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.
The ProtoLenca Indigenous folks who occupied most of Honduras but especially the Comayagua Valley where I live were a PreMayan group of people. Their civilization was not as sophisticated as the Maya but their main cultural site near Yarumela, which is a colonia of the La Paz Municipalidad, known as El Chircal was the epicenter for the Honduras Lenca people more than 3,000 years ago. The Honduras Institute of Anthropology and History confirms that there are fifteen covered mounds with stone structures underneath in an area encompassing 30 hectares, the largest structure 20 meters high and 7,000 square meters at its base; structures as noted in an artist rendition above. Numerous smaller stone structures have been verified as well. The only stone pyramid at present partially visible is the top of one near the river onto which I rode my horse in 2009. I also rode to the top of the highest covered mound known as “El Cerrito.” Within 10 kilometers of where I live is an unexplored archeological treasure. As a Historian I yearn to explore further. A scientific coordinated university effort could result in a national archeological park instilling pride similar to Las Ruinas de Copan, the southernmost Maya city-state and now an archeological park on Honduras’ nothern border.
These ancient Lenca artifacts were recovered from an abandoned site known as El Chircal Zona Arqueológica near the colonia of Yarumela, La Paz, La Paz near where I live. They are in a private collection and were acquired many decades ago. Families have handed down the ancient treasures over generations. The artifacts are more than 3,000 years old, perhaps older. When the Maya Empire reached its southern expansion at Copán in northwestern Honduras, the Lenca were the dominant population group at numerous sites in what is now Honduras. They became trading partners. I will be researching El Chircal further in the days ahead to help formulate a development plan for further organized exploration.
La Paz is a municipalidad of 40 to 50,000 inhabitants and is the administrative seat of the departamento of La Paz. Working at my computer I look out my window and see students daily making their way to class. La Paz has a half dozen or so public escuelas (primary schools) and one public colegio or instituto (secondary school). The students walk by laughing and talking in their universal blue and white uniforms: white blouse and dark-blue skirt for girls and white shirt and dark-blue trousers for the boys. The public school students have three different jornadas (periods), AM, PM, and night so that there are students walking by all day and evening. Then there are three private bilingual schools with their own different colored uniforms, and a private evangelical school, and a private catholic school and colegio with their uniforms. There is also the police academy, an instituto with 500 students and their unique different uniforms, and a normal school that produces primary school teachers who wear uniforms of yellow blouses and dark brown skirts to class. A few kilometers out of town there is an instituto that teaches agricultural skills and animal husbandry to students from all over the country. And in the colonia of Yarumela, a suburb of La Paz, there is the Instituto Polyvalente that teaches construction skills like metalwork, carpentry, plumbing and electricians. A private school for Nursing Assistants also adds to the mix. On weekends people from aldeas in the surrounding mountains, buyers and sellers, crowd into the city’s vast open-air street market where every imaginable item is bought and sold. The market two blocks from my home, I often walk over to rub elbows with these wonderful folks.