Monday, March 30, 1998 Online Edition 99
Statute of limitations varies greatly in civil and criminal law
By MELANIE WETZEL
Many times in civil and criminal law, the right to a certain action has a limited life span. In English this is referred to as statute of limitations. In Spanish it is referred to as the prescripcion of the legal action related to a certain law.
In Honduran criminal law there are two types of prescripcion: the prescripcion of the crime and the prescripcion of the sentence. Prescripcion of the crime is the time limit between the crime and the judicial procedures. If a defendent is not brought to trial within the time limit, he/she cannot be tried. This time is counted from the day the crime was committed, and the time stops counting when any judicial procedures take place. If the process comes to a halt, the time starts counting again.
Prescripcion of the sentence occurs when a person has already been sentenced, and they are not serving their sentence; this is generally because of an escape. This time limit is counted from the day of the sentence or from the day the convict stopped serving his/her sentence.
Both of these types of prescripcion have the same time limits. If the applicable sanction is reclusion, prison time lasting more than three months, the time limit is equal to the maximum possible sentence for the crime plus one half. For example, if it is a homicide case, the maximum sentence is 16 years, so the government's right to bring the case to trial expires in 24 years.
In the case of a crime that is punishable with restriction or suspension of your civil rights (interdiccion) the time limit is five years. In cases where a guilty verdict would result in a fine, the prescripcion occurs in three years. The right to bring a person to trial for a falta, comparable to a misdemeanor, expires in six months.
The right to sue for civil obligations, such as fulfillment of contracts or payment of debts also expires over time. For example, the right to sue for any payment that is due regularly in yearly or more frequent installments (such as the rent on a house), expires in two years. The right to sue for payment of services rendered by lawyers, teachers, and hotel and restaurant owners expires in one year.
Any rights which are not specifically mentioned in the Codigo Civil, expire in 10 years if they are not used.
In civil law, prescripcion is also seen as a way to acquire rights; in situations where one person loses their right to sue, another person gains certain rights as a result of that loss. This is how landowners lose their rights to squatters. The squatters, obviously, are gaining something. To make the example sound happier, we will look at it from the squatters point of view.
A person acquires the dominio or ownership of property by prescripcion when they posses the property for a certain period of time and fulfill certain requirements. The following requirements are necessary in most cases:
1. Good faith -- This means that the person doesn't think that they are doing anything wrong. They haven't purposely waited until their neighbors went on vacation and moved into their house.
2. Justo Titulo -- This means that they are basing their good faith on some type of document or act which in their eyes has given them ownership. This must be proven in court.
3. Attitude of ownership -- Just like it sounds. A renter, for example, is not acting with attitude of ownership, because he is knowingly paying someone else for the use of his home or office.
4. Public, peaceful, uninterrupted possession -- The continued possession must be peaceful to count toward the prescripcion.
The owners lose their rights to the property after 10 years if all of the above requirements are met. Without the requirements of good faith and justo titulo, the owners' right to sue expires in 20 years. So if your neighbors move into your house knowing full well that it is not their house, and you don't come back from vacation for 21 years, it will be their house.
Agreements have not been reached on spelling rules, say Garifuna
By WENDY GRIFFIN
Last of two parts
All during 1997 Garifuna teachers kept asking when would the alphabet and spelling rules for the Garifuna language be discussed. It was not until October 1997, however, that a surprising document showed up on the North Coast. Dated April 1997 and issued by the World Bank Project for the Improvement of the Quality of Education, the document titled "Agreements on the Spelling of Garifuna" stated, "We, the below signed teachers, agree that the following are the rules of spelling Garifuna..."
What followed was the proposal made in the 1996 seminar that was never approved. Also in the document were points, such as the elimination of "ñ" that were not even discussed. A dozen people whose names appeared on the document were asked if they had signed it, and they all responded "no." There was no agreement, says Xiomara Caucho, Garifuna representative to the national bilingual education program. The agreement on how to spell Garifuna was still pending in everyone's opinion except for Gloria Lara, the coordinator of the World Bank project.
Seminars were held with Garifuna teachers to attempt to validate this proposed spelling and a new literacy book written by Garifuna teachers in La Ceiba. These seminars had two results. First, Honduran Garifunas were extremely unhappy with the proposed spelling. "The 'h' is silent," insisted one teacher. "You have to spell the words the way they sound," said Alba Suzana Arzu of Trujillo. Some teachers grabbed the chalk out of the presenter's hand to show how they thought several words should be spelt. Others became disgusted and walked out, or sank into their chairs. "This is a deformation of Garifuna words," one teacher said.
All of the discussion over four years had focussed on the alphabet. No one had dealt with regional differences in pronunciation. For example, in parts of Honduras, dog in Garifuna is ounli and in other parts aunli. The broom to make cassava bread is beisaba or baisaba, depending on where a person is from. Whole syllables with "r" appear or disappear, depending where a person is from. No decision was ever made as to which dialect is the standard.
Guatemalan Garifunas have suggested that since most Garifunas speak and read Spanish (260,000) instead of English (about 10,000), the spelling rules should be according to the desires of the Spanish-speaking Garifunas in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Belizeans Garifunas have said the Bible with its "j" and other Spanish spellings is not hard for them to read once they get used to it, while Spanish speakers complain the English-based alphabet is very hard to use.
The Garifuna teams for bilingual education in Colon and Atlantida have recommended having meetings with Garifuna teachers from all over the North Coast to standardize the spelling of words in the new literacy book. This book, published by the Project of the Improvement of the Quality of Education, will have to be redone, because the current alphabet satisfies no one, not even Roy Cayetano, the linguist who proposed it.
PHOTOGRAPHY -- THROUGH APRIL 14 -- A photography exhibit by artist Victor Ney focusing on the Lenca indian community of Honduras is being presented by the Fundacion Para el Museo del Hombre Hondureno at Casa Ramón Rosa on Cervantes Avenue.
HONDURAN ETHNIC ART -- THROUGH APRIL 4 -- Artwork and handicrafts created by various Honduran ethnic groups will be on display and for sale at Los Arcos and Los Castaños shopping centers in Tegucigalpa.
