Trinity Historian Turned Cultural Guardian Standing Up To New Honduran Regime





'They fear us because we have no fear." So go the words to the song that has become the anthem of the Honduran resistance.

Like many Hondurans determined to restore democracy and constitutional order, Darío A. Euraque has no fear of the politicos and generals who on June 28 kidnapped his country's democratically elected president at gunpoint and flew him into exile, imposing themselves as rulers of the land and brutally repressing peaceful protest with clubs, tear gas and bullets. Euraque's defiance of one of the de facto government's ministers, however, could place him in harm's way.

In 2006, Euraque was granted a four-year leave from Trinity College in Hartford, where he is a tenured professor of history, so he could serve as director of the Honduran Institute of Anthropology and History, known by its Spanish acronym, IHAH. One of the most powerful cultural institutions in the country, the institute administers all matters of cultural patrimony and runs the national museums, archives and archaeological sites such as Copán, an ancient Maya city declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

I have traveled with Euraque throughout Honduras; to the cities and to remote regions of the jungle where there are no roads and where one must enter by "pipante," a long dugout canoe. Together, he and I are collaborating on a book that examines, by means of my photographs and his writings, the role that ethnic minorities play in the construction of Honduran national identity.

I have witnessed Euraque distribute personally into the hands of peasants and villagers ethnographic and anthropological books about their own communities; books he commissioned and published since assuming the directorship. No other IHAH director has done this. Euraque is an advocate for the preservation and documentation of Honduras' multitude of cultural and linguistic traditions. His groundbreaking work has been widely recognized and celebrated in Honduras and abroad.

Why, then, would anyone want to remove him from his post at the Honduran Institute of Anthropology and History? Maybe because mainstream Honduran society has long derided and marginalized the Garifuna (afro-descendant) and indigenous communities that he so steadfastly defends? That's part of it, but the main reason is that Euraque was not afraid — not afraid to stand up to Myrna Castro, the new minister of culture appointed by the coup regime.

Castro approved a request by military reservists to install themselves in a building called the Antigua Casa Presidencial, the former presidential palace which currently houses the country's National Archives, among other priceless collections. The location was strategic, insisted the soldiers.

Euraque said no. The building is under his jurisdiction. He also issued a "public clarification" on the IHAH homepage detailing specific Honduran laws and international treaties enacted to prevent just such violations of cultural property...

... Euraque's continuing struggle is an all-out combat for history. Minister Castro, like so many other Latin American "golpistas" before her, banks on fear and repression, banning books in the hope of erasing memory. Yet, history teaches us that righteous people without fear will always triumph over bureaucratic demagogues backed by brute force.

comments powered by Disqus
History News Network