The rent strike started two years ago when Sara Lopez woke up early one morning. No one sleeps much in these three buildings — in the winter there’s no heat, in the summer there’s no electricity, and all year there are rats and cockroaches scurrying in the walls — but that morning Lopez had slept even worse than usual, and she was mad.
“I thought and thought and decided that I needed to do something,” she said. “So I knocked on 51 doors because I got mad of so much injustice.”
At each door she and Trelles spread a clear message: Stop paying rent. It wasn’t an idea born out of an ideology regarding private property or capitalism or self-governance. Instead, Lopez — a retired public employee who says she still has faith in the power and intentions of the local government — was espousing a radicalism born from necessity and experience. She knew that tenants could run the buildings better than Petito, whom she called un payaso, which means “clown” in Spanish but sounds far more poisonous than that when hissed in her Honduran accent. In the winter of 1982, after a former landlord simply abandoned the buildings without heat, Lopez brought the buildings’ families together, and they governed themselves — collecting money to pay the bills and replace the boiler, and forming teams to clean the hallways, put the trash out and make repairs.
Read the article in its entirety, it’s so good. These ladies know what’s up.