INTERNATIONAL ART EXHIBIT -- APRIL 3 THROUGH 26 -- Iberoamerica Pinta", an exhibit of over 60 works of art is on tour throughout Latin America and will be visiting Honduras for three weeks at the Centro Cultural Sampedrano of San Pedro Sula. Sponsored by the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture (Unesco), the exhibit is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. except Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday during Holy Week (Semana Santa).
CHILDREN'S THEATER -- SUNDAY MORNINGS -- Teatro Latino under the direction of David Vivar will be presenting puppet theater Sunday mornings at 10:30 a.m. at the D'Barro Restaurant in Colonia Alameda of Tegucigalpa. Admission is Lps. 20.
WEIGHT WATCHERS -- Weight Watchers, an international weight loss program with over 40 years of experience in helping people maintain a healthier lifestyle is offering classes in Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula. To join or for more information, contact Juan Cueva Membreño at 239-0161.
ENGLISH-SPEAKING WOMEN'S CLUB -- The English Speaking Women's Club invites all English-speaking women to attend their teas held the second Thursday of each month at 2:30 p.m. in the Hotel Honduras Maya. Participate in interesting programs, sign up for activity groups, and make new friends. For more information, call Sara at 211-8369.
TOASTMASTERS - The Tegucigalpa Toastmasters Club invites the public to learn and practice techniques of effective speaking and leadership skills. Meetings are held every first and third Tuesday of the month at the American School library in Tegucigalpa at 6:45 p.m. More information with Maggie Arbuckle at 231-5055 or 238-5114.
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.
CIGAR SMOKERS OF HONDURAS -- Regularly meets the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of each month at 6:30 p.m. at Texas Barbecue restaurant on Blvd. Morazan in Tegucigalpa. Bring two cigars to trade, and contact Joe Mays at 232-6519 for more information.
CHILDREN'S LIBRARY -- The Centro Cultural Infantil (CCI), or Children's Cultural Center, of San Pedro Sula has begun a new program titled "The Reading Corner" that offers 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 offers a consulting and study area where students may do research. For more information about services the CCI offers, call 557-8639.
SPANISH CLASSES -- Spanish as a second language courses are being offered at the National Autonomous University of Honduras. Learn Spanish with personal and advanced methods for Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced and Superior levels. For more information, call 232-2110, Ext. 217 or write to University Certificate in Spanish Proficiency, P.O. Box U 8779, Tegucigalpa.
ART/THEATER CLASSES -- The "Leonardo da Vinci" Centro Experimental de las Artes is offering drawing, painting, and theater classes for children seven years and older. The curriculum is designed to develop imagination, creativity, and the ability to express oneself physically and verbally. For more information about registration call Samuel Trigueros at 552-3074.
ART CLASSES -- Art classes with William Swetcharnik at the Centro de Diseno, Arquitectura y Construccion (CEDAC) have been canceled. For information about ongoing small group lessons, call 211-8369 or fax 211-8405.
BUTTERFLY FARM & GARDENS -- The Tropical Butterfly Farm & Gardens of La Ceiba is open to the public seven days a week from 8 to 4:30. Directions to the farm: The turn off is marked with a large sign 12 Km west of La Ceiba. Go through pineapple fields and follow smaller signs to the Farm. Admission is Lps. 30 for Hondurans and $6 for international visitors.
CONSERVATION INITIATIVE -- The Cerveceria Hondurena is hosting the 5th edition Honduran Award for Conservation and Protection of the Environment. The recognition will be awarded June 4. For more information about participation call 238-4254 or 238-5308.
MUSEO DE HISTORIA REPUBLICANA
Formerly the National Museum and the Museum of the Honduran Republic, the New 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 22-3470 or 22-1468.
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 37-2270 (-78), ext. 2117 (-2120).
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 30-6346.
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.
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
SAN PEDRO SULA MUSEUM
The Museo de San Pedro Sula is located between 3rd and 4th Avenues, 4th Street N.O. in San Pedro Sula. It is open from 10 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., Tuesdays through Sundays. Admission is Lps. 5 for adults, Lps. 2 for students (must present valid ID) and Lps. 2 for children under 12 years of age. (Tel: 57-1496, Fax: 52-7091)
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.
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 72-0348.
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.
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. 42-2874, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
ROATAN, THE BAY ISLANDS
CARAMBOLA BOTANICAL GARDENS
Possibly the only private gardens in Honduras, the 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 45-1117 and ask for Bill or Irma Brady.
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 32-2300, e-mail: email@example.com
Monday, March 23, 1998 Online Edition 98
Regional differences hold up creation of Garifuna alphabet
At the heart of the controversy--is this kitchen tool a jana or a hana? (Photo by Wendy Griffin)
By WENDY GRIFFIN
(First of two parts)
During the 200 years they have been in Central America, the Garifunas have conserved an amazingly rich heritage of oral literature, songs, knowledge of plants and healing ceremonies. All of this had to be done from memory, because only until recently Garifuna had no written form.
Can you imagine how many songs a lead singer has in his or her head for the three days and two nights (all night!) the dugu ceremony lasts? But this tradition is in danger of being lost. Fausto Arana, approaching his 80s, warns that he is one of only two storytellers in Trujillo. Who will tell Garifuna stories at wakes when he is gone? One way to save them is to write them down.
The first attempts to write Garifuna were made in Belize, where Garifunas form approximately 8 percent of the population. An English-Garifuna dictionary exists, written by Belizean Garifuna Roy Cayetano.
Because the first Garifuna alphabets were developed by people who spoke English as their first or second language, they chose to use the letter "h," which is pronounced in English but is silent in Spanish. Thus the word for the mortar used to mash plantains to make machuca was written "hana." The word for the fermented drink made from yuca was written "hiu."
The New Testament is already translated into Garifuna. It was not written with the Garifuna alphabet from Belize. Spanish speakers use the letter "j" to represent the same sound as "h" in English. So the plantain mortar, according to Spanish-speaking Garifunas should be written "jana." The yuca drink is written "jiyu," insist Honduran Garifunas, because the "h" is silent in Spanish, so it should be silent in Garifuna, too.
