Monday, June 28, 1999 Online Edition 163
Traditional mud houses slow to rebuild after hurricane
(First in a series)
By WENDY GRIFFIN
Immediately after Hurricane Mitch, someone shot off a request on the Internet for information on how Honduran houses were built and their costs. After receiving information on a typical two-room house made of sticks and mud with a zinc, palm thatch, grass or tile roof, the person answered back, "Well, couldn't the Hondurans just build their houses out of concrete blocks?"
Many, probably most houses in Honduras are not built of concrete or bricks, for reasons of temperature and cost. On the North Coast, concrete houses survived 80 mph winds around Trujillo, while traditional houses of mud or wood were destroyed. Part of the reason rebuilding has been slow is that funding agencies must decide how to deal with traditional architecture.
The Pech of Selin, Colon lived in traditional mud and stick houses known as "bahareque" before the hurricane. This style of architecture dates back to at least 1300 BC among the Lencas of Honduras, although it was only adopted in the last 60 years by the Pech.
Previously, the Pech, Tawahkas, Miskitos, and Tolupanes lived in palm leaf houses with no walls, which are only feasible in societies with no thieves. After the arrival of banana companies with workers of other ethnic groups, the Pech adopted bahareque houses with walls, doors, wooden windows and locks. Even the floor plan of Pech and Ladino bahareque houses is similar to that in Lenca villages around the time the Maya city of Copán was inhabited (300-900 AD).
To make a bahareque house, the four main posts called horcones are put up. At the top they are connected by roof beams called vigas. Then a lattice work of woven wood is made that reaches from floor to roof beams, but this does not support the roof. This lattice work forms the wall that is filled with mud. Then the women finish it off with repello -- layers of yellow and white mud that look like white washing. Every month the women do minor repairs to the repello to keep the house looking nice.
The type of roof depends on the ecosystem around the house and the economic possibilities of the person who builds it. Near the coast, palm leaf thatch such as manaca from the cohune palm or suita is preferred. Because of salt in the air (salitre), a zinc roof will only last two years before it develops holes. A good suita roof can last 10-12 years, says Garifuna Angel Batiz.
Since palms for thatch are rare over 600 feet above sea level, Lencas and Chortis use grass for their roofs. Both grass and palm leaf roofs share the disadvantage that the chinche picudo lives in the thatch. At night these bugs come into the bed and bite people, often transmitting Chagas disease.
In order to avoid chinches and to show that they are in a better economic class, people try to use other roofing materials, such as corrugated zinc or red clay tiles.
Adobe is quite different from bahareque. Adobe houses are made by drying clay bricks in the sun and then cementing them together with more mud. Finally a mixture of mud and clay is put over the adobe as repello. A more recent trend has been to use a thin layer of cement as repello. Adobe is much more expensive than bahareque. Moreover, adobe bricks can only be made in the dry season, so it is rare to build these houses in rainy areas of Honduras.
Adobe is different from bahareque, being made of dry bricks, as at this Garifuna store in Trujillo, Colon.
Adobe was not common in Honduras in pre-Colombian times, except perhaps in the south. Bahareque and houses of sticks were then and still the most common forms of traditional housing.
One aid program that has determined how to rebuild traditional earthen houses is Disaster Relief International, which is working to replace 16 Pech houses of Selin, says relief worker Paul Cantwell. Usually thatch roofs stop the rain from washing away the bahareque, but after Mitch's winds blew the roofs off in this town 4 km outside of Trujillo, the rain just washed away the earthen walls, leaving 102 people homeless.
This agency helped to buy sawn wood and the hardware that goes into a house, such as such as hinges and locks. The Pech were able to put up the walls, once they had the materials that required cash. After their experience with the Pech, the agency has decided to help build frames for earthen homes in Ilanga and Mesacales.
For further information on this project, contact
Paul Cantwell at firstname.lastname@example.org or Disaster Relief International, 6714 Lake Road West,
Ashtabula, OH 44004; Tel. (440) 964-0182.
Dia de Lempira is the day of Lencan pride
A Lenca woman from the embroidery cooperative at Guijiquiro, La Paz shows a traditional Lencan outfit made for sale.
