Though they are accustomed to cold water, having washed with it until recently.

Hector’s Morning Ritual

While the barrel fills, we start knocking and opening the doors to our boys’ and girls’ rooms. The first room belongs to Hector and Don Raul.

“Hola, buen día,” I greet.

Hector is already awake but still lies in bed, laughing, knowing what I will do next—a ritual he looks forward to each morning when I tickle him to wake him.

Then he gets up and, as usual, proudly shows off his wallet, especially proud of the small change inside. Throughout the day, he repeatedly counts it and proudly displays his wallet so that everyone else can see it.

Why does he want to spend money? His motivation is always the same: to buy Pepsi.

Hector has Down syndrome, which means he has intellectual disabilities and a distinctive appearance, which I find quite charming and beautiful.

Proud Hector, who just received a new wallet as a gift

He has been in the community for 34 years. His mother brought him here after his father passed away. Not much is known about him, only that they lived in great poverty in Tegucigalpa, he had siblings, and none of his family members are in contact with him anymore.

What Hector tells about himself, proudly as he must, doesn’t really help us much.

“I am thirteen years old, and I have three children,” he often claims. Sometimes, he says he’s eight, other times fifteen.

It is estimated that he’s around 50 years old. Officially, he is 51 since his documents and registration were sorted out at Arc, where they had to assign some years as his birth date.

So, he has long celebrated his birthday on that registration day, and there’s no one happier or prouder than him when he’s the center of attention.

Just recently, we celebrated his day. Silva and I bought him a wallet and left some euros in exchange, a hefty stack of bills.

Hector is physically in excellent shape and is one of those in the house who can do and help the most.

He is very independent and doesn’t need much help with care and washing. You can always rely on him to complete any task well, whether it’s sweeping the kitchen, wiping down surfaces, arranging dishes, hanging and sorting laundry, or cleaning the garden behind the house.

Don Raul, the eldest community member

While Hector dresses and prepares for his shower, Don Raul still lies in bed. That’s just fine, and we let him be. We know he won’t go to the workshop, and that’s okay.

He is 79 years old and the oldest member of the community, hence the honorific ‘Don’ because of his age.

He has been with us for a month, yet I don’t know if he has spoken ten words during that time. They say he used to be more talkative and still occasionally opens up and responds to a question.

His health is frail, and with age, he needs increasingly more care and assistance.

He came to Arc in 1999. He had a family, a brother (who even visited him recently), and came to the house with his twin sister.

Rare moments: Don Raul and Silva dancing

When a group of boys and girls was leaving the house for workshops many years ago, his twin sister was fatally hit by a truck. It was a severe blow for Raul, who was deeply connected to her. They say he changed significantly after that, becoming even more reticent and sometimes falling into depression.

Now, of course, he’s no longer so active, but long-time assistants can tell you how diligently he worked the soil behind the house, weeded, worked in the workshop, and was always very meticulous and precise.

Yes, they can also tell you about his habit of collecting things in his room, even garbage bags, which were sometimes found under his bed. I believe they were angry then, but today, they laugh about how he could climb through the window and smuggle whatever he found around the house into his room.

David and his ‘oso’

When I open the doors to Johnny and David’s room in the morning, the scene is always the same. Johnny is already up, with a towel over his shoulder, waiting for an assistant, while David is still rolling in bed, laughing, and repeating just one word, even during the shower and at breakfast:

‘Oso’, bear.

This “oso” of his has become legendary in the house, so much so that even the assistants sometimes call him ‘Oso.’ Believe me, the word echoes in your head if you hear it about a hundred and fifty times a day.


Yes, he has his plush bear in bed, and since he doesn’t say much else, the assistants think he’s referring to it. Although it’s true that he might have picked up this bear from the cartoon ‘Masha and the Bear,’ which he also loves.

David also has Down syndrome. He came to the community 37 years ago when he was just 7 years old. His brother brought him here after their mother died. His brother visited him for a while but then disappeared from his life, and he hasn’t been visited by anyone from outside for a long time.

But he has the Arc family instead, the assistants, and the other boys and girls who love him very much.

At least twice a month, I transform into a barber. In the picture with David.

David is somewhat more mentally limited than the others, but he has an incredible gift for rhythm and dance.

He may not be able to say much except to repeat certain words he hears from others (sometimes he even invents his own), but when we turn on the television and music videos on Picosa TV, he gets up, wiggles, taps his foot and hand to the rhythms and spins as if the entire living room were his dance floor.

Johny, the community star

His roommate, Johnny, is the star of the community. Everyone loves him, and he’s popular with everyone. He radiates charisma, and his sensitive and loving nature disarms everyone.


He offers his hand to others, compliments the assistants and the other boys and girls, and, most importantly, knows how to have fun.

He talks a lot, quietly and slowly, but quite unintelligibly, at least to us, who are new and still learning the connections between his expressions and Spanish words. But we are getting better at it than when we started.

With a towel over his shoulder, he waits impatiently for the doors to open, greets warmly, then, with his characteristic ‘walk,’ heads down the hallway to the bathroom. ‘Walk’ in quotes because he actually always runs lightly, and I can’t remember ever seeing him walk normally like people usually do.

Johny in the living room, on his favorite seat, together with Lito (on his right), Don Raul, and Mina.

Johny was born on August 15, 1969, in an extremely poor family. He was left alone when he was 8 years old. At that time, his relatives brought him to a hospital due to some illness, then disappeared. The hospital called Arc, knowing they care for people with Down syndrome and other mental disorders.

They remember him as a cheerful, heartfelt child who always liked to touch people and hug them. Although he has had almost no contact with anyone from his family for almost his entire life, he has found friends in the community.

‘Giving means receiving,’ Johny might say briefly if he could articulate his character and lifestyle.

The bickering duo who love each other

Even Johny has his shadows. Sometimes he argues with Hector. They talk at length and broadly, God knows about what, because no one understands them, but from their faces, you can tell they’ve argued about something.

Sometimes they argue, for instance, when Johny (it always happens so automatically) runs from the couch right up to the television and dances there while watching music videos.

While Johny is on the ‘dance floor,’ Hector sometimes comments. I never managed to figure out what he said because it was all so unintelligible, but Johny clearly understood him.

It usually ends with Johny pouting and frowning, and after a while, he runs to an assistant and whispers in their ear that Hector hit him.

To the right is Johny. When he dances, he always goes there, beside the television, and jumps around to the music. Meanwhile, Hector helps me sort the laundry.

These two boys are like real brothers. They often argue, but maybe they actually like each other the most of all. How else can we explain that Hector sometimes sneaks into Johny’s room at night and falls asleep next to him?

In the next article, I will write about four other residents of Arc: Darwin, Lita, Mina, and Chayito.

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