Monday, August 30, 1999 Online Edition 172
Independence and the minorities of Honduras
By WENDY GRIFFIN
Each year on Sept. 15, Honduran students march to celebrate independence. This is the day Central American independence was declared in Guatemala. Later on Sept. 28 the country celebrates the day when the parchment (pliegos) that announced independence arrived in Comayagua, the capital of Honduras at that time.
Honduran ethnic minorities played different roles that contributed to the disorganized political situation in the 19th century. Historian, Father Tojeira, describes it as "a time lacking in a central government that deserved the name of organized government."
The towns of Curaren, Francisco Morazan and Texiguat, El Paraiso were inhabited by the Lencas, Honduras' largest indigenous group. At a time when getting a formal education was near impossible outside of Comayagua, Father Marquez taught the Indians to read and write Spanish in these towns. Because Father Marquez was a supporter of Gen. Francisco Morazan, when the wars of independence broke out, the Indians of Texiguat and Curaren became loyal troops.
As the republican period wore on, the Lencas became disillusioned with the Creole and the then Ladino governments of Central America and Honduras. For example, when Texiguat rose up with Danli in revolution in 1845, they wrote a letter complaining of attacks, theft, arson, murder and other abuses committed by the government. The Indians of Texiguat have been pushed so far out of town, it requires a mule to get into the mountains to find them, reported the school supervisor in Texiguat.
This disillusionment became worse as the 19th century wore on. When the government attempted to disenfranchise the Lencas in the 1860s by making suffrage open only to those who could read and write Spanish, Honduras suffered through an average of six and a half revolutions per year for 70 years. These revolts did succeed in ensuring laws that non-readers of Spanish could vote, and the laws taking away land belonging to Indian Catholic organizations (cofradias) were never fully implemented.
NORTH COAST BLACKS
The Spanish colonial government had a policy of using blacks and mulattos in its militia in order to provide protection against Indians. When the Garifunas came to Honduras in 1797, they were incorporated into the North Coast militia, known as the Militia of Yoro. The Spanish government sent this militia to Olancho and Tegucigalpa to put down rebellions there in the last years before independence. For this service in the militia, the Garifunas of Trujillo received their first land title to Barrio Cristales.
After independence, the relations of the Garifunas with the new government were mixed. Most Garifunas know the story that while Francisco Morazan was in Honduras, his lieutenant was a Garifuna named Juan Francisco Bulnes, also known as John Bull or Walamagu in Garifuna. Bulnes did not accompany Morazan to Costa Rica and some believe this is the reason Morazan was captured there and executed by firing squad.
However, after the Liberal government came to power, some Garifunas were against it, possibly because of laws decreed against the Catholic Church. The Blacks of Omoa and Trujillo, which included Spanish-speaking blacks brought to Honduras, closed the ports to the Liberal government, according to historian Antonio Vallejo. What resulted was the opening of the port of Tela for the first time.
When the Spanish tried to retake Honduras after independence, the Garifuna sided with Capt. Dominguez, the leader of the insurrection. According to historian Nancie Gonzalez, the defeat of this Royalist rebellion led to a Garifuna exodus from Trujillo to the Mosquitia and Belize.
MOSQUITIA AND BAY ISLANDS
Tolupanes, Pech, Tawahkas and Miskitos were not part of Honduras until the Treaty of Friendship and Mutual Support between the Miskito general on the Rio Platano and the Honduran government in Comayagua in 1843. Shortly after independence, there were clashes in part because the Republican government gave out timber concessions -- especially for mahogany -- in Indian-controlled areas like Atlantida as payment to government officials, such as Francisco Morazan and Juan Galindo.
On the Bay Islands, there were a few Garifunas but most English-speakers had been evacuated after a 1797 treaty and the new migration from Grand Cayman in the 1830s had not yet begun. Thus it was more of a no-mans' land than part of Honduras when independence came.
Since neither the Mosquitia nor the Bay Islands were under the control of the Spanish colonial government in the 1820s, after independence the British did not recognize the republican government's claim to these areas. This issue remained unresolved until a treaty between England and Honduras in 1860, by which time immigrants from Belize and Grand Cayman had made the Bay Islands an English-speaking Protestant area.
In Honduras, the right to religious freedom came not with independence but was first guaranteed in the treaty that annexed the Bay Islands to Honduran territory.
Honduras became a free and independent state in 1821. However, following independence, the task still remained to make diverse groups feel and make them effectively be a part of the action. Many could say that task still remains.
Group promoting art in Copan Ruinas
Early this year, with the idea of having an original project for Copan Ruinas, an exhibition featuring local artists was created.
This idea grew until not only was there a painting exhibition but a paint workshop for children. Several national and foreign institutions donated material for the children and the mayor donated the old school for a location.
After the exhibition, artists Edgar Zelaya and Carin Steen decided that the project should continue with formal art classes. The group became known as, "Copan Pinta."
Art, Theater and Literature classes started in July and went on until the beginning of August in the old school, which organizers are now hoping will become the permanent space for teaching. Now, the art classes are for everyone. There are theater classes for children and literature available for all ages.
Future projects include courses in general artistic expression for the rural communities of Copan Ruins, guided tours of the Maya ruins for children, and workshops where the children can express their impressions from the tours. For this, Copan Pinta has asked Prof. Oscar Cruz, a representative of the Honduran History and Anthropology Institute, IHAH, for his collaboration. Also in the planning is a library for the general public.
For more information on Copan Pinta, fax (c/o Copan Pinta) (504) 651-4007 or e-mail: <email@example.com>.
HONDURAN AND ITALIAN ART -- Artists Dario Rivera and Adonay Navarro from Honduras and Marluce Morales from Italy are presenting an exhibit of paintings and sculpture at the "Italia y Mas" restaurant in Tegucigalpa.
