I met Maria while walking down a village street looking for Soapberry trees. She was an elderly lady sitting outside her house enjoying the sunshine. I don’t usually stop and visit with random strangers, but she looked like she would enjoy a conversation, so I greeted her and we chatted. She was very sweet and friendly. When I asked to take her picture she smoothed back her hair and straightened her dress.
I explained what we were doing in her town and asked if she had ever used soapberries. Maria’s face lit up as she explained that yes, she remembered using soapberries as a body soap when she was young. She rubbed her arm as she explained how soft they left her skin.
Since the entry of chemical soaps, many younger Hondurans have never used soapberries . They don’t know what tree we are talking about until we explain it. Maria can no longer see, but she knew exactly where to point to show me where the closest soapberry tree was growing.
We have the opportunity to re-introduce Hondurans to a part of their culture that they have lost, with benefits to the environment and the economy. According to Maria, they can have softer skin, too.