By WENDY GRIFFIN
Each year on July 20, all Honduran school children celebrate "Dia de Lempira." The Lencan Indian Lempira is remembered as a symbol of Honduran rebellion against foreign powers and oppression. Fifteen years after the Spanish began to conquer Honduras, the Lencas rose up against them in western Honduras, led by chief Lempira. Although that rebellion ended with Lempira's death, other rebellions followed during the colonial period.
Prior to the administration of President Tiburcio Carias, there had not been much pride in Honduras' native past. In fact, the founding of Tegucigalpa as the capital stems from this problem. When the Creole society of Comayagua collectively snubbed the Indian wife of Honduran President Marco Aurelio Soto, he decided to move the capital of Honduras from Comayagua to Tegucigalpa, according to popular legend.
To celebrate Lempira Day, school children elect "La India Bonita" (the Pretty Indian). Children dress in what they believe the Lencas wore, and some boys carry bows and arrows. Even schools in Garifuna villages and in the Bay Islands, where all the students may be black, elect a "Beautiful Indian." The idea that Indians could be beautiful was somewhat revolutionary when this contest was started as previously only people with light completions had been considered beautiful.
The Lencas celebrate the Day of Lempira as their day of ethnic pride. After the election of the "India Bonita," Lenca musical groups or "conjuntos" made up of a fiddle, guitars, and a base fiddle, play ranchera music so people can dance. "Recorridos", which are often protest songs, are also popular at these gatherings. Some schools charge admission to the dance as a way to get money for the Sept. 15 parade, but at rural schools it is often free.
Because Lempira Day is in July, the whole month is called "El mes de la Hondurenidad" -- The month of being Honduran. Groups like Zots in Tegucigalpa, which present traditional folkloric music and dance, are kept busy with shows that are privately contracted by groups. These presentations are seldom publicized, so ask around for dates and locals.
Together with Columbus Day and Independence Day, July is a time to reflect on Honduras' motto of being "Free, Sovereign and Independent." Ethnic groups and academics organize forums and write articles to reflect on whether current policies truly reflect those of a sovereign state.
The spirit of Lempira was to reflect foreign imposition and each year his day draws critiques of current attempts toward such imposition, be it against Contra bases in the 1980s or U.S. troops at Palmerola or IMF imposed conditions in the 1990s. The Lencas add to this protest their own cry, asking a country that so honors Lempira then leaves the hijos de Lempira (the sons of Lempira) in such a state of neglect.
Not all Honduran Indian groups appreciate the way Lempira Day is celebrated. Pech teachers around Culmí, Olancho have complained that in mestizo or ladino villages children often use the day to make fun of Indians, such as showing the traditional food of the Pech, sasal, as made of wood, instead of yuca. Generally, the Pech hold celebrations separately from the mestizo school, but when they do celebrate together, the Pech Indian girls are never chosen as la India Bonita because of the enduring belief that Indians are not pretty.
Garifunas have responded to the election of the India Bonita by also electing La Nina Garifuna (The Garifuna Girl). La Nina Garifuna, who dresses in traditional Garifuna clothes and carries a handicraft that shows women's work such as a ruguma to make casabe bread, marches in the Sept. 15th parade as does La India Bonita. Some communities include skills such as speaking Garifuna and dancing punta to the process of being elected La Nina Garifuna.
The issue of what clothes should be worn and the election of the India Bonita has not become as much as an issue in Bay Islands communities as it is for the Garifunas. In communities that used to be all Black, like Sandy Bay, over half the students are now Hispanic. Thus, the easiest solution is to elect one of the Hispanic girls as the India Bonita while Bay Island girls may be elected as Reina or Queen during the Sept. 15 celebrations.
So while ladinos and Lencas in Honduras celebrate Dia de Lempira as their day, other ethnic groups are choosing a different day to celebrate their ethnic pride. The most notable of these celebrations is April 12, when the Garifunas celebrate their arrival in Honduras.
According to the school calendar, the Bay Islanders and Miskitos are supposed to celebrate their incorporation into Honduras in them month of April. Not all Bay Islanders and Miskitos think this incorporation was a good idea, and in the Moskitia the anniversary of the death of the last Miskito king around July 26 is being suggested as a possible alternative to celebrate Miskito pride.