CASA DEL ARTISTA -- The Casa del Artista, which was recently inaugurated by the Honduran Association of Visual Authors (AHAVI) in San Pedro Sula, is presenting rotating art exhibits at 4 Ave. N.O. between 6th and 7th streets, house no. 59. It is open from 8 to 11:30 a.m. and from 1 to 5 p.m. Ask for the drawing and painting classes for children, too. For more information, call Marluce de Mejia at 550-0225 or Antonio Vinciguirra at 552-0542.
NATIONAL ART GALLERY -- The Pro-Art and Culture Foundation and the National Gallery of Art have space available for cultural exhibits for the benefit of the victims of Hurricane Mitch. For more information, call 237-9884, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
CHILEAN MOVIES -- SEPTEMBER 2-9 -- The Embassy of Chile will present a sampling of contemporary Chilean films at Cinemark in Tegucigalpa's Multiplaza Mall. The movies include Julio Comienza en Julio and La Luna en el Espejo by Silvio Caiozzi, La Frontera by Ricardo Larrain, Historias de Futbol by Andres Wood and El Gringuito by Sergio Castilla. More information at 232-2114, 232-4095.
COMEDY -- THROUGH OCTOBER -- The new "La Sociedad Compania Teatral" Honduran theater group will present its first production titled "Te pasaste de la raya" by Juan Jose Alonso Millan at Teatro La Reforma of Tegucigalpa at 7:30 p.m. The play can be seen tonight, as well as on September 2, 3, 4, 10, 11, 16, 17, 18, 23, 24, 24 and 30; October 1 and 2. More information at Tel. 235-6798.
ARTISTIC EXPRESSION SEASON -- THROUGH SEPTEMBER 12 -- Teatro La Fragua of El Progreso, Yoro is celebrating its 20th anniversary with an Artistic Expression Season with the participation of Central American theater and music groups. Check out the following schedule of plays: Aug. 28: Alta es la Noche; Sept. 3, 4: Costa y Calor; Sept. 10, 11: Variedades. Showtime is 7:15 p.m. On Sundays, there are special videos for children at 4 p.m. More information at 666-0974.
POETRY -- SEPTEMBER 2 -- Honduran award winning poet Fabricio Estrada will give a reading of his works at Cafe Paradiso in downtown Tegucigalpa at 7 p.m. More information at 239-9936.
MUSIC FESTIVAL -- SEPTEMBER 8 -- The National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH) will hold its 6th "Festival Universitario de la Cancion" at the university's amphitheater.
FOLKLORIC FESTIVAL -- THROUGH SEPTEMBER 4 -- Fundacion Escritos is holding the International Folkloric Festival at the Establo El Molino on the road to Valle de Angeles. Fifteen foreign communities are participating in the event, as well as the Garibaldi music group. More information at 238-2751.
DANCE AND FINE ARTS WORKSHOP -- THROUGH SEPTEMBER 9 -- The Centro Cultural Infantil (CCI) will offer modern dance and fine arts workshops for children aged 7 to 13. Classes will be held Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3 to 4 p.m. The cost is Lps. 160. More information at 557-8639.
CARPENTRY WORKSHOP -- The Centro Cultural Infantil (CCI) offers carpentry workshops for children aged 8 to 15. Classes are given Mondays and Tuesdays from 3 to 5 p.m. Admission is Lps. 40, and there is a Lps. 150 monthly fee. More information at 557-8639.
ART, LEARNING & TUTORING FOR CHILDREN -- The Art and Education Center, BONAMPAK, at the Plaza Millennium, is currently offering hourly art courses for children ages 6 to 12 on Mondays and Wednesdays, as well as Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3 to 5 p.m. Hourly reading courses for children ages 7 to 12 are being held on Fridays from 4 to 6 p.m., as well as for children ages 4 to 6. Tutoring services are also available. Call 222-5487 for more information.
FIRST INTERNATIONAL MEETING OF CULTURES -- THROUGH SEPTEMBER 6 -- The city of San Pedro Sula is hosting the First International Meeting of Cultures with the participation of 10 folkloric dance troupes from all Central America. The troupes will also visit Santa Barbara, La Paz, La Esperanza, El Progreso, Tegucigalpa and La Ceiba. More information at 236-9843 with Jorge Montenegro.
TOBACCO EXHIBIT -- THROUGH SEPTEMBER 15 -- The San Pedro Sula Museum of History and Anthropology is presenting an exhibit titled "Traditional Industries: Tobacco." The exhibit is based on an investigative process in the Copan and El Paraiso provinces. More information at 557-1496.
BINGO -- SEPTEMBER 28 -- The Charter 100 Club will hold a Bingo at the Hotel Princess of Tegucigalpa at 6 p.m. Funds will be used to give primary education grants to 100 children.
CULTURAL SUNDAYS FOR CHILDREN -- The touristic town of Valle de Angeles holds cultural Sundays for children at the town's park. Participants can paint and draw while listening to marimba and cord groups. In the afternoon, children are invited to break a pinata with their friends. This weekly activity is sponsored by the Ministry of Culture. More information at 236-9843.
ART & PAINTING CLASSES -- Sarah Morris Swetcharnik offers art classes for children and teenagers Saturdays from 10-11:30 a.m. at the Union Church in Lomas de Guijarro. Tuition is Lps. 450 for four weeks of month or Lps. 150 per week. Painting sessions for individual and small groups are also offered Saturday mornings by William Swetcharnik. This workshop is held in a private zoo-garden in Tegucigalpa, where participants work independently and arrange for individual or very small group critiques, sharing a $50 per hour fee. More information at 211-8369.
CHILDREN'S LIBRARY -- The Centro Cultural Infantil of San Pedro Sula currently has a program titled "The Reading Corner" offering young people a chance to read and listen to stories in a comfortable environment. The library of this center holds a "Story Hour" daily and has a study area where students may do research. For more information about CCI services, call 557-8639.