The current version of the New Testament uses "j" instead of "h." So when the Garifuna bilingual education program began in 1993, there were two different Garifuna alphabets in use. It was identified as a priority to determine how Garifuna was spelt in order to develop literacy materials for Garifuna primary schools.
Belizean linguist Roy Cayetano and the head of Garifuna bilingual education Xiomara Caucho went from village to village in Honduras, asking people how Garifuna should be spelt. A seminar for Garifuna teachers was also held in Limon. Seventy percent of the Garifunas asked said that Garifuna should use "j" instead of "h," said linguist Roger Reeck of the Garifuna Bible Translation Project.
The coordinator of bilingual education in Honduras and other authorities wanted to have a single standardized written form for Belizean and Honduran Garifunas. Therefore, the proposal of how to spell Garifuna that was presented to the Garifuna teachers in November 1996, included "h" and not "j."
There are other differences between the proposed spelling of Garifuna and Spanish spelling. For example, if the "g" has a hard sound as in gate, before the vowels "e" and "i," then a "u" is written after the "g" in Spanish. For example, the yuca grater is usually written "egui" by Spanish speakers. The bitter medicinal wine of the Garifunas is written "guifity." The proposed alphabet given to the teachers recommended eliminating the "u" and writing these two words as "egi" and "gifity."
In Spanish, a "g" before an "i" or "e" has a sound like "h." The basket sifter used to sift yuca flour is written "gibise" by Spanish speakers and "hibise" by English speakers. So Garifuna teachers strongly object to "egui" being written as if it were pronounced "ehi."
Although Garifuna is seldom written, people have an idea how Garifuna should look. The Christmas dance "coreopatea" is always written with a "c" in Honduras. Thus, people here object to writing it with a "k." Borrowed words with a "c" are also written with a "c" in Garifuna. For example, the word for "cup" in Garifuna is "copu." Garifuna nouns end in vowels, so this is why this word has an extra "u." The proposal presented to teachers recommended eliminating the "c" and the "z."
Garifuna also has words with a "v" sound, like "veru" (glass -- from the French word "verre"), and veve-fruit. The "w" sound is almost a true "w" as in Wanaragua, the warrior's dance called Mascaro in Spanish. The proposal recommended spelling both sounds with "w."
The Limon seminar went badly to say the least. The book that was presented with the spellings of Garifuna words based on English pronunciation was attacked from the first page. Nothing was concluded, and everyone agreed that a second meeting was needed to further discuss the Garifuna alphabet.
Show me the body, I'm late for the Gladiator show
By MELANIE WETZEL
As you may know, Honduran law is based very closely on Roman Law. Many European countries that were once part of the Roman empire have legal systems that are not only influenced, but very nearly taken from Roman Law. Roman Law was actually a very well-crafted system of laws, considering that these were people who considered watching a lion kill a live person first-class entertainment. Spain brought this tradition to Honduras. France brought the same tradition to Louisiana, and Louisiana state law is similar to Honduran law. Scary thought.
Many Latin terms are used in all Western legal systems. This is an influence from the days when all of the highly educated professions (medical, legal, etc.) carried out much of their practice in Latin to intimidate lay people. That is why when you can't read the prescription your doctor has written, it is not just your doctor's poor penmanship, it is his use of Latin terms.
Lawyers also use lots of Latin terms, even in English- speaking countries. One of these is habeas corpus.
In Rome, court was held in the Forum. There was one corner of the Forum that was used to receive bodies involved in crimes; an ancient morgue. When people would come to identify the bodies of relatives, they would say "habeas corpus" which means, roughly, "You have the body," or "Show me the body."
Today, habeas corpus is an act used to defend a person who is being illegally detained or tortured during his detention. An illegal detention, in Honduras, is one in which a person has been held for more than 24 hours without being brought before a judge to answer to formal charges. It is basically saying, "You have the body, now put it in front of the judge or let it go."
I need to make a clarification of an error in
one of my columns on residency. In one article, I included a rentista residency
that required a minimum outside income of Lps. 500 per month. This is an old residency
category that was used before the new rentista laws were issued. The old rentista
residency was issued by the Ministry of Government, which still includes its rentista
residency on information sheets that are handed out, but the newer Rentista law, which
requires outside income of $600 per month, is legally in effect. This residency is issued
by the Honduran Institute of Tourism.
Unusual root crops produce seldom tried Honduran dishes
By WENDY GRIFFIN
TRUJILLO -- It used to be thought that agriculture in the New World started in the dry areas of Mexico with the cultivation of corn or maize. More recent studies in the Amazon basin and its tributaries have revealed that the cultivation of rain forest root crops dates back to at least 5,000 B.C.
Honduras was the frontier between Mesoamerican corn, bean and squash growers like the Mayas and South American root crop growers. The ethnic groups here that have predominated cultivated root crops are the Garifunas, Pech, Tawahkas and to some extent the Miskitos. This is probably due to the influence of South American Arawak Indians, who used to live on the Bay Islands and other Caribbean islands such as Jamaica, Gran Cayman, and Grenada. Bay Island traditional food is also heavily influenced by root crops.
The principal root crops consumed in Honduras are manioc (yuca in Spanish), taro or malanga, white yams or name, red grow or nigger yams, called nam pan in Spanish, sweet potato and yams, both called camote in Spanish, red and white arrowroot, called yuquilla here and badu.
By far and away the most commonly found root crop in Honduras markets is yuca. Ethnic groups like the Pech and the Tawahkas grow around 14 varieties, notes ethnobotanist Paul House, including yuca dulce and the poisonous yuca amarga or bitter manioc. The only things made with bitter yuca are breads like sasal among the Tawahkas, Pech and Miskitos, and cassava bread with all of its derivations among the Garifunas. The Bay Islanders make a thicker bread, called bamy in Bay Islands English, somewhat similar to marrote of the Garifunas.
After squeezing the liquid out of the yuca to make bread, a fine layer of pure starch settles to the bottom. This starch is used to make a porridge, atol de yuca, among the Miskitos. This starch is what Americans use to make tapioca pudding. In Honduras, yuca starch, when mixed with lemon, is considered good medicine against diarrhea, notes the book "Common Medicinal Plants of Honduras." Feeding starch to babies is supposed to help them get fat and sleep through the night.
