Six years ago today I arrived in Honduras; one of fifty Peace Corps Trainees leaving Washington DC at three in the morning I looked out the airplane window as its tires jounced onto the tarmac and taxied the short distance to Toncontín Airport, Tegucigalpa. My first thought was that the capital city looked much like México, land of my forefathers. Little did I know that my life would be changed forever. An adventure indeed. Besides helping with the development of the Fundación Señor San José, a home for at-risk children, I have integrated my daily life in tune with the desires and priorities of the citizens of La Paz, the community into which I have settled after completing my Peace Corps service. As I smooth out the edges of my remaining time on this planet my goal has remained constant. Assisting to help better the lives of children with few resources, my journey has led me to tackle the recognition and development of an archaeological treasure trove that has existed ten kilometers from where I live for 6,000 years. I will do that with lectures and field trips involving all the children of La Paz who have little idea of the ancient heritage lying literally at their feet.
I began my research into the El Chircal Zona Arqueológica located near the colonia of Yarumela, La Paz yesterday by meeting with the Director of the Museum Regional Centro IHAH in Comayagua as well as the Inspector de Sitios Arqueológicos. They were interested in the idea of site development and provided me with copies of the annual publication of YAXKIN circa 2001 and 2002 that document past excavations at various sites in Honduras by academics from UC Berkeley, Cornell University, Harvard, UCLA and others that have produced indigenous chronologies dating from 4,000 BCE. I will study the works of science in the days ahead as I begin contacting local authorities. It appears there has been conflict between officials of Miravalle, a caserío at the site of the pyramids, the colonia of Yarumela that also claims the pyramids, and the departmental administrative capital of La Paz: Politicians.
The children of the Hogar San José attend school in three different jornadas or time periods. The three youngest, kindergarten and first grade (not pictured), are in the morning period. And the six boys (not pictured), aged 6 to 9 are also in the morning period. In the afternoon period four young ladies are in colegio, seventh to 12th grades. There are also nine young ladies in the afternoon escuela period, fourth to sixth grade. And in the evening colegio period because of their age are the two eldest. All the children are required to attend classes and they are eager to go to school and study. They are so happy as they get ready every morning their homework completed the day before. I am so proud of them.
Summer vacation is over. The new year classes begin next week. The children have been busy getting their blue and white uniforms ready for the first day, washing and ironing, laughing and gossiping. They look so cool all dressed up and will be heading to class to reunite with old friends and classmates and teachers. The largest group are all in primary school, 1st grade through 6th except for the four-year-old little movie star in dark glasses who begins preschool. The three oldest are in secondary school: 7th grade through high school. One in her sophomore year is still in her mountain aldea, Guajiquiro, and is due in this weekend, and there will also be two new additions this year. A 12-year-old and a 14-year-old for a total of six in colegio. These two new students we’ll meet later are also of modest means who would have little chance at an education if not for the Hogar San José.
Whenever there’s a presidential election like there was last November in Honduras the entire governmental civil service changes. My visa was extended for only 30 days Tuesday with an order for my attorney by the new administration to submit to the immigration department a statement of why my request for permanent residency has taken more than two years. What a joke seeing as how the inefficient government bureaucracy are the reason my request has been delayed for two and a half years. My attorney will have to provide in the next thirty days a valid justification with a current file as to why my legal request has not been approved by that same inefficient bureaucracy. Catch-22, anyone? Meanwhile I will continue doing what I have been doing for the past six years. Welcome to Honduras! Happy New Year!!
There I was, straddling the border between El Salvador and Honduras. The first clue that a storm was brewing occurred when I entered El Salvador on 4 January 2015. The Salvadoran immigration official told me I had to leave El Salvador by 7 January. Which was the date my Honduran visa expired. It was supposed to have been a week-long vacation at a turtle sanctuary on the Pacific coast with a 90-day renewal of my visa on my return to Honduras. I had a hotel booked at http://latortugaverde.com/ Instead it became a bureaucratic nightmare. “If you don’t leave El Salvador by 7 January you will be fined $150,” the official told me. After three days in a San Miguel hotel I returned to Honduras and was met at the border by a Honduran immigration official who questioned my multiple passport visa renewal entries as I have pursued my Honduran permanent residency over the past two and a half years with the assistance of an attorney. “I have lived in Honduras for 6 years,” I told the official. “What am I supposed to do? Stay here at the border?” He called his boss and gave me a 15-day extension of my visa. Monday I have to go to the immigration office in Tegus to explain my status in the country for the past six years with a valid passport and valid visa stamps working as a volunteer at the Hogar San Jose. Welcome to Honduras!
Before the Current Era (B.C.E.) 45 million indigenous folk had occupied the planet’s western hemisphere for 40,000 years and had no idea what was in store for them when the murderous barbarian Europeans (whose population was fewer than 25 million) invaded its shores to “discover” the Americas, named for an Italian map maker called Amerigo Vespucci. The unhygienic Europeans brought with them diseases that reduced the native population by 90% thereby enabling the mass enslavement and genocide of the surviving original inhabitants. They also brought their supernatural beliefs that they superimposed onto the extant supernatural beliefs. That of course included the Old Norse custom of the yule tree. And voilá the winter solstice was discovered and converted into a religious commercial frenzy exploiting the ignorant masses today. From Honduras I wish you a Happy Solstice. In a week I leave for the Pacific beaches of El Salvador. From there I will wish you a healthy and peaceful New Year. Maz-el tov! Viva México!!
I have so many pictures of our awesome 6th Annual Thanksgiving Day and our 1st Annual celebration in the children’s new home but so little space for this brief entry. One has only to look back in this photo record to our First Annual Thanksgiving in 2009 to see the progress that has been made in the children’s living conditions since moving into our new quarters in March of this year. All the children are doing well in school; they’re happy and well-adjusted. They have so much contagious energy and good cheer it rejuvenates me to be around them. They are truly a living fountain of youth.
The Lenca people lived in peace for thousands of years until the arrival of the thieving, murdering Spaniards in the mid-1500s. These European invaders claiming to bring the word of their christian god proceeded to enslave the indigenous inhabitants and to steal their land, gold, silver, jade and ultimately tried to stifle their humanity. The criminals were finally forcibly expelled after 300 years of physical and psychological abuse. Within that time they superimposed their vicious superstitious religious dogma onto a captive native people’s equally superstitious supernatural belief system and claimed justification because it was for their salvation from pagan evil. It remains to be seen which belief system is more evil. The Lenca remain very spiritual and survived the abuse, many having escaped into high mountain villages. One such village is Guajiquiro from where many of the Hogar San José’s children originate. Three of our Lenca adolescents here celebrating their First Communion, one of the church’s sacraments.
When the Maya Civilization established their southernmost city-state, Copan, on Honduras’ northern frontier the Lenca civilization was already established. View the above archeolological sites of Maya cities in the present-day Yucatan, Guatemala and Belize alongside the Lenca sites in greater Honduras. Don Ruben lent me his horse and he rode in on his jackass to the El Chircal site near Yarumela. That’s me astride the horse on top the only excavated pyramid site near the river on 2 April 2009. And that’s me with the horse and the jackass on top of El Cerrito, the tallest mound that covers the tallest pyramid as seen on the map. The El Chircal Sitio Arqueológico today looks nothing like the above pics, five years later. The site is now overgrown with trees and bushes and weeds. When I took the Hogar’s children there several weeks ago one wouldn’t even know it existed.