HURRICANE MITCH PRESENTATION -- Biocentro in San Pedro Sula is currently giving a presentation about Hurricane Mitch.
FAMILIES ANONYMOUS -- Families Anonymous (FA) meetings are held every Tuesday evening at the Union Church at 7:30 p.m. Call Eileen for more information at 239-9779 or 239-9778.
NARCOTICS ANONYMOUS -- Having problems with drugs, alcohol? Meetings are held in Spanish every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 7:30 p.m. in Colonia Palermo, Ave. Juan Manuel Galvez, 1 calle # 1836. For more information, call Ricardo at 991-9417 or 232-8989.
AL-ANON FAMILY GROUPS -- Al-Anon helps the relatives and friends of problem drinkers. Groups meet weekly in Colonia Alameda (Saturday afternoons) and Colonia Loarque (Sunday evenings). For more information, contact Amanda at 239-2698 (Spanish) or Margaret at 226-6576 (English).
ENGLISH SPEAKING WOMEN'S CLUB -- The ESWC invites all English-speaking women to attend its teas held the second Thursday of each month at 2:30 p.m. at the Hotel Honduras Maya in Col. Palmira of Tegucigalpa. For more information, call Sara at 211-8369.
MUSEUMS AND GARDENS
MUSEO DE HISTORIA REPUBLICANA
The Museum of Republican History is located at the Villa Roy building in Tegucigalpa's Barrio Buenos Aries. It is open 8:30 to 3:30, Tuesdays through Sundays and features portraits, paraphernalia, and other interesting items from past presidents. Admission is Lps. 20 for non-resident foreigners and Lps. 10 for Hondurans and Central Americans. For more information, call 222-3470 or 222-1468.
CENTRAL BANK MUSEUM
The Central Bank of Honduras located at the Comayaguela annex building is open from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday. It has a permanent coin and painting exhibit. For special presentations, call the Emision y Tesoreria department at 237-2270 (-78), ext. 2117 (-2120). [CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE.]
NATIONAL ART GALLERY
The Galeria Nacional de Arte features rock art, pre-Columbian ceramics, colonial paintings, religious art and a wide selection of 20th century Honduran painters. The gallery is located at the Plaza de la Merced in downtown Tegucigalpa. It is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10-5 p.m. and Sunday from 10-2 p.m. Admission is Lps. 10 for adults, Lps. 5 for senior citizens, Lps. 3 for students and Lps. 1 for children accompanied by adults.
The Biosfera Ecocentro Iguana Farm in Colonia La Joya invites the public to come and learn everything about iguanas. Admission is Lps. 5 for adults, Lps. 3 for children. The facility is open every day (except Wednesday) from 9 to 5. For more information, call 230-6346.
COMAYAGUA COLONIAL MUSEUM
Located in the city of Comayagua, 2 hours north from Tegucigalpa, the Comayagua Colonial Museum is in the building that served as home to the government in the 19th century. It contains objects used by indigenous cultures and the Spanish during the pre-Colombian and Colonial eras.
COMAYAGUA RELIGIOUS MUSEUM
Located in the Casa Cural in front of Comayagua's cathedral, this museum features religious paintings and objects dating back to the 16th century. Hours are 8-12 and 2-4 p.m., Mondays through Fridays. For more information, contact Leonardo Letona at 772-0348.
LA PAZ, LA PAZ
LA PAZ HOUSE OF CULTURE
The La Paz Casa de la Cultura is located in downtown La Paz. It features an attractive exhibit of the Lenca handicrafts and culture. It is open Mondays through Sundays.
SAN PEDRO SULA, CORTES
SPS MUSEUM OF ANTHROPOLOGY AND HISTORY
The Museo de Antropología e Historia de San Pedro Sula features exhibits on the development of Sula Valley, from 1500 B.C. to the middle of this century. The museum is open 10 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays. Admission is Lps. 10 for adults, Lps. 5 for students and children under 12, and Lps. 2 for senior citizens. For more information, call 557-1496/557-1798 or fax 557-1874.
MUSEUM OF NATURE OF SAN PEDRO SULA
Sponsored and managed by the Fundacion Ecologista H.R. Pastor Fasquelle, this new museum was inaugurated last December in its current location at the Biocentro on 3 Avenida and 9 Calle Noroeste. It has 24 exhibits on the environment, natural resources and biology of Honduras. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and 8 a.m. until noon on Saturdays. Admission is Lps 5 for students from public schools and Lps. 10.00 for everyone else.
YUSCARAN, EL PARAISO
YUSCARAN HOUSE OF CULTURE
Yuscaran's Casa de la Cultura is located at the former Casa Fortin in downtown Yuscaran, El Paraiso department, just 45 km from Tegucigalpa on the road to Danli. It is open Mondays through Saturdays.
PECH CULTURAL CENTER
The Pech have built a small house in El Carbon, Olancho to display their modern handicrafts. An exhibit of archaeological finds in the area is planned. You can ask to see the collection and/or get a tour of a Post Classic era fortified site. The Pech Cultural Center also offers medicinal plant tours, nature hikes, Pech dinners, etc. There is no admission fee to the cultural center. Hours: If you ask, they will open it.
COPAN ARCHEOLOGICAL MUSEUM
Located in the village of Copan Ruinas, Copan department, the museum exhibits a splendid assortment of Mayan pieces that have been found in the Copan Ruins Archaeological Park just 1 km away.
LA PUENTE ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM
Featuring a sizeable collection of Mayan handicrafts and photographs as well as a room with Japanese antique ceramics, this museum is located at the El Puente Archaeological Site, about an hour's drive from Copán Ruinas.
MAYAN SEPULTURAS MUSEUM
Inaugurated in 1996, this is the premier Mayan museum in the Mundo Maya, featuring the finest examples of Copán's tombs, sculptures and architecture. Located at the Copán Ruins Archaeological Park, the museum is open Monday through Sunday.