Grated yuca is also used to make the sweet pot cake pan de yuca by the Garifunas and Bay Islanders. It is mixed with a little flour, coconut cream, rapadura or raw cane sugar, and cinnamon, then cooked. Bay Islanders used to cook pot cakes by digging a hole in the ground, preparing hot coals, and then burying the cakes, a style of oven known as fire hearth, says Arnold Auld of Roatan. This custom is no longer practices, but pan de yuca is sold by Garifunas on the beach.
Camotes are also easily obtained in markets. There are two kinds -- a red skinned one and a longer yellowish yam. These sweet potatoes and yams are used to make porridge with coconut milk (atol de camote), pot cakes (pan de camote), fries, eaten boiled, in soups, and in tamales (tamalitos de camote). Candied yams (camote en miel) are known in Honduras, but the most popular way to eat these and other root crops is in a Garifuna, Bay Islander, or Miskito stew known as tapado.
Yams, green bananas, and malanga (white coco in Bay Islands English) are cooked in a coconut cream broth with natural spices, garlic and onions. As the coconut cream boils, a layer of coconut oil rises to the top. This is skimmed off and used to cook the fried fish that is served with this dish. Tapado is available at Garifuna and Bay Island food restaurants. It is considered a "strong" food by the Bay Islanders, says Roatan native James Thomas.
Name and badu are large root crops that can weigh up to 25 pounds each. They are mostly prepared like mashed potatoes. Garifunas also make dumplings (bondiga) of the names to put in coconut soup. Migo is a Garifuna dish where mashed name, nam pan, malanga are mixed with coconut cream and nutmeg, notes Garifuna Sebastian Marin.
HARD TO GET
Nam pan is called red grow or nigger yams in the Bay Islands. While name is probably of New World origins, nam pan is probably from Africa. Garifunas and Bay Islanders cook nam pan is soups. Bay Islanders also eat them just boiled. Neither names nor nam pan are available in Honduran markets, so it was surprising to see them is U.S. markets in Atlanta.
Nam pan is hard to find anywhere. Along with Bay Islands red arrowroot, maybe it should go on the list of endangered domesticated crops.
Arrowroot is called yuquilla. Arrow root porridge used to be traditional in the Bay Islands, but the plant has either become locally extinct or endangered on the Islands since most Islanders have lost their farm land. The porridge is made from the starch of the plant, which is considered very good for children. The white arrowroot is medicinal and its starch is sometimes sold in Honduran pharmacies.
Malanga or coco was used in Bay Islands soup like conch coup, says Auld. Malanga can be eaten just peeled and boiled. There is a pot cake made of malanga, pan de malanga. In spite of its importance, if we wanted to have a Bay Islands food festival, we would wipe out the existence of the plant on the Islands, since Ladinos do not usually plant it. It is amazing that Honduras is exporting malanga to U.S. markets, but it is not shipped to the Bay Islands, even though boats travel frequently between the Mosquitia and the Islands. Lack of access to ingredients is one reason why Bay Islands traditional food are more endangered than black coral.
Monday, March 16, 1998 Online Edition 97
Between shadows and color:
Mario Amaya -- a multi-talented artist who incorporates the details of his surroundings into artwork and takes inspiration from childhood experiences, says, "Art is something everyone has but few discover." Photo by Ketzi Chacon
By KETZI CHACON
Special to Honduras This Week
Impermanence shows itself on his face, together with a certain desire to diffuse into his surroundings. Mario Amaya pays attention to all those small details that surround him.
With a tense look, tense enough to break at any moment, the Honduran painter goes about hanging his paintings in a small, cozy cafe in the Colonia Palmira neighborhood. Only after he has finished does he begin to talk about his work.
HTW: Tell us a little about your work.
AMAYA: I have done work in the area of education, making children's illustrations using watercolor techniques for the book titled Let's talk about the environment. That was in 1996, a project supported by UNESCO [the United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organization]...but look, look at these illustrations, dont you think they are pretty? They are especially for children, I just really love to work with them. I have also done a couple of childrens workshops. I had a lot of fun, and I have helped them so much! You know what I appreciate the most is the concept of mutual help, whenever I can help and be helped. Sometimes, when some child had bad grades in their classes, I made up a game, and helped lift their self-esteem... That made us both feel so happy. You know, I always learn so much from children!
HTW: Where do you get your inspiration?
AMAYA: I take my inspiration from my childhood. I remember when I was a child, I began to get interested in movies and the theater thanks to the nuns from San Miguel church. They used to show films for free and they did a couple of other free events, you know, trying to influence us, to make a difference. It was precisely there, because of these activities that I began to feed myself, both culturally and spiritually. My world formed itself through figures and through all the ideas that occur to you as a child. Later, I found that I wanted more than my environment could provide and I had to get out of there, out of Comayaguela, out of Honduras and travel... many of my acquaintances didn't have the same opportunity, the same driving force that I did. Thats too bad, you know. They will always have the same vision of the world. Thats perhaps the reason why I really appreciate the value of having and conducting workshops. You know, I wish that all Honduran children could have these sources of inspiration. Yes, thats what I would like, workshops in Honduras, workshops for everyone!
HTW: What else have you done besides painting?
AMAYA: [After a moment of tension and seriousness, he smiles spontaneously.] "But you shouldn't think that I have just been a painter. Before, I was a singer. I was with the Tahuanka group, with whom I travelled to Belize and Nicaragua to represent our traditions in singing. Once here in Honduras, I remember there was this festival called 'La Cancion de la Sal' in San Lorenzo, near Choluteca. I was representing my high school on stage, and up came this teacher from there who asked us where we were from. Well, when I told her we were from Tegucigalpa, she replied by saying that all the people from Tegucigalpa were snobs, just really stuck up. Well, I dont know exactly what happened, whether it was because I was pretty defensive, whether it was the excitement of the moment, or simply the southern heat, you know, that heat that makes even Coke taste hot, but I said to her, 'That pencil you have in your mouth, I would like to bet you for it, that I will win. Because you know why, I didn't come here just to sing, or to simply compete. I came to devastate.' Well, I won the contest and the pencil as well! I had a really good time, partly because I love everything that is related to theater and entertainment. In the classes that I give to kids both here and even when I am in other places, I always behave that way, like a clown, you know, always exaggerating and overacting, never like a serious teacher.
