We next made our way through traffic so astonishingly free-form, improvisational, and occasionally terrifying that it's beyond my ability to describe. Mario put me up in a great hotel, though—a 1970s tower gotten up in a kind of International Mayan Revival style—and that helped restore my optimism.
Over the next several days, I visited the house half a dozen times and worked up a scheme for the interior and furnishings featuring Mayan-ornamented couches, tables, and light fixtures, as well as oversized hieroglyphic reliefs of Tlaloc, the god of rain. A jungly landscape plan also ensued. In the course of all this were visits with Mario's relatives; dinner with his expat American neighbors; an excursion with a couple of friends to a village, high up in the mountains, that is known for its wood carvers and ceramicists; a tour of historic portions of Tegucigalpa; and trips to the local nursery and paint store.
For some reason, it's impossible to recall this trip without thinking about guns. The paint store—a pleasant, though otherwise unremarkable, place—featured two security guards, one lugging around an outsized semiautomatic weapon, the other with a twin-barrel shotgun resting on his shoulder. There were guns everywhere in Tegucigalpa, and they all appeared to be large caliber. Robert Stacy-Judd's peashooter would impress no one in today's Honduras. The proliferation of large-bore weaponry is, of course, related to another indelible impression, which is of the country's widespread, abject poverty.
Credit: Ace Architects
And yet, the furnishings, light fixtures, and other interior fittings are in production; the landscaping is being installed; and Mario has raised the possibility of one further visit to oversee finishing touches and to celebrate the house's completion. For the party, I'm unsure whether to dress in an exotic plumed headdress or a pith helmet, briar pipe, and holstered handgun. Well, maybe not the handgun.
David Weingarten is a partner and founder of Ace Architects in Oakland, Calif. He is the author of Bay Area Style: Houses of the San Francisco Bay Region (Rizzoli, 2004) and California Ranch Houses (Rizzoli), out next year.