LANCETILLA BOTANICAL GARDENS
Located 2 kilometers from Tela on the Atlantic coast highway, the gardens feature one of the largest collections of tropical and subtropical plants, shrubs and trees in all Latin America. It is open from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Mondays through Sundays. There is an admission charge.
This Garifuna-run museum in Tela, Atlantida has an almost complete collection of the different handicrafts made by the Garifunas. If you ask, they have a written guide in English available. The museum also houses the Garifuna handicraft shop and part of the Tela Artist Association's Art Gallery. The rest of the Gallery and the Garifuna restaurant have moved to the Garifuna Plaza on the beach next to the Bahia Azul Hotel. Tours of the Garifuna Museum to home/studios of Garifuna artists, medicinal plant tours, dance presentations, and tours/overnight stays in local Garifuna villages can be arranged at either the Museum or Garifuna Plaza. The museum is open 9 to 5 while Garifuna Plaza is open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Admission is Lps. 5. The museum is located next to the river, one block up from the bridge that goes to Telamar and the local churches.
LA CEIBA, ATLANTIDA
BUTTERFLY AND INSECT MUSEUM
Thousands of butterflies and insects from Honduras and 18 other countries are on display in La Ceiba' private Butterfly and Insect Museum. It is located in Colonia El Sauce, 2nd etapa, casa G-12. Visiting hours are 8-12 and 2-5, Monday through Saturday. The museum is closed Wednesday afternoon. Fees are Lps. 15 for adults and Lps. 10 for students. Tel. 442-2874, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
TRUJILLO RUFINO GALAN MUSEUM
A private museum which has a memorabilia section, old chairs, anchors, silverware, beds of famous people locally. There is an industrial archaeology section on how lights, axes, stoves, sewing machines, typewriters have changed over time. They have a good collection of Garífuna handicrafts and the best collection
of NE Honduras archaeological pieces -- all unmarked. A written guide to the museum is available at the Trujillo Tourism Office in English and Spanish. The museum is open 8 to 4, closing for lunch. Adults Lps. 20, children Lps. 10. Located on Calle 18 de Mayo, next to the Crystales River and the famous "piscina" or pool, about a 15-minute walk out of town.
ROATAN, THE BAY ISLANDS
CARAMBOLA BOTANICAL GARDENS
The private Carambola Botanical Gardens and Nature Trails is located in Sandy Bay, Roatan, Bay Islands. A wide variety of exotic plants is featured here, including "Roatan's most extensive orchid collection." It is open daily from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call 445-1117 and ask for Bill or Irma Brady.
BAY ISLANDS MUSEUM
A private museum at Anthony's Key Resort, Sandy Bay, Roatan, Bay Islands, it mostly includes archaeological pieces, but there is a
small section on the modern Bay Islanders. Museum admission is included in the cost of the dolphin show at Anthony Key's Institute of Marine Sciences. Small buses or taxis will take you to Sandy Bay from most Roatán towns.
The Maya Calendar is a public service for our readers. If you would like to announce an event taking place in Honduras, please send the information to: Calendar Editor, Honduras This Week, Fax 232-2300, e-mail: email@example.com
Monday, August 23, 1999 Online Edition 171
Rafael Murillo Selva:
By KETZI CHACON and DOUGLAS ZYLSTRA
Honduras This Week recently had the opportunity to speak with well-known dramatist and historian Rafael Murillo Selva about what lies at the root of his dramatic art and the social and cultural environment in which his drama takes place.
HTW: Could you give us a small introduction to the Honduras that you see and that you work with in your drama?
MURILLO: Well, to begin with, the basic geography of Honduras is very rough and jagged. There are stories that say that no one wanted to come here because there were not as many indigenous people to serve as slaves as there were in Guatemala and Mexico. There were very few inhabitants and those that were here were very spread out, either in their mountain or their valley, separated by a great deal of space. Thus, even from the beginning, there was a sense of isolation. In a country with a territory of 112,000 km2, there were only 30 or 40 thousand inhabitants. So, there was not much that could be done, the population was simply too spread out and due to this, the country was economically very poor. The Spanish conquerors simply didn't want to invest because of the lack of a slave population. Due to this scattered condition, Honduran society has developed with an element of individuality, even of isolation.
HTW: Is there also a sense in which perhaps this same isolation has led to a certain amount of impenetrability, of difficulty in understanding, especially from an outsider’s point of view?
MURILLO: I agree. If we go back to how geography and its history go into making up our psychology, we have in Honduras a country that for a long time was dedicated to the extraction of metals in the mines. You see how it influences? Many people thus, not only lived geographically isolated, one from the other, but also they lived submerged in the darkness inside these mines. Our introspective and enclosed character could very well come from that. The foreigner who comes in unprepared is very often highly confused by this element of our being.
HTW: Is it possible then to talk about a Honduran identity?
MURILLO: Look, in the first place, I'd like to clarify that the term "identity" bothers me because it seems to me false and poorly applied. As Honduran as I am, I am not exactly equal to any other specific Honduran, as if people were like mathematical figures. However, the term "identity" is one which begins to cause a profound conflict. Today, for example, a Frenchman perhaps no longer feels as French as before, and we feel the motor of economic and systematic changes directly affecting our lives. This seems to hit even harder on those who are in the position of losing their economic footing. In Honduras and in many other countries, there are many young intellectuals who are worried about national identity because it's clear that most of the countries, when they begin to feel a certain vertigo produced by globalization, are trying desperately to rescue, preserve, and to reinforce their culture.
HTW: How is the Honduran currently trying to reinforce his culture?
