Wednesday, June 20, 2018

“Caribbean Honduras” Teaches Mesoamerican History

GILLIAN REINHARD ’20

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

Students interested in Latin-American culture and history were treated on Feb. 15 to a common hour lecture by Professor of History and International Studies Dario Euraque. A Honduran native, Professor Euraque explained the rich and complex history of the country, and contrasted it with the Caribbean nation of Trinidad in relation to Trinity’s popular study away program on the island. While Trinidad, as a former British colony, is English-speaking, Honduras is a Spanish-speaking country heavily influenced from its previous colonizer Spain. Additionally, Euraque elaborated on the culture of Honduras and its ties to the Meso-American World, once dominated by the Aztec, Olmec, and Maya people.

Christopher Columbus reached Honduras on his fourth voyage to the New World in 1502. Since then, Honduras has been subject to European influence after becoming a Spanish colony. In the 1930s, much Honduras was subject to the control of the United Fruit Company, a business operated by the United States. While discussing the history of the region, Euraque touched on the Garifuna, the African descended inhabitants of Honduras, who reached the country after being expelled by the British from the island of St. Vincent after revolting against slavery in the eighteenth century.

Students who study abroad during the fall of 2018 at the Trinity in Trinidad program will be given the opportunity to take a short trip to Honduras led by Professor Euraque. The journey will begin at Tela, the Caribbean coast of Honduras. Today, Tela is an urbanized town with a diverse population. The town holds many remnants of Honduras’ long history. Students will see San Fernando de Omoa, which shows the history of Spain’s long occupation of the former colony. In contrast, students will also explore the Botanical Gardens and the American Zone, both reminders of American influence through the United Fruit Company. Finally, stu- dents will discover the Garifuna villages of the region, where visitors experience the unique culture of the Garifuna people.

The journey to Honduras will culminate at the Copan Valley, an archaeological site that provides a look into the Maya world. As Euraque explained, the Maya civilization flourished between 400-1000 CE, and its in hence on the region had been greatly reduced centuries before Columbus’ arrival. At Copan, a culture completely different from Tela exists in the highlands of western Honduras. Some key sights at Copan include a hieroglyphic staircase, a testament to the history of the Maya people. The monument demonstrates the civilization’s writing system, the only known example of the ancient Meso-American cultures. However, the staircase is incomplete. As Professor Euraque explained, one part of the staircase was taken out and is currently held at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, miles away from where it was created. Perhaps most interesting to students was the lecturer’s presentation of the burial sites of the Maya king found under the valley.

The Trinity in Trinidad study away program allows students to experience the vastly different cultures of Central America and the Caribbean. Professor Euraque’s recent lecture and the excursion to follow next year both highlighted the fascinating history of the Spanish-speaking country.

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