HTW: How would you describe your type of work?
AMAYA: My work is a combination of symbols and segments, filled with varying lines, some strong and colorful, others weak and faltering. Something like a drawing, but a little bit more abstract, a bit fragmented, like if a mirror had fallen to the floor and broke into pieces... thats it. My stuff is lineal, I mean, lines, threads that are thrown in the work. I learned this from what I saw in Indian textiles. For me, it's not the form that is important, it's the lines that I put up there, the movement of the lines, until I arrive at the point where I can feel that they all are moving. I love to see that! The Indian and, more specifically, the Indian women are subjects I discovered during my trips to Guatemala. And those are subjects I look to work with because I found myself identifying with their work in textiles. In addition, the Indian woman is very admirable because, in spite of her life filled with suffering, she always keeps hope and always loves life. Because of this love, little things ... a bird, a leaf, everything has significance. Besides, they make you feel special, they appreciate your work as an artist. Formidable women! In my work, I like the symbol of the dolphin because it is a friendly but restless animal. The turtle, although it walks slowly, always arrives; the cat, independent, and the hummingbird red and green, can fly high and understand the different movements in the atmosphere, ah! and always bring good news! These are interesting symbols as well for me.
HTW: Why are the colors of the Virgin Mary so important in your work?
AMAYA: When I was a child, my family taught me devotion and love for the Virgin Mary and somehow, it was an image that has always been present in my life. In Los Angeles, when I was working on The Vaung Creative Center with Mexican-American kids conducting very interesting workshops, I had an important encounter with her, but it was not until 1991 when I went to Mexico City to participate in a Latin American art event, that one afternoon I went to the Basilica de Guadalupe and I promised right there I would dedicate my painting to her and use her colors in my paintings. To create my work in this manner is a way of demonstrating my Christian faith.
HTW: What is your concept of art?
AMAYA: Art is something everyone has but few discover. You take things out of your interior, through your brain, so you can see another reality and suddenly, reality is not that important anymore. Creativity becomes something useful and of course you need lots of love to want to make it, to reach a certain daring, a boldness that, after all, is really worth it.
HTW: How do you see art in Central America?
AMAYA: Well, how should I say it... I think it is an effervescence of strong cultures, some of them contradictory in that they can at times be very passive. This brings about the fact that in many occasions there is a strong tendency to simply copy the more classical cultures and their output.
HTW: How do you see your country?
AMAYA: It's kind of screwed up, you know, very difficult. We lack good spaces to exhibit art, we need more children's workshops so that there will be artists in the future. Also, it bothers me that my people so easily conform with what is simply presented to them. You know, we, as Hondurans, confront a wide variety of agricultural and urban problems...too little culture and too many political shenanigans. Tegucigalpa to me seems like a funnel, where everything gets intensified and diluted.
The shadows slowly began to arrive, making more long and unending lines. The interview is over and Honduran artist Mario Amaya is leaving, losing himself in the darkness. He is silent now, taking with him a sculpture and accompanied, as always, by his memories.
Barauda brings traditional Garifuna dances to Teguz
By WENDY GRIFFIN
TEGUCIGALPA -- If you were not able to get to the North Coast for Christmas, you can still catch Garifuna Christmas dances on Thursdays at the Tobacco Road Tavern/Shakespeare & Co. Books, behind the parking lot of Hotel La Ronda.
The music here is provided by the Garifuna dance group "Barauda." Its director is Purificacion "Popo" Arriola, a native of San Jose de la Punta in Iriona, Colon. Before forming his own group, he was assistant director of the National Garifuna Folklore Ballet.
Barauda was formed in 1996 by Garifunas from all over the North Coast -- San Juan Tela, Santa Fe, Limon, Olanchito, Rio Tinto -- who had immigrated to Tegucigalpa "in hopes of a better future," said one member. Belonging to Barauda is a part time job for most, but it has given them the opportunity to travel to other countries.
Last November, several Barauda members went to Nicaragua. The 1,500 Garifunas there have forgotten how to speak their language, says Garifuna Fausto Miguel Alavarez. Since they cannot speak it, they cannot sing Garifuna songs, and since the women no longer sing, the men have not practiced traditional drumming styles for a long time.
The Garifunas originally went to Nicaragua with the hopes of someday returning to "Yurumei" or the Island of St. Vincent, but after reaching Pearl Lagoon, they decided Yurumei was too far away and settled around Orinoco.
Barauda made the trip to Nicaragua primarily to help teach drumming, singing and dance techniques to Nicaraguan Garifunas through a project sponsored by URRACAN university in Bluefields, Nicaragua. This follows up a course given in 1996 by Honduran Garifunas on how to speak the Garifuna language.
ALL NIGHT LONG
On Christmas Eve, Garifuna women's dance clubs sing and perform all night. The principal dance they perform is hung hungu. In this dance, the women sway from side to side, their arms free to realize the type of movements that would reflect the meaning or feelings inspired by the song.
Although the songs appear to be happy, they often have serious messages, such as "A man who commits a crime, will only end up dead", or "A man who commits a crime, some day by the vultures circling overhead, we will find his body," says professor Angel Batiz Mejia. Barauda performs this dance, with lead singer Luis Rivas Sambula of San Pedro Sula acting as soloist and the rest as the chorus. This gives the song an African sound.
While women sing on Christmas Eve, young people mostly ignore them and head to the discos to dance puntas and parrandas. Most visitors have only heard punta played on tape or record, or played by merengue bands.
Half of Barauda's members make up the traditional band that included first drum, second drum, maracas, and a conch shell horn. Each instrument has its own rhythm or beat, making Garifuna sounds similar to African music or jazz. When Barauda's band gets tourists out to dance punta, every one has a good time.