MURILLO: In Honduras, there never existed a dominant political class that could delineate a path for the rest of the population. There have been many presidents in this land: Creoles, mestizo, mulatto, Indian and later on, of Arab descent. So this country was a hodgepodge of disorder and there was never a chance to develop an intellectual class or bourgeoisie to go about the project of nation building. As a result, the country never had its own predominant, strong culture, and simply has managed to get by existing and molding itself to the necessities and wishes of the United States. Now this doesn't mean I blame the United States, because we are at fault for many things as well, but I do question up to what point such an insignificant and small country can actually do something for itself culturally or socially if it is always living at the expense of the United States. We as a society perhaps have not matured nor formed a homogenous group sufficiently united to form a certain identity. The project of the Honduran nation has not yet been born, that is the real situation. Thus, what identity can we speak of?
HTW: In your work, you obviously deal with perception. But how do you deal with self-perception and how do you think it affects character?
MURILLO: If we take as point of departure a bourgeois definition of identity, Honduras perhaps does not have anything that particularizes or defines itself. There is perhaps, a misguided sense of inferiority, especially in regards to dealing with outsiders, to society in general and specifically to foreigners. It leads to a sense of acceptance of the status quo.
However, there are certain codes of identity that do exist that cannot be studied from a rigorously logical point of view. This comes from the fact that in this country there is a large black population, a population that never suffered the levels of slavery that the black Cubans or the Haitians suffered. Their presence here has generated a seeming chaos and difficulty. But, at the same time, it gave birth to a spirit more open, more charming. One way or another, this presence has given to Honduras a freer, more playful character. That, as well as the fact that rigid social structures or a caste system based on an elite, landowner model have never existed here, has been a major factor in creating a racial and social democracy that is one of the strongest in Central America.
You know, there is a certain freedom here, a sort of democracy in the way things, ways of living, have formed themselves. Honduras is a country where relations have always been, in a sense, much more horizontal than in most Latin countries. In a country like Mexico, for example, relations are very vertical, hierarchical, and their looseness and play is lacking here. Perhaps this horizontal way of viewing life, our social democracy, is what you would call our strongest point of national identity.
HTW: But does that mean Honduras is also a politically democratic country?
MURILLO: Well, you really have to differentiate between what we said before about social democracy from what is a political, institutionally democratic country. When we say socially democratic, we talk about the way history and miscegenation have brought a certain tolerance and a diminished amount of social friction, unlike in other Central American countries such as Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala. But just because this happens on a social level doesn't mean that the political system institutionally responds to its people's necessities and wishes in a truly democratic fashion. Perhaps because our tolerance is so much a combination of a fear of confrontation and indifference, our institutions are also caught in this indifference and hide behind various masks to avoid dealing directly with the people's problems, which to me, is what signifies a democratically responsive government.
Today, instead of a caste system based on land or wealth, we have a political caste that seems to want to simply perpetuate itself, instead of producing benefits. This impedes a natural progressive change.
HTW: What is one of the most outstanding characteristics that you have seen?
MURILLO: Well, when I talked about a certain indifference that exists, I would also like to point out the other side of that. In times of real crisis, like with Mitch, Hondurans have always demonstrated an amazing capacity to respond, to become active, to demonstrate resilience, always maintaining their balance and a sense of humor. This is astonishing and shows through in many different ways. It is one of the things I am working with in relation to my upcoming work.
Mitch, before and after
By DOUGLAS ZYLSTRA
Rafael Murillo Selva is currently working on a new dramatic presentation, tentatively titled, Mitch, Before and After, dealing with the history and struggles of the village of San Juancito and using the children of the same village as principal actors.
This current work continues the director's attempt to form a new style of theater in Honduras using non-traditional, non-professional actors and follows such acclaimed plays as The Case of Riccy Mabel, acted by youths from the barrio El Manchen in Tegucigalpa, as well as Loubavagu, a long-running Garifuna drama using residents of the village of Guadalupe, near Trujillo.
Mitch, Before and After is scheduled to be presented in Tegucigalpa by mid-September.
Monday, August 16, 1999 Online Edition 170
approach to celebrating Lempira Day
By NIGEL POTTER
Special to Honduras This Week
Seeing droves of half-naked boys dressed in grass skirts with toy bows and arrows prancing along the street to celebrate Lempira Day always made my heart sink. What in the name of the great spirit has this got to do with what it means to be an Indian today in Central America or, come to that, to be indigenous anywhere?
The same goes for "La India Bonita." While the idea of an indigenous beauty queen might go somewhere toward convincing society that indigenous racial characteristics and beauty are not incompatible, the objections to indigenous beauty queens are the same as those to ladino beauty queens: white, black, red or yellow, it doesn't matter, a woman is seen only in terms of youthful short-lived physical beauty.
And what about those who lose these contests? Are they somehow less than beautiful? Such contests don't do justice to any women of whatever racial origin.
Yet year in and year out colleges and schools celebrate Lempira Day with their grass-skirted boys and Indias Bonitas as if they really had anything to do with the great indigenous leader, a brave and resourceful man waging a bitter guerrilla war against a determined and genocidal enemy or the tradition such struggle against oppression represents.
So I was very pleased to be asked by a school principal a few years ago how I would do things differently. I said how about celebrating the day with a traditional indigenous ceremony. Such ceremonies still exist, although often underground, and really mean something to those participating in them.
The principal agreed and undertook to do some research and seek the advice and cooperation of a local rezadora. She, a poor old Lenca woman, was at first suspicious and reluctant, but when she saw that the request was sincere and involved young people, many of who were Lenca themselves and that this might be a good way of encouraging the "old ways" to live one, she agreed to help.
For several days she supervised staff and students alike, building four altars, leafy bowers of wild flowers on each one; making "chicha," a traditional alcoholic maize brew, and a chocolate broth; and purchasing four turkeys, one for each altar.