Because the Honduran currency is called the lempira, this day is jokingly used to reflect on the current monetary state. When the lempira was first struck, Chief Lempira was shown on a 0.900 fine silver coin with a full headdress of feathers. This, in fact, matches statues in the Trujillo and San Pedro museums showing pre-Columbian headdress styles. But the new lempiras, which are falling in value day by day, shown "Lempira desplumado" (without any feathers). Even 460 years after his death, poor Lempira is still under attack, leaving him without feathers and much poorer than he was before foreigners come to "improve" the economy.
artists exhibit works
By ROSIBEL PACHECO DE GUTIERREZ
The Honduran Institute of Hispanic Culture in Lomas del Guijarro in Tegucigalpa was recently the setting for the painting exhibit "Nuevos Valores Hondurenos," during which the public admired the works of four talented young artists: Veronica Kozlova, Mauricio Garay, Adan Vallecillo and Javier Campos.
Russian-born Kozlova is a young graphic designer with a minor in foreign languages. In her paintings she renders the sensibility, melancholy and vitality of the Russian people. Her technique with color pencils is outstanding. Her canvases are full of feline forms, the mystery of the sea and the subtleness of the feminine figure. All the more to show her closeness to our own psyche.
One can observe in the paintings of Garay (nephew of two excellent Honduran painters of the same last name), a very personal style, full of vibrant colors. His style is somewhere in between primitivism and naturalism, the former that employs vivid color and the latter intricate detail. The main themes of his works are rural life and old Tegucigalpa.
"Society forces us to be darts, instruments of its violence," says Vallecillo. One of his works shows bullet shells and other objects that give it a third dimension. In the background, graffiti can be seen as the media of expression of the masses. The form and finish are reminiscent of the batik technique.
The exposition left an aftertaste of variety in sensibility, technique and focus of imagination "a la hondurena."
Casa del Artista opens in SPS
Maria Elena Fajardo of the San Pedro Sula Cultural Center presided over the ceremony. Father Fausto Leonardo Henriquez blessed the building and artists. Municipal registrar Rebeca de Mejia, who represented the mayor's office, gave an encouraging speech regarding AHAVI's intention of becoming the seed of a fine arts school in San Pedro Sula.
Community support in helping to furnish the Casa del Artista with easels, landscaping and beverages for the opening was admirable. Among the donors were the brewery, the Association of Maquiladoras, the Mexican Consulate, and numerous private individuals who provided various small necessities for the house.
The Casa del Artista, which has a sizable gallery and three studios, as well as ample patio space, is located at No.59, 4th Ave. N.O., between 6th and 7th Streets, Casa del Artista. It is just four blocks north of the Centro Cultural, in the same block as the Hotel Honduras Plaza. Hours are 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
For more information, call Antonio Vinciguirra at 552-0542 or Marluce de Mejia at 550-0225.
New biography on Clementina excellent
By CHIQUI DURÓN
Special to Honduras This Week
We will probably never know for sure who the murderer of Honduran poet Clementina Suarez was. Her biographer from Boston, Janet N. Gold, cried with the rest of us when on Dec. 9, 1991, Suarez was beaten to death in her own home. Now her relatives say it was somebody from her own family, but the name hasn't been disclosed and of course there has been no formal accusation.
In her new book "Clementina Suarez: Her life and poetry," Gold provides us with a marvelous account of Suarez's life and poems in this carefully and brilliantly written work. A professor of Latin American Literature of Louisiana State University, Gold accidently ran into Clementina's name in a Boston library because her name was listed as a Honduran writer and poet and that is where the author's passion was born.
Gold worked six years doing research about Clementina's life, was very close to her in her last years and devoted much work to writing this magnificent biography. Her anecdotes are fascinating because in them we see Clementina and the people of Tegucigalpa that were her friends and also renowned poets and artists from Mexico and Central America.
I first saw Clementina as a child and her magic personality made me an instant admirer. I met her in art shows and parties and one thing she did that I loved is that every time we'd meet, she grabbed my hands and kissed me with such sweetness. For me this gesture was a great honor.
Her memory is vivid in my mind and her biography naturally depicts her in full detail and in a way that it would be useful for future generations, as she herself would have wanted. Unfortunately for Hondurans, the book is written in English, because there is no funding for the Spanish version.