After women in the dance clubs perform all night, in the morning, they go from house to house singing parrandas that always begin with the chorus, "Open your door, open your door, open your door to the parrandas singers," says Garifuna Loyola Gonzalez. After taking something out of the house (usually rum), as a punishment for not staying up all night to dance, the women sing and dance other parranda songs.
Punta, chumba, parranda, and hungu hungu all contain movements in which a dancer tries to get the first drummer to beat in time with his or her movements. Barauda include examples of all these dances in their presentations.
What most little children in Garifuna villages wait for on Christmas morning are not Christmas presents, but rather the appearance of "Mascaro" dancers, known in Garifuna as "Wanaragua" (The Warrior's Dance). This men's dance has quick movements that should resemble animals' movements, says Arriola.
The name of the group comes from the story of the origin of the dance "Mascaro" among the Garifunas. When they still lived on the Island of St. Vincent in the 1790s, the chief of the Garifunas was Satuye and his wife was Barauda. The English were trying to build a road through the part of the island where the Garifunas lived. Barauda reportedly told her husband that if the Garifuna men would not stand up to the English, the Garifuna women would. This gave Satuye the idea of dressing his warriors in women's clothes to surprise the English. This is why Mascaro is done with gloves, stockings, ribbon shirt, and mask as if to hide the sex of the dancers.
It is in her memory the group is called Barauda, and they sometimes include this dance in their performances. Other dances include Garifuna ceremonial dances such as arumajani (men's healing songs), and dugu, the main dance of the Garifuna's most important ceremony also called dugu.
For those who would like special performances by Barauda, call tel. 225-2612 or Fax 225-4925, at CONPAH. Special shows can also be arranged with the owner of the Tobacco Road Tavern. Shows usually start early, around 7 p.m. So do not think that just because you were not here for Christmas, or were stuck in Tegucigalpa, that you have to miss the fun of Garifuna Christmas dances. Come and catch the spirit of the season...all year long.
By SARA MORRIS SWETCHARNIK
Fifty years ago, when Alfredo was a boy, a friend of his uncle had an ocelot or tigrillo. The full-grown feline weighed about 25 pounds.
More graceful and beautiful than any house cat, she had a short tawny-yellow coat with black spots and lines in longitudinal rows, and a white belly also with black spots. After Alfredo saw her, there was nothing that he wanted more than his own ocelot. Soon half of Honduras knew that he wanted a tigrillo.
One day someone found a 12-inch spotted kitten, and brought it to Alfredo. The head and feet seemed a bit too large for the body. But then, kittens always have large heads and feet. It looked like a perfect tigrillo kitten to Alfredo.
There were lots of possum back then, so Alfredo would hunt a possum and bring it in to feed the tiny spotted cat. At first this was enough meat for a week or longer. But after a while, the tigrillo was eating a possum a day. Then it was eating two possums a day, and then three. Then Alfredo had to start buying lambs. He just couldn't keep up with the feedings, and the cat kept getting bigger and bigger. It became obvious that this thick-bodied, powerful creature was too large for a tigrillo.
Alfredo finally gave it to the Honduran air force and it remained for many years as their mascot at their base in Tegucigalpa. The jaguar had always been their symbol, but they had never had a real mascot before.
Alfredo still came to visit the jaguar. He remembers admiring the jaguar through the cage bars. The magnificent tawny yellow and black spotted creature was often sleeping The cat would stretch, yawn, and lift his black-tipped ears. Through the bars Alfredo would pet him and the cat would turn over, exposing a white belly with black spots.
However, Alfredo was afraid to go inside the cage: the jaguar was as playful as any house cat, but by now immensely more powerful. Once a week, the air force would go out and kill a calf or a cow to feed the jaguar. When they needed to discipline a young soldier, they would assign him to clean the cage.
Dressed in a fireman's suit, holding a fire hose and half scared to death, the penitent offender would enter the cage to wash it down. It was with great difficulty that the cage was cleaned, because the 300-pound jaguar thought that this was a game. Usually the force of the fireman's hose was enough to keep the jaguar away, but once a playful pounce knocked down a soldier and broke his arm.
Years later, Alfredo's wife would be given a little tigrillo. But that is another story.
Sara Morris Swetcharnik is a sculptor and writer of narratives.
What if someone sues me and I am not in the country?
By MELANIE WETZAL
When a person is sued, a court officer will personally deliver the lawsuit to his/her place of residence, which must then be answered within the next six days. Any person living in the same residence as the defendant who is over 14 can receive the documents. But what if the person being sued is not living in that house at that time, and cannot be promptly located? Or what if they are in the house, but are hiding behind the couch and not answering the door to avoid being served a lawsuit?
The laws state that every person involved in a trial has a right to a defense. Therefor, technically a lawsuit cannot proceed if the defendant is not defending himself/herself. But there must also be respect for the plaintiff's right to sue. This is where the curador ad-litem comes in.
A curador ad-litem is assigned to protect the rights of a person who is being sued, but cannot be located due to absence or evasion. The curador will represent the defendant in trial, theoretically using all possible means to defend the rights of the defendant. It is traditional to name an attorney to be curador ad-litem, because if they named a non-lawyer that person would then have to hire a lawyer. To prove absence or evasion, any type of information can be used: testimony from neighbors or friends is generally enough.
When a curador ad-litem is assigned it is published in a daily newspaper with national circulation. This is to inform the general public and hopefully the defendant that life is going on without him and if he wants to join in the fun of a Honduran lawsuit he had better come home. The defendant can present himself at any point in the proceedings to take over, but everything done up to that point remains in effect.
* * *
I would like to take a moment to address some of the letters that I have received from people who are angry over residency procedures that have not been handled properly. I suggest that if you really wish to take some action, you write the same letter to your congress person back home. The Honduran papers seem to suggest that the residency status of Hondurans living illegally in the United States is being discussed by the U.S. Congress and Senate on a daily basis. Your senators and congress people should know of any problems that you are having with your residency here. As long as you are a U.S. citizen they are still supposedly representing you, no matter where you live, and you can vote in U.S. elections by absentee ballot.