On the actual day, the rezadora, swinging her bowl of copal (the traditional indigenous incense), knelt at each altar and prayed for the welfare of the school and all those who worked and studied there. The prayers were in Catholic-Christian terms as is usual in most traditional indigenous ceremonies -- partly because the original prayers and chants in the old language have been lost, and partly as a defense system, to keep a disapproving and interfering church off the backs.
To listen to a tape recording of this particular indigenous ceremony, one would have been hard pushed to tell the difference between it and a Catholic mass. But there the similarity ended: to witness and participate in it was something else. The smoke of the copal represented the spirit of life ascending, the turkeys were sacrificed, their throats slit and the blood allowed to run into one of the holes in front of each altar, the other being filled with chicha, an offering and a thanksgiving. These were what one might call the "holy moments," the sacred part. Staff and students accompanied by half the village were moved, spellbound and fascinated by the whole event. At every altar, at every sacrifice, cups of chicha were doled out.
Then the business of plucking the dead birds began. Everyone took part with great enthusiasm, yanking at the feathers, particularly some women from the local Catholic committee who I had expected to be rather disappointing of such "pagan" rites. Then the birds were cut-up and slowly cooked over wood-fires in clay pots along with rice and vegetables while everyone relaxed, drinking chicha and hot chocolate or eating chocolates or playing football. A couple of hours later everyone sat down to a grant communal turkey feast and then went home happy.
The chicha had its heady effects and most were slightly lit-up while a few of the boys got drunk. Some parents were scandalized. They did not send their children to an educational institution to become intoxicated! I could understand their misgivings but remained unrepentant. I offered to attend the next meeting of the parent-teacher association to defend the somewhat beleaguered principal.
So, a few boys got inebriated but no one was sick or cut-up rough or got hurt. Young boys will at some stage in their lives have too much to drink. Far better that it should happen under the watchful, caring eye of older and wiser adults.
I thought of people leaving church after mass, with their long, sad faces after perhaps nibbling a paper-thin wafer, maybe temporarily "cleansed" but convinced of their own unworthiness (or smug at the thought of their own salvation) and I looked at those around me -- reverent, happy, well-fed, even slightly drunk, all in one blissful afternoon.
And what had they learnt from the experience? That the gap between the physical and spiritual is not that wide; that our physical desires and appetites are as much gifts of the great spirit as our spiritual needs and longings. The trouble begins when one is emphasized at the expense of the other. And through the preparation of the altars from trees, bushes and plants, the killing, the butchering, the cooking, feasting, perhaps something was appreciated of the holiness of life, the sacred gift, maintained by the fruits of the earth that bore both them and us and to which we will also one day return.
True, life was taken. I don't imagine the turkeys enjoyed themselves much. But life, vegetable as well as animal, must die that we may live, just as the hour will come when we too will, as dust or ashes, become fertilizer to feed future generations. Nothing in my experience teaches me that I shall enjoy the process, inevitable and natural as it many be, anymore than the turkeys.
So life is a weird and wonderful business: mysterious, sacred, cruel, painful, joyful and profane. If the students of this school picked up just something of this, the day was worthwhile and they will look at these ancient Indian ways with new eyes.
And when I went to the parent-teacher meeting, I never had to say a word. The blast of white hot righteous indignation had passed. Nobody had come to any harm, their children had come home happy and well fed. The parents had forgotten or forgiven and moved on to other concerns.
Nigel Potter is an Englishman who has lived for a number of years in the highlands of western Honduras.
Monday, August 9, 1999 Online Edition 169
musician tours Europe, releases new CD
By JOHN MORAN III
Special to Honduras This Week
When an American, Canadian or European is confronted with the topic of Honduras or its Central American neighbors, it is usually not a positive image. Images of "Banana Republics" come to mind (i.e. one-crop export countries with nothing else to offer) as well as the image of corrupt countries with delinquency problems. Moreover, there is the image of Cold War politics, guerrilla warfare, and the Sandinista/Contras question of the 1980s. Finally, as if the image isn't as bad as it is, there is the picture of poverty stricken nations devastated by the Hurricane Mitch in 1998.
Although there is some truth to all the above, it is unfair to think of Honduras and the other Central American countries through these stereotypes only for they have their own brand of positive elements. In Honduras' case it is not soccer. Surprised? It is music and this is where Guillermo Anderson plays a role as Honduras' music ambassador, representing its North Coast music and traditions.
Anderson is from the Caribbean port of La Ceiba and is no mere musician according to Honduran standards (a profession considered only for the daring if not for those who can't cut it in the "real world"), having studied abroad in California in that looked-down-on profession.
Most Hondurans in his position would have stayed in the United States and try to "make it" in the music industry, but Anderson did not. He did what others would not have done -- he returned to his native country and settled in his home town of La Ceiba, started his own band and created a unique sound typical of the Honduran North Coast.
This new sound mixes Garifuna folk music with other Caribbean sounds and with contemporary Jazz rhythms, and during the 1990s he has become an established and celebrated musician. His lyrics are rooted completely on the world of the Honduran North Coast, especially the city of La Ceiba.
Anderson has had many lineups during his musical career and the current lineup apart from himself (lead vocalist, acoustic guitar, caramba and bara flout) is as follows: Eduardo "Guayo" Cedeno (acoustics, electric guitar and bass), Ismael Pastor Norales (Garifuna drums and maracas), Patrick Anderson (drums), and the chorus, which includes four female vocalists -- Flavia Guity, Sofia, Liz Verde and Dina Reyes.
Lately, Anderson's music career has taken a new direction and assumed new responsibilities. The 1998 hurricane attack here in Central America has much to do with it. Suddenly, the region was headlining international news. According to Anderson, this was unfortunate for "Honduras was forgotten by the international media after the Cold War and reemerged into the international scene through a natural catastrophe."