DOLL EXHIBIT -- THROUGH JUNE 30 -- The Embassy of Japan and the municipality of San Pedro Sula are sponsoring an exhibit of traditional Japanese dolls, better known as "Kokeshi," as well as other handmade wooden toys. The event is taking place at the Centro Cultural Sampedrano (CCS).
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. For more information, call Marluce de Mejia at 550-0225 or Antonio Vinciguirra at 552-0542.
ART CLASSES -- JUNE -- Sarah Morris Swetcharnik is currently offering 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. For more information, call 211-8369.
ART CLASSES -- JULY 12 -- The Casa del Artista in San Pedro Sula will offer drawing and painting classes for children. For more information call 552-0225.
OPEN AIR PAINTING -- JUNE -- William Swetcharnik is currently offering open air painting sessions for individual and small groups Saturday mornings. The workshop is being held in a private zoo-garden in Tegucigalpa, in which participants work independently and arrange for individual or very small group critiques, sharing a $50 per hour fee. A "Painting with Light" workshop is coming soon, as they are looking for new models to work with. More information at 211-8369.
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.
FERIA JUNIANA -- JUNE -- The industrial capital of Honduras is holding its traditional Juniana Fair. Take a look at some of the fun activities taking place at Campo Agas: A concert by the Silver Star band tonight at 6 p.m., a rodeo tomorrow at 2 p.m., followed by a Mariachi night at 8 p.m. Cattle and horse exhibits will be held every day (June 28 at 2 p.m., June 29-July 3 at 9 a.m.) and an equestrian contest is programmed for July 4 at 9 a.m. A different music group will make you dancing each night until July 4.
ZORZALES FESTIVAL -- JUNE 30 -- The Centro Cultural Sampedrano (CCS) will host a musical festival with the participation of the best Honduran composers at 8 p.m. Admission is free.
COLLEGE NIGHT -- JUNE 30 -- Confetti's Discotheque on Tegucigalpa's Blvd. Morazan will host a "Gran Noche Universitaria" sponsored by the students association of the National University's School of Journalism.
MERENGUE CONCERT -- JULY 2 -- International merengue singer Elvis Crespo will give a concert at San Pedro Sula's Campo Agas at 7 p.m. The event will be opened by Honduras' very own La Gran Banda. Admission is Lps. 200. Tickets are on sale at La Curacao, Novedades Tatiana, Tiendas Kemsis, ISEE and Campo Agas.
SAN PEDRO THEATER CIRCLE -- JUNE -- The San Pedro Sula Theater Circle is presenting "La Fiaca," a comedy written by Argentine Ricardo Talesnik and directed by Oscar Barahona. Performances are Thursdays through Sundays at 8 p.m. at the San Pedro Cultural Center. Admission is Lps. 30. For more information, call 557-2575.
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 every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 7:30 p.m. in Colonia Palermo, Ave. Juan Manuel Galvez, 1 calle # 1836. Sessions are conducted in Spanish. 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 met 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 Restaurante La Hacienda on Blvd. Morazan. For more information, call Sara at 211-8369.
CHILDRENS THEATER CLASSES -- The National Theater School has opened the Childrens Theater School for children ages 5 to 18. Enrollment will be open until June. For more information, call 222-5487.
MUSIC CLASSES - The "Amadeus" Music Conservatory offers individual music classes for all ages. For more information, call 232-2859.
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.
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.
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: email@example.com
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Monday, June 21, 1999 Online Edition 162
Trujillo is the site of many traditional tales
By WENDY GRIFFIN
There are many mysterious beings who live on the fringes of the North Coast town of Trujillo. One of these is the "duende," a forest spirit. People say that the duende has a big hacienda. He gives people food to eat, but without salt.
A number of girls from Trujillo have disappeared. The people would blow conch horns when a girl disappeared, hoping she would answer. Sometimes the girls would be gone several days. Sometimes they never came back. It is assumed the duende took them.
Similar to the duende is the "owner of the night." He is very tall and big. Once Elsa was out with her little 8-year-old brother when suddenly this big man appeared. The man grabbed her brother and shook him. Elsa screamed. The man let the boy go all at once, so that he fell down and fainted. Then the man disappeared.
The cadejo is a dog-like creature. At first they are small and white. People say the white ones are good and the black ones are bad. Sometimes they appear alone or in a group like young puppies.