In my opinion there are two basic aspects of Honduran immigration law that must be changed. First, it must be standardized and the very common practice of consulates working by different rules (and price scales) must end. Secondly, there is no reason to require a lawyer, aside from notarizing some of the documents. The majority of problems with residencies come from unscrupulous lawyers taking advantage of people who are in an unfamiliar situation.
Prepare your own 'encurtido' at home
By WENDY GRIFFIN
On the table of many restaurants are large glass jars of pickled vegetables, generally called chile or encurtido, which are placed on bland dishes like scrambled eggs and pupusas to add some zest.
In preparing encurtido, many cooks prefer to use pineapple peel vinegar that can be made according to this recipe contributed by Miriam Herrera:
2 liters of water|
At least 1 teaspoon of ginger, spices (especies), oregano, allspice (pimienta gorda), cloves, cinnamon, 5 bay leaves, a little bit of hot pepper.
Boil the water with all these ingredients. Let them ferment for one month, then bottle it.
There are a number of vegetables that can be added to make chili or encurtido. To begin you could try these and then vary according to your tastes.
2 medium carrots
Wash all the vegetables. Peel and cut them up. Scald each vegetable the time it needs. Place the mixed vegetables in previously sterilized jars. Add vinegar to cover. Remove the air by moving a kitchen knife around the glass. Seal the jars.
Apply the final sterilization by boiling in a little water for 15 minutes as if for canning. Open, let the air out after 24 hours, then close again immediately.
Other vegetables that can be added are pataste (chayote), small cucumbers, green mangos, and radishes.
Different vegetables need to cook different times, which is why many people prefer to make encurtido with only a few vegetables. Cauliflower (1 minute), carrots (3 minutes), green beans (3 minutes), green mangos (2 minutes), pataste (2 minutes), cucumbers (1 minute), baby corn (2 minutes), cabbage (3 minutes), broccoli (2 minutes), chiles and green peppers (30 seconds).
If you do not want to do all this work, there may be a woman in your neighborhood who makes good encuritdo. You can usually encargar or order some.
It is also possible to buy commercially prepared encurtido. But no one makes it commercially in Honduras. The bottled encurtido sold in stores is usually made in Guatemala.
Gloria Ferrera, a native of El Paraiso, explains one possible reason why this is true. "My mother made excellent encurtido. As children, we used to help her deliver it to the neighbors. Between all of us, we could have gotten together enough money to help her start a small factory to produce encurtido commercially. But we did not think big. She just sold to the neighbors. Now she is too old, and my children have to eat encurtido from Guatemala."
There are dozens of homemade foods, like traditional candies, jams and jellies, pickled foods and homemade wines that could be produced commercially. Often it is small problems like where to get jars in significant quantities, how to price the product, how to get a label to stick to glass, lack of clarity if the jars are really sterilized, how to apply for a health department registration approval number, how to apply for a small business license, what taxes need to be paid, and a complete lack of access to credit, that prevent many women from starting these kinds of businesses.
Although millions of dollars are donated annually to help Honduras support small business, Honduras has no Small Business Administration where people could go for help, information, advice or loans. There are all kinds of incentives to bring foreign businesses here, and no help for local people who want to start local business such as producing encurtidos, jams or jellies that could replace Honduran dependence on imports.
Monday, March 9, 1998 Online Edition 96
Self defense and its limitations in Honduras
By MELANIE WETZEL
Some readers have written to me about the information I gave on gun laws, and expressing general concern about the repercussions of defending one's property or one's self against criminal attacks.
I wish the news was better, but this situation is a very complicated one. I will give you the good news first, then the bad news.
The term "legitimate defense" refers to an action that is necessary to avoid or repel an attack against oneself or against third persons. Legitimate defense justifies an action that would otherwise be illegal, thereby making it a legal action.
In order to qualify as legitimate defense, the situation must conform to three important requirements:
These are the requirements for a claim of self defense.
There is also an Article in the Honduran Criminal code that says that a homeowner can use force against an intruder in his home at night, but it is generally agreed that the situation must still conform to the above requirements.
THE BAD NEWS
All of this talk of self defense will not come out until the trial. A person suspected of murder or attempted murder will be required to spend six days in prison before being brought to trial. That is, according to the law. It is common knowledge however that approximately 80 percent of the people currently housed in the prison system have never been to trial. Those six days have stretched to 2, 3, or 10 years and they have never been convicted or sentenced. Which makes it a little hard to be angry over jail breaks. Most of those who sit in prison and serve time for which they have not been sentenced are poor. They do not have the money to hire a lawyer to make sure that their case is heard promptly.
Many crimes under Honduran law, including some murder and assault convictions, can be penalized with a fine instead of jail time. As a general rule there are very few people who can afford a lawyer and a fine who serve time in the Honduran prison system.
One exception I must mention though, is the case of Gustavo Valle. He is an American citizen who has served 5 years for allegedly killing a person in self defense. I say allegedly, because he has never been tried or sentenced. He claims that the delays in his trial are due to influence by powerful people who prefer to see him in prison.
So, as I said it is a difficult decision. I cannot tell you that it is right to have a gun or use it. That is up to you. I can say that it should not be used frivolously.
Liberty is the second most important human right
that we have, after life. The Honduran Justice System currently treats it with much less
respect than it deserves. The new Criminal Processes Code is a much more humanitarian
system that includes liberty before trial and sentencing. But its implementation is
constantly postponed. The reason? Honduras traditionally has an authoritarian government.
Old habits die hard.
Monday, March 2, 1998 Online Edition 95
Honduran manners: fighting the image of the ugly American
By Melanie Wetzel
As a tourist in a foreign country, one is expected to make cultural faux-pas, and the average Honduran will overlook it. But when a person chooses to establish a permanent residence in a foreign country, or start a business, the cultural errors committed on a regular basis will be less quaint and more insulting, or at the very least odd.
This week I am going to clarify the mystery surrounding some cultural traits that Hondurans take very seriously.
It may seem unimportant but really these small details can make a big difference. Think of the reverse situation: what if you were sitting in a business office in New York and were introduced to a person and, instead of shaking your hand in the common cultural greeting of the United States planted a big kiss on your cheek. It would color your view of how the rest of the meeting was going to be handled.