Based on his criteria, that is unfortunate for people will remember it based on another negative image. Why not something positive he asks. That became his core emphasis as well as using his musical talents to help his countrymen. His opportunity did not take long to come. The hurricane devastation fortunately aroused feelings of solidarity and sympathy throughout the world. Grassroots campaigns were organized to help the victims, telethons were held as well as monetary donations by private institutions and NGOs to charity organizations. Finally, cultural events and festivals were held to raise money for Mitch victims.
One very active country was the European nation of Netherlands, especially in regard to cultural events and festivals, one of them being the Latijns Americans Festival held in November 1998 in which European and Central American music artists were invited. Guillermo Anderson was among the musicians and the Honduran representative as well. Also among the Central American artists were Adrian Goizueta & Grupo Experimental (Costa Rica) and Norma Gudea (Nicaragua) as well as the presence of Tania Libertad of Peru.
The Latijns Americans Festival was held in the city of Utrecht and had the support of numerous Dutch organizations such as OLAA (Organization of Latin American Activities), Langoro Cultural Foundation, Peter Vincent Music, Vredengurg Musical Center, and Eurosound and transmitted live by Radio Nederland. A music CD of this concert was also released by Radio Nederland titled "Te ofresco Mi Corazon" at the time of the concert. The festival was a success.
COSTA Y CALOR
Prior to the hurricane devastation in Central America, Anderson was completing his new music CD titled "Costa y Calor" with Costa Norte Records in Honduras and resumed production after the charity benefit at Utrecht, Netherlands and released it in the summer of 1999.
However, before he could promote it in Honduras, Anderson was invited to another charity tour in the Netherlands. It was a great opportunity to continue promoting Honduras' musical talent to Europeans. During his second tour in the Netherlands Guillermo Anderson released his new CD "Costa y Calor" to Europeans and exposed to them more of his North Coast style music and his North Coast related lyrics.
According to Anderson, "it was the first direct experience Europeans had of Honduran music and the response was great." It was rewarding for him to demonstrate something positive and uplifting to the world.
Anderson had a positive impact among Europeans, not only
for himself but for Honduras. First, the fan response at the concerts has led to future requests for other European tours. Second, by representing his country Honduras proudly, as well as the quality of his music and North Coast style, he has prompted Europeans to take Honduras seriously in regard to music, notably World Beat and folkloric sounds.
Finally, it has helped popularize his new and long awaited CD "Costa y Calor" now playing the Honduran airwaves and available at local music stores. If you want to get away from the Punta sounds and the "Playero" music overplayed in the Honduran discos and radiowaves, "Costa y Calor" will provide a fresh and new experience. It is North Coast music at its best and its most uplifting, and lyrics one can enjoy and appreciate its literary quality. There will be no regrets in obtaining it.
You can find Guillermo Anderson's website at <http://www.starfarm.it/Anderson/Anderson.htm>.
|Even Honduran folk
heroes need a "chamba"
By WENDY GRIFFIN
If you spend any time in Honduras, someone will say to you, "Do you know of any work for me? Necesito una chamba (I need a job)." Even the hero of many Honduran folk tales, Uncle Rabbit, finds that he needs a chamba, in this story collected by the Miskito Cultural center MISKIWAT.
One day Rabbit had no money, so he asked different people if they knew of a job. One man said he had a "chamba" (a small job for money). He wanted to buy some tiger tears and he would pay Rabbit if he brought him some. The man and Rabbit agreed on the price and when they would meet.
Then the rabbit went off to look for Tiger. (In Honduran Spanish, the jaguar is called tigre). Rabbit saw the tiger working in the field. As Rabbit approached, he began to cry loudly, "Oh, boo hoo, wah, oh."
"What is the matter with you?" Tiger asked.
"Oh, Uncle Tiger, I did not want to tell you"? the rabbit said, continuing to cry.
"Tell me what?"
"Oh, Uncle Tiger. They asked me to come and tell you. Oh. It is so sad," Rabbit continued to cry.
"What is the matter?"
"Uncle Tiger, it is Mrs. Tiger. She is dead. Oh-oh-oh," Rabbit wails. Well, finally hearing the news, the tiger also begins to cry. There they are, the two of them in a field, crying and wailing. Then the rabbit pulls out a small bottle and began to collect tiger tears.
"What is this?" asked the tiger. "Never mind," said Rabbit. "I have to go behind that rock and pee." The Rabbit went behind the rock and then ran off, taking the bottle of tiger tears to sell.
After a while, Tiger noticed that Rabbit had not come back, so went home, crying and wailing on the way. Mrs. Tiger heard him and came out of the house. "What is the matter with you?"
The tiger was surprised to see her. "Rabbit told me you were dead."
No, I am fine," said Mrs. Tiger, "Come into the house. I do not know what is the matter with that rabbit."
The Rabbit soon ran through all his money. Juan Carlos of the Garifuna village of San Juan tells another technique the rabbit used to get money. "One day Rabbit had no money. He went to the cockroach and borrowed 50 centavos (un toston). Later he borrowed a lempira from a chicken.
Still needing more money and with no chamba in sight, the rabbit borrowed five lempiras from Coyote. After he spent that, he borrowed 10 lempiras from the mountain lion (leon). Soon all the animals started to ask when he was going to pay them back. Finally, he talked to each animal and told them to come on Monday -- the cockroach at 8, the chicken at 8:15, the coyote at 8:30 and the lion at 8:45.
On Monday at 8, the cockroach arrived. He asked, "Do you have the money you owe me?" Rabbit replied, "I do. "But sit down and talk a minute. I am waiting for someone to come and bring me something."
So they talked and then the Rabbit jumped up and said, "Cockroach, the chicken is coming. Look, you had better hide in this box." The cockroach hid. When the chicken asked about the money, the Rabbit said, "Yes, I have it. But first, look here. There is a cockroach in this box for you." The chicken ate the cockroach.
They talked a few minutes, then Rabbit said, "Chicken, the coyote is coming. Look, you should hide under the bed." The chicken hid. When the coyote came in, the rabbit promised him his money. "But first, Coyote, there is a chicken hiding for you under the bed."