Another character people tell tales of is "La Llorona" or the "woman who cries." Long ago she had a child. She let it play beside a stream with poisonous fish. She told the child the fish were poisonous, but the child ate one anyway. The child was turned into a sirena or mermaid. Now, La Llorona goes looking for the child, crying "Where are you, hijita?" There are still people today who say that they have heard her.
"La Sucia" (the Dirty Woman) is another being who can be seen by the streams around Trujillo. Once Lety saw her mother washing clothes very late at night. She called to her, but she did not answer. Then her mother began to walk away. Lety followed and called after her again. "Stop, why won't you stop?" Later, she realized it was "La Sucia."
A particular place that is haunted in Trujillo is the hospital next to the old fort. On the Plaza de Armas back behind the hospital is where William Walker was executed. The lower part of the hospital is where the jail used to be for the fort and town. People say the hospital is haunted.
Women who have new babies report feeling invisible arms pulling at their baby. After putting the baby in one spot, when they wake up it is in another spot. A man dressed in a doctor's coat comes in the room, but when the woman tries to describe the man to the nurses, they say there is no doctor like that there.
Sometimes the animals seem enchanted. When Lety broke up with her husband, strange things began to happen. First the children heard small puppies crying at night. The mother said, "we should wait until morning and then look and see where they are." But in the morning there were no puppies.
The next night they heard piglets. The mother said, "Let's wait until we have a place to keep them." They fixed up a place, but in the morning they could not find the piglets. Another night a great mare went by. Later a whole string of small lambs went by, too.
All these strange animals passing by made Lety go and speak to a neighbor about them. Their neighbor said she should throw boiling water on the animals to see what it was. They supposed it was Lety's husband who changed his form and passed by the house each night. After they told people about their plan, the animals never came back.
So as enchanting as Trujillo seems, even more mystery surrounds it. For example, there is supposedly a ghost at the fort. It is of a black man who has no head. He dresses in full dress uniform with buttons down the front and cords hanging from his epaulets. This is the soul of someone who was unjustly beheaded at the fort.
There is also a black dog of Trujillo. It does not bark, bite, or bother people. In fact, you cannot see it at all. You can only smell it, and you see its shadow in the form of a dog.
In each culture there are fictitious beings who terrorize small children so that they will go to bed early, wash their hands, and obey their mothers. One such character is the Ragman (El Trapero).
The Ragman bought old rags, bottles, broken
furniture and old mattresses. He was very poor and poorly dressed. His skin was cooked by
the salt and the sun. His hands were calloused from work. Although old, he was still tall
and broad-shouldered. His cart was pulled by a skinny donkey who seemed to suffer from
damage. And in his cart among the dirt and broken objects and flies, he carried away
rebellious and lazy children.
Arte Accion to give spectacular show: Relajarte!
By KETZI CHACON ZYLSTRA
Special to Honduras This Week
The artistic committee Arte Accion is an organization that was formed after Hurricane Mitch by Honduran artists from different disciplines to bring emotional support to refugees throughout the country. Since then, this organization has been organizing dozens of cultural brigades in different shelters and five artistic journeys in Tegucigalpa's Central Park.
These activities have enheartened and motivated Honduran citizens as well as the artists, and as a result Arte Accion continues to create new ways of entertainment. On this occasion they have gathered 14 artists together to create a cultural event called "Relajarte," a spectacle consisting on three days of culture that will take place this weekend at the D'Barro restaurant located in front of BAMER Bank on the Alameda neighborhood.
The goal of this activity is to offer a high quality show while collecting funds for Arte Accion. Participating in the show will be national and international artists and entertainers, including painters Ezequiel Padilla and Rolando Trochez, students of the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes, the musical groups Trovason and Diego Sojo and a Garifuna group. Performances will also be provided by Checho (theater), the Zanqueros Reiniery Andino and Hermes Reyes, the Danza Libre group, and Veronica Llorens of Argentina. There will also be poetry readings by Francezca Randazzo and Roberto Becerra.
Funds obtained through Relajarte will be used to continue supporting this organization for future artistic projects and to obtain the Personeria Juridica (legal establishment) of Arte Accion.
Admission (minimum contribution) will be Lps. 60 for adults and Lps. 20 for children.
Monday, June 14, 1999 Online Edition 161
Fine arts school brings progress, jobs to old mining town
Regina Aguilar assists students during a watercolor class at the Magical School.
