Saturday, 23 March 2013

Honduras - The Final Word

It's time to say ¡hasta luego! to Honduras - I hope you've enjoyed this virtual journey around Honduran culture, just as much as I have. 

A summary of the themes

During my research about Honduras, I learned about the country's turbulent history and the origin of the name, Honduras.  I read about the inspiring community leader, Elvia Alvarado and the impact of liberation theology on the politics of Central America.  I read a novel by one of Honduras' most famous modern writers, The Big Banana by Roberto Quesada.  I also learned about the hazardous journey many Central Americans make to a new life in the United States, as documented in Enrique's Journey by Pulitzer-prize-winning journalist, Sonia Lazario.  And I learned how to make Enchiladas Hondureñas

Tools for research

I read five books as part of my research about Honduras:

Lonely Planet: Honduras and the Bay Islands (1st edition, 2007)

Books I read, as part of my research
Don't be afraid, Gringo: A Honduran Woman Speaks from the Heart (1987) - the story of Elvia Alvarado, translated and edited by Medea Benjamin.  The Institute for Food and Development Policy

The Big Banana (1999) by Roberto Quesada,  Arte Publico Press

Enrique's Journey (2006) by Sonia Nazario, Random House Trade Paperback edition

The Mosquito Coast (1981) by Paul Theroux - I read the 1982 Penguin edition.  I didn't blog about this book - it's one I've read before and I read it again for sheer pleasure, it's still a classic story and I'd highly recommend it. 

I also watched several movies as part of my research:

Walker (1987), directed by Alex Cox (who did Sid and Nancy)- although it's mostly set in Nicaragua, I found this movie to be a fascinating portrayal of the 19th century filibuster, William Walker, who tried to take over Central America in the mid-19th century.  The style of the movie was Acid Western which is a genre I'm not very familiar with. 

DVD cover of El Espiritu de mi Mama
El Espíritu de mi Mamá (1999) by Ali Allie was a beautiful movie, probably the most famous one to come out of Honduras in recent years.  I had to order this one from the US, as it's not readily available here in the UK. 

The Mosquito Coast (1986), the movie based on the book, directed by Peter Weir and starring Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren

I did all of my research listening to the music of the following Honduran bands:

Grupo Garifuna de Honduras (traditional Garifuna music - really beautiful stuff, many of the songs also featured in the movie El Espíritu de mi Mamá)

El Sol Caracol (a modern pop-rock band, that I've really grown to like - I particularly liked their song Pero a tu Lado - Only by your side - and could picture myself boogeying away to this in a niteclub in Tegucigalpa!)

Banda Blanca (a more old-fashioned show band, playing hits like the Spanish version of John Lennon's Imagine)

Aurelio Martinez (a more modern, funkier Garifuna singer, who is incredibly popular on the world music scene)




Pero a tu Lado - a song about Tegucigalpa by the band El Sol Caracol

Other themes

As usual, if I had more time, there were many other themes that I would liked to have blogged about.  Perhaps I'll come back to some of them later.  These included:

The Mayan Apocalypse
The deeps/depth
Macaws
Garifuna culture and language
The treatment of LGBT people in Central America
Diving
The banana industry
Pirates
Underworlds
Fr Jose Andres Tamayo - the eco-warrior priest
The currencies of Latin America
Tobacco
The Fountain of Youth
The 'White City' of La Moskitia
The legend of La Sucia, aka Bubbly Susan

Dinner-party trivia

And I learned some trivia about Honduras that will, no doubt, come in handy for dinner party conversations!

- The Honduran currency, the Lempira is named after a native Lenca chieftain who led a revolt against the Spanish invaders in 1537. 
- British pirates dominated the Caribbean coast of Honduras up until the 19th century
- Miskito people were so-called because of the 'muskets' that the British pirates gave them, so they could fight against the Spanish
- 30% of the words in the Miskito language are of English origin
- The writer O Henry first coined the phrase Banana Republic
- Honduras had a 'soccer war' with El Salvador in 1969 - so-called because the conflict broke out after a football match, although the underlying tensions concerned Salvadoran immigration to Honduras
- the five stars on the Honduran flag represent the five countries involved in the Federal Republic of Central America (Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica)
- Honduras qualified for the World Cup only once, in 1982
- Despite being a nominally Catholic country, there are around 100,000 Protestants in Honduras
- Of Honduras' 225 native species, almost half are types of bat!
- The Tolupan people of Honduras are believed to be one of the most ancient American peoples and speak a language which some linguists believe is related to Sioux. 
- Honduras' second city, San Pedro Sula, has been called the 'Aids capital of Central America'
- The oldest clock in the Americas can be found in Comayagua cathedral - it was built for the Moors of Alhambra around 1100CE.
- La Moskitia has the largest rainforest in Central America

In the News

Since I started blogging about Honduras, more than a month ago, I've noticed the following stories in the news:

The Honduran national football team wins during a World Cup qualifying match against the United States. 

The Honduran economy is on the brink of collapse.

The government proposes to boost the economy through the development of 'Charter cities' which would be run by companies, without regard to social and human rights

The President sends soldiers to the capital to keep law and order

Honduras marks the one year anniversary of the terrible Comayagua prison fire

The Final word in Death

It's hard to research about Honduras and not come across the fact that this small Latin American country has the highest intentional homicide rate in the world. That's a rate of 91.6 out of 100,000 people, way ahead of the world's second most dangerous country, neighbouring El Salvador, which has a homicide rate of 69.2 per 100,000 people.  Cote d'Ivoire comes in third at 56.9 and is Africa's most dangerous country.

It's a far cry from countries in Europe, like Ireland and the UK (both 1.2 per 100,000 people) - the murder rate in Honduras is more than 75 times higher!  Europe's most dangerous country is Greenland (19.2) followed by Russia (10.2).  Asia's most dangerous country is Kyrgyzstan (20.1). 

The intentional homicide rate in the US is 4.2, but this runs as high as 24.0 in the District of Columbia, where the federal capital, Washington D.C. is located.  The countries with the lowest homicide rates include; Monaco, Palau, Hong Kong, Singapore and Iceland.  Japan also has a fairly low homicide rate (0.4) for a country with such a big population. 

On a slightly more cheerful note, I'm going to leave you with a wonderful manga video to the soundtrack of Banda Blanca's 'Imagenes'- enjoy and up next month is I . . .




Image credits:

Both images were taken by me. 

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