Also keep in mind that these cultural traits, or "manners" are generally more present in the upper social brackets and among educated people. Your taxi driver and the guy who pumps your gas may not display these traits but if you meet the mayor or the owner of the gas station, they probably will. But as in any society you can find people with and without manners at any social level.
Letters written in Spanish have a very particular trait. They always begin with an often long and effusive greeting sentence. Something like, "I hope that this letter finds you in the best of health, and that all of your loved ones are prospering." This is true even if the next sentence is, "We've just discovered that you have been embezzling funds for the past six years; our lawyers will be in touch."
I know, it is hard to get used to it. What you may think is a short, polite and to-the-point letter will sound brusk and unkind to a person who was expecting a few nice words at the beginning. I have had trouble myself with some of these culturalisms, but I have found that the best way to get over your fear of them is to really exaggerate them the first few times. I often use a starter something like this: "I hope that this letter finds your hands soft and your heart filled with joy; and I also hope that all of your family is 130 percent better than they were at the same time last year." Really get creative.
I have to admit that I balked at the whole kissing thing. I have no desire to be kissed by a woman I just met and I have an active desire to NOT be kissed by a man I just met. For a long time I avoided the problem by taking two steps back every time I was introduced to someone. Then I thought about the cultural implications of moving away from people who are talking to you and decided I was just going to have to start kissing.
The best way to handle the kissing is to be prepared for it. You should follow the old driver's ed lane-changing rule: be sure the other person is aware of your intentions. For instance, if you are going to go for the "left cheek kiss," you should make a firm and unmistakable motion in that direction. Otherwise, if you go for the left cheek and the other person goes for the right cheek you meet halfway in between: with a big old kiss on the lips.
Not everyone kisses when they meet. Women kiss women, men kiss women, and women kiss men, but men do not kiss men unless they are in Europe or the mafia. Men who are meeting for the first time shake hands and then both shout their name at the exact same time (takes practice), thereby ruining any opportunity to learn each other's name.
The Hondurans are just more verbal than most. We Americans, at least, have somehow connected silence with respect. If you walk into a business meeting that has already started, it is the North American instinct to quietly slink to your chair trying not to draw attention away from the person speaking. In Honduras, however, you can be forgiven for being late, but you will not be forgiven for not saying, "Good morning." Any time you enter a room full of people you must greet them.
A similar thing happens when someone is eating. In the U.S. manner book, it is usually considered best to ignore the fact that a person is eating, to avoid appearances of asking for a bite. In Honduras, however, any person with manners who sits down with someone who is eating will say, "buen provecho," which according to the Revised Velasquez Spanish-English Dictionary means, "Much good may it do you!"
The best way to earn the respect of Honduran people with whom you interact on a professional level is to use their cultural traits. This makes them feel more comfortable with you, and draws their attention away from the fact that you are a foreigner.
By SARA MORRIS SWETCHARNIK
Vicky bought a baby burro for fifty lempiras and carried it home inside their jeep. She told the kids to let her explain the situation to Dad. It would be tricky, because they had so many animals already. But when John pulled in the driveway, the children ran up to him excitedly: "Hee-Haw! Daddy, guess what we got!" Vicky quickly joined the conversation: "You weren't supposed to tell Dad. It was a surprise for his birthday."
Sara Morris Swetcharnik is a sculptor and writer of narratives.
Artist helps Garifuna youth through dance
By WENDY GRIFFIN
Herman Alvarez, a painter and former dancer with the National Garifuna Folklore Ballet and Trujillo's Los Menudos, is concerned about out of school youth in his native town of San Juan, just outside of Tela. To give young people something that will help them later in life, he works with a Garifuna youth dance group called Liyumondun or "Mouth of the River."
The dancers are 11 to 16 years old, the drummers a little older. There are five male dancers, five female dancers, three drummers, a marraca player, and several youths who play the conch shell, turtle shell, and a wooden washboard. Members of the group learn to sing the songs that accompany each dance.
The repertoire of the group includes punta, an erotic dance similar to punta but with its own song called culiau, the women's dances of hunguhungu and parranda, and the men's warrior dance or Wanaragua, also called mascaro. They also perform a dance based on the minuet and done in pairs called gunchey.
Like David Flores of the Zotz folk dance group, Alvarez would like his group to practice dances seldom performed such as the chumba, gunchey, and a new piece they are learning -- the coreopatea, a Christmas dance done with costumes, songs, and drums.
In this dance, one man plays the devil while another man, whom the devil cannot tolerate, keeps touching all the women, and especially the devil's wife. The devil cannot see this man, because he has a long mask that only allows him to see in front of him, like through a tunnel. There is also a sick man, and the doctor comes to give him this horrible injection. The costumes are old, funny clothes, with men often dancing the women's parts. It is a lot of fun, and most Garifuna children have never seen it.
Yet the family situation in the community often prevents children from participating in the group. Instead of sending their children to dance practice, parents may have them sell coconuts or coconut bread or require them to do tasks at home. Members of the group have performed even in Guatemala. They do paid performances on request for the Hotel Maya Vista and Garifuna Museum in Tela and for the Last Resort in Tournabe. An all girl dance group was recruited to perform for the National Garifuna Folklore Ballet, who receive salaries from the Ministry of Culture.
Still, most parents let children do as they like, leaving them to grow up by themselves. Alvarez says it is sad to see these young people wasting away.
"Their understanding now is so narrow," he says. "In the future it could be much greater. There is a lot of knowledge which they could learn. Even though they have no money to go to high school, they could learn a skill, like making instruments, or jewelry, or painting, dancing, singing or drumming. They do not think, 'how will I earn money, money for myself,' but rather they wait for money to come from relatives in the U.S. They do not save to build their own house, but rather live in houses their U.S. relatives have built."
There is little or no support nationally for programs to work with youth, and at the local level there is no support either. However, someone needs to work with children in Garifuna villages, as drugs, sex at an early age, and violence are steadily increasing. Not looking for work, young people have lots of time to find trouble. "I am worried about these kids," says Alvarez, so he continues to teach and practice with them as best he can.