By ALEJANDRA FLORES BERMÚDEZ
Special to Honduras This Week
Regina Aguilar Paz is one of Honduras' most experienced and outstanding artists. She specializes in sculpture and has exhibited her work in many important galleries and museums in Latin America, the United States and Europe. She is now working on a project in the village of San Juancito, famous because of the gold and silver mined there by the Rosario Mining Company that left the community many years ago. The boom town became a picturesque backwater suffering from perennial nostalgia for the industry and wealth once associated with its name and place.
Aguilar is now working on a project called "Escuela Taller San Juancito," teaching techniques and creating a new source of income and knowledge wherein students learn to make art objects out of iron, wood and glass, and also learn to market their products. During a recent interview in San Juancito, she talked with Honduras This Week about her project.
HTW: Why did you choose San Juancito for your project, and what is your goal?
AGUILAR: I ended up in San Juancito just because of destiny's whims. I didn't choose it. But I'm very happy that I'm here because the town is full of history and full of potential. I've been there for eight years now, teaching techniques for fine arts and decorative arts and after hard years of work I'm starting to see the fruit because my students have mastered their techniques. Now we are entering into a new phase, which is the phase of teaching the students not only techniques but concepts so that they can design their own products, but I'm designing all the time and the goal of my project is to create independent individuals capable of designing and manufacturing and managing their own shops. The project aims to help them in these three aspects.
The old mining village of San Juancito is the site of Aguilar's project.
Some attend the technical school that meets from Monday to Friday, then we have the Special Education Program that will meet Saturday mornings for four hours and then their is a program we are beginning with a course of study that will last for three years. After three years, they can either begin their own shop (we have a seed fund that helps them start their own shops) or they stay as instructors. I can make iron parts and another shop can make wooden parts and together we can market better. It's easier to work as a group than to work as individuals, so the project is like having a network of fine craft shops.
HTW: Marguerite Yourcenar tells us that the true lover of beauty finds it everywhere, even in the most ugly aspects of life. Talk to us about your understanding of beauty.
AGUILAR: I agree with that and at this point in my life I have two tasks: to create beauty in my own work, which is a challenge given the context in which I live because people sometimes ask me: "Why don't you make more beautiful pieces?" And I tell them it's very hard to make beautiful and happy pieces when I live in a context that is quite brutal. So one of my tasks is to bring out beauty from the context of Honduras and the other task has to do with working with human beings that I find much more interesting than working only with materials, and this task is bringing out the creativity of the people in San Juancito so I'm like an instrument in helping this people bring out their creative talents.
HTW: Tell us more about your project.
AGUILAR: My project is called "La Escuela - Taller San Juancito," which is like a school shop but the project has several components. First of all, [there is] the shop where people learn their technical skills and their formal artistic educational skills. Then we have, as part of the School program, a Saturday afternoon arts and crafts workshop for children that is called "The magic School," which has been running since March with donations from outside of Honduras and this component is very important because the talents of the children are flowing.
It is absolutely wonderful for these children who otherwise have no opportunities to express creativity because the local school does not provide an art program. The government of course, does not provide art material or art teachers and the parents are too poor to even know what art is all about. So these kids are having the opportunity to experience art and produce art. It's creating in them such an excitement and this is wonderful.
The other component of the project is what I call the cultural center, called The Crucible, "El Crisol." The Crucible Cultural Center is basically what manages the school and every component. This cultural center is also managed by the San Juancito Foundation. We are just starting to create this foundation with people from San Juancito and outsiders who want to help San Juancito. We have not received any donations yet. We are just working on getting our legal status, but this foundation will be able to receive donations for projects for San Juancito, not only for the Crucible Cultural Center and my schools, but for the whole town. We want to have communal banks and we want to better the living conditions in San Juancito.
Another component of the project is the seed fund, which is called "The Mine." This fund is going to be a rotating fund and it will help graduating students to establish their own shops, buy their own equipment and market their products.
And the last component of my project is called "In Vitro." In Vitro is like a marketing and designing society formed to buy the products of the school and market them. We are doing this because we understand that it's very difficult for small rural shops to market their products on a bigger scale so this company will be in charge of marketing and checking the quality control of the designs and products.