The coyote ate the chicken. The rabbit and the coyote talked a few minutes, then the rabbit said, "Coyote, look, the mountain lion is coming. You had better hide behind the door in this room." The coyote hid. When the lion came in, the rabbit told him he would pay him but first there is a coyote behind the door for him. The lion killed the coyote.
But the Rabbit did not have even the 10 lempiras he owed the lion. He ran outside to where a hunter was. "There is a mountain lion in my house," he said and ran back to the house. The hunter followed him and killed the lion. The man made the lion into a rug. The rabbit saw rug, and spoke into the lion's ear, "Mire le consegui una chamba (I got you a job). Now I only owe half."
In Honduras there is a saying that loaning money causes amnesia. People forget they owe you money and they forget they are your friends. Such was the case of the rabbit's friends.
Monday, August 2, 1999 Online Edition 168
Bitter yuca: a plant of many uses
By WENDY GRIFFIN
On my first visit to the Lancetilla Botanical Gardens, I became fascinated when our guide pointed out a cinnamon bush. As a person who has eaten cinnamon all her life, it was hard to imagine how anyone looked at this particular bush, which resembles a lot of other green bushes, and thought to make tea or cook with its inner bark.
This same "how did anyone think of that?" feeling hits me whenever I consider all the foods, drinks and medicines made from the bitter manioc plant (yuca amarga). Uncooked, the root is quite poisonous, containing a cyanamide compound strong enough to kill a pig. The leaves are rich in iron but bitter. How did such an unlikely plant become an important part of the diet of people from the Amazon to the Caribbean, including the Garifuna and the Pech?
Two Indian groups in Honduras use bitter yuca. The Pech make a bread from it called sasal in Spanish and cha'a in Pech. The Tawahkas also used to grow bitter yuca to make sasal, but the plant had died out among them. Ethnobiologist Paul House reintroduced it to the Tawahka area, but most manioc plants along the Patuca did not survive the flooding last year.
To make sasal, the yuca is cooked, ground with a rock or a meat grinder and then wrapped in platanillo leaves. Because it bakes over an open fire for a long time, most of the cyanide is cooked off. The little that remains gives stored sasal a bitter taste over a few days. However, it acts as a preservative. While bread will mold completely in a day in this part of the rain forest, sasal lasts more than 10 days. Corn also molds fast, but sasal paste can flattened out to make yuca tortillas.
The Garifunas use a completely different process to extract the poison. First the women gather the yuca from their fields, usually carrying it back in a basket made of bayal on their heads. This image of women carrying the yuca in this manner is so strong that the Arawak Indians of the Caribbean made the god of being poisoned by yuca in the image of a person carrying this fanine basket on the head, as seen in the Yale Museum.
Returning to their village, the women use machetes to remove the brown skin of the yuca. Then they bend over large grating boards covered with small white quartz stones. It was these stones together with clay griddles in archaeological sites along the Orinoco River and several islands that tell experts that the ancestors of the Garifunas have employed this process for over 3000 years.
The grated yuca falls into a mahogany bowl or tray called boulu. The women sing a special song as they work. A beautiful painting of this process can be seen in the Banco Atlantida in La Ceiba. One day all the women will work at one woman's house, a few days later the group works at another's house, says Nahun Batiz.
The long tube made of woven bayal in which the women put the grated yuca is called a ruguma. One end is hung from a tree branch. A stick is put through the bottom of the tube. Children sit on the lower stick to pull the tube tight and squeeze out all the poisonous juice.
This juice is boiled until it is very concentrated. The concentrate is called dumari. It is the spice used to flavor Garifuna soups that do not use coconut, explains Enrique Gutierrez of Trujillo.
When the juice is poured out, a thin layer of starch (almidon de yuca) is left in the bowl. This starch is highly prized as a food for babies to help them sleep at night and for elderly people with stomach ailments. You can buy almidon de yuca in some drugstores, says Garifuna Sebastian Marin.
After the juice is squeezed out, the women take the yuca out of the ruguma and let it dry over night. Next they sift it through a large basket called a hibise. The pieces of yuca that do not go through the sifter, the chingaste, is cooked on the grill. This toasted yuca is then mixed with water and grated sweet potato. In 24 hours, you are ready to try hiu, a mildly fermented drink.
The grated yuca that passes through the sifter is put on a clay or metal griddle called a budari to bake. A special mahogany spatula is used to turn it over. The cooks cut edges to make the cake round. These cut off pieces are used to make a dessert called farinha in Spanish and aru in Garifuna.
After fanning the fire with her small broom (beisaba) and dusting the top of the cassava bread with yuca flour passed through a fine sieve, the woman takes the thin cassava bread off the fire. While cassava bread made with sweet manioc lasts about a month, one made with the bitter variety can last up to a year.
The Garifunas also make a thicker bread of manioc, similar to bamy, which is called marrote in Spanish and marumaruti in Garifuna. Both cassava bread and the spongier marrote are dipped into soups to soak up the coconut-flavored liquid. The tools to make cassava can be seen at the Garifuna Museum in Tela and in Trujillo.
While the Garifunas are descendants of the Caribs and Arawak Indians who invented these foods, they are also ancestors of Africans who suffered from sickle-cell anemia. Some anthropologists believe the chemicals in cassava bread helped to protect the Garifunas from suffering from this disorder.
Unlike the root, the leaves of the manioc are not poisonous. In fact, it is possible to boil them in soups or cut and fry them with eggs as a cheap treatment for iron deficiency anemia, a very common problem among Ladinos, Pech and Miskitos.
While bitter yuca has many uses, foreigners should not buy yuca in the market without the help of someone knowledgeable. In addition to the problem of differentiating between sweet and bitter yuca, this tuberous root spoil quickly after being picked.