HTW: Tell us a little bit about yourself. How do you harmonize your artistic mission with this teaching vocation? What is your compensation for all this effort?
AGUILAR: Well, there's always a conflict, of course, because I would like to make more art. That's what I used to do when I lived in Boston. I was making art all the time, living in my studio and being quite successful with galleries and museums and coming out in magazines but I find that sharing [my knowledge] makes me happier than just working by myself. So it's a conflict because as time goes by I get involved with the community and I have less and less time to do my work. I'm trying to balance my priorities by doing my work part of the year and teaching another part of the year but I'm still not in harmony.
HTW: But it's a way of giving back to the world what has been given to you in talent and experience?
AGUILAR: When I came back to live in Honduras eight years ago, I came with the idea of having my own studio, and continuing what I was doing in Boston, and producing work for galleries and museums. But since this context is so different I would find it absolutely impossible to simply shut the doors of my shop and create works of art for other people outside of Honduras, because the misery here is something toward which you cannot close your eyes. I think I'm helping at least the community of San Juancito and several people to advance and have a better quality of life and to have more dignity.
Do sisimites still lurk in Honduran Mountains?
By WENDY GRIFFIN
Many cultures have stories of a creature similar to a human being, but bigger, hairier and taller. In the United States this being might be called big foot or sasquatch. In most of Honduras, these beings are called "sisimite," a word of Nahuatl origin.
"The sisimite came out at night and would grab people who were out walking, carry them on his back, and throw then under a waterfall," according to some North Coast residents.
This particular sisimite had hair so long it touched the ground and no one could see his face. His feet had long toenails. His toes faced backward, as if he had put his feet in the wrong way.
They said the sisimite came out at ten at night and carried his victims on his shoulder and when he arrived at the river, he would throw them under the fast moving water. He was bad, they said.
One day several man got together and they waited for him on the road. The men shot at him with an arrow when he came near. He fled with the arrow still in him until he reached the waterfall. "After that he never appeared again."
According to Felix Amador, a ladino from La Masica, there used to be a sisimite who lived on a mountain near a river that flowed down to a village. It was the custom in this village that the young girls would go to the river to fetch water.
The sisimite, who observed the girls, soon fell in love with one of them and decided to make her his mate. One day the creature hid near the river and when the girl came to fetch water he grabbed her and carried her away to his mountain, where they lived together for many years in a cave.
From this couple, a baby sisimite was born. As he grew up, he saw how his father hit and mistreated his mother. He promised that one day that he was going to rescue his mother and slay his father.
And so it came to pass. When the young sisimite was older, he took his mother back to her village and then returned to kill his father.
There are many similarities between this story of the sisimite and Nahuat and Tawahka stories about a monkey.
The Pech also tell stories of the sisimite. When the Spanish came, explains Julio Cesar Escobar of La Campana, Olancho, they would attack Pech communities and make them prisoners.
One day Spanish soldiers captured some Pech Indians. That night as they prepared to sleep, the Pech went to sleep in the trees while the Spaniards remained on the ground. At night the sisimite came and killed the Spaniards. In the morning, the Pech climbed down from their hiding places in the trees and were free to return to their homes.
Monday, June 7, 1999 Online Edition 160
publishes collection of colorful Honduran essays
By CARLOS A. YRIGOYEN
Special to Honduras This Week
As a regular and devoted reader of Honduras This Week (after all, it is one of the most important sources for reliable information available to the diplomatic community), I have become very familiar with the writing style of Erling Duus and some of his perspectives. However, I have to say that the 32 masterpieces offered in this book enrich my sense of the author's range and deepen my appreciation for his talent.
There is an underlying message that runs through every single essay in this book, and it concerns the central spiritual consciousness that defines and connects us as human beings. Our friend Duus Christensen may be seen by some as one more eccentric gringo, but he is a true messenger, a kind of "angelos," who consistently reminds us of the wider and deeper realms that form our world. He is a messenger of that same kalolagthyas that he mentioned recently (El Mirador del Cielo HTW, May 22, 1999) as the ancient trinity of "the Good, the True, and the Beautiful."
The famous Spanish writer from the 17th Century, don Baltasar Gracian y Morales, once said: "The good, if brief, is twice good." (Lo bueno si breve, dos veces bueno.) Within one hundred and three short but long rich pages, you can travel all over in Honduras, from the mansions of Lomas del Guijarro to the humble barrios on the outskirts of Tegucigalpa. You can visit the Bay Islands or ride on an over-crowded bus to Valle de Angeles.
The writer's solidarity with children and with the poor, as well as with all human pain and suffering, is evident in many of these pages. He knows where to look for the wounds, and shows them to us. But he also points us in the directions of healing. He also creates a unique and exciting kind of historical fiction, as in "William Blake comes to Honduras." Or with magical legerdemain he accomplishes the "Resuscitation of Fidel Castro." (Has Mr. Castro passed away?)
It seems to me that Duus Christensen is involved in a personal battle against all forms of ignorance and mediocrity anywhere and everywhere; whether Latino or Eskimo, African or Siberian. But though passionate, he is very careful about his judgements. He is gifted with an active mind that absorbs impressions, and a empathetic spirit. These qualities have made him particularly insightful about the style and tenor of Latin life.
He has grasped realities that speak to realities of my native Peru (where we should have, but didn't, meet) or Mexico, or Venezuela. He knows that to be a Latin is very different from being a Swede, a Thai, or a South African. He has a passion for understanding the unique characteristics of culture, and the historical and geographical influences that shape a particular people.
This would be my advice: In order to get a provocative and insightful vision of Honduran reality, one should buy and read this book.
And finally, if you are in Tegucigalpa, please try to visit the Parque Central, and remember that it is possible to find Jesus walking there. But don't expect him to look like the guy in the paintings. He will be in "disfraz." He may be disguised as a sweet peanut girl, a shoeshine boy or a familiar beggar woman.
Carlos A. Yrigoyen is a Peruvian career diplomat and a writer. He is counsel at the Embassy of Peru in Tegucigalpa.
Jesus Walks in the Garden of the Parque
Central and other Honduran Essays
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned
By WENDY GRIFFIN
Stories where male "duendes" or forrest spirits fall in love with young girls are common in most of Honduras. However, there are also "duendas" or female forest spirits who fall in love with young men. This story was told by Adalid Martinez of Quimistan, Santa Barbara. His uncle is the young man in the story.
"When my uncle was young, a duenda fell in love with him. This duenda used to come and tell him all kinds of things, things that other people would not know. Finally, she said she wanted to marry him and said, "Tomorrow I will send you the money." A deer appeared in my uncle's yard. The family ran the deer off without killing it.
When the duenda next appeared, she said, "I am hurt that you did not appreciate my gift. Look, I am going to send you the money tomorrow. That day another animal appeared in the yard and the family again ran it off.
That night the duenda again appeared. "I am hurt that you turned away my gift." After that my uncle began to get sick and finally he died. People say, "la duenda se lo llevo." (It was the duenda that took him.) My grandmother says this is a true story."
Another female spirit who ensnares men is "la Sirena" or mermaid. Esmeraldo Caucho tells a story of a fishing boat that had taken people out scuba diving. One of the divers came back with a canoe full of lobsters and conch.
His companions admired all this seafood and asked where he had found so much. He told them there was a woman there at the bottom of the sea who had shown him a rock. Around this rock, there was still more lobster and conch. He was just going to wait until the next day before going out to get more.
The next day he got up very early, got his fishing gear ready, and went out to fish. But it did him no good, because he never returned. People say the mermaid carried him away.
In both stories we can see the traditional roles of the sirena as the protector or owner of the fish and seafood, while duendes are the spiritual owners of deer and cattle. Of male duendes people say the first time they give you money or animals, but the second time they steal you away. The same seems to be true of the duende's female counterpart.
According to Open House, Honduras is still mostly undiscovered for many Americans. "This beautiful, fun country is perfect for travelers looking for out-of-the-way Mayan ruins, old colonial churches and monuments, varied wildlife, terrific deserted beaches, fantastic diving and great food," stated the press release.
Updated by B&B owner and long-time Copan Ruinas resident Howard Rosenzweig, this latest revised edition brings readers the latest on hotels, restaurants, sights, and activities. E-mail addresses and websites are included, as are great insider tips on food and drink, detailed bus and driving directions and cultural observations.
The Bay Islands are covered in-depth, as are watersports, birdwatching, hiking, and other recreational pursuits.