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Forum on Power, Justice and Public Memory in Central America at GVSU – the cultural impact of the 2009 Honduran Coup

November 3, 2011

The forum hosted by the Latin American Studies department began today with a presentation by Dario Euraque, a former Director of the Instituto Hondureño de Antropología e Historia and currently Professor of History at Trinity College in Connecticut. His presentation was entitled “The Coup in Honduras in 2009: National Identity, Globalization and the Threat of History, a Personal Account.”

Dr. Euraque began by showing a clip from a documentary that accompanies a book he wrote on the 2009 Coup in Honduras. The clip includes footage, photos and interviews from people who were reflecting on the consequences of the coup. One woman was interviewed, a woman who participated in the initial mobilizations against the coup, who was raped by four soldiers.

The book Dario has written is only available in Spanish, but can be downloaded as a PDF. The 30 – minute documentary that accompanies the book is also online, which is in Spanish, with some English subtitles.

Dr. Euraque said that one of the things that he focuses on is the misinformation about the Mayan roots of Honduras. Many people identify with Mayan roots, but Dario said that this is not only true, this misinformation played a significant role in the propaganda during the 2009 coup.

Between the 1930’s and 1990’s, the government of Honduras engaged in a campaign to solidify the idea that most Hondurans have a Mayan ancestry, when in fact Dr. Euraque says that there are numerous other indigenous groups in Honduras that make up the bulk of the indigenous ancestry for Hondurans.

One of the ways that the government fostered this identity was to construct miniature replicas of Mayan ruins in central parks in communities throughout the country. Another mechanism of enculturation was to promote the nation’s Mayan heritage, particularly in the tourist industry. In the airports, the public parks and many of the hotels designed for tourism are replete with Mayan images and architecture.

In addition, much of the national identity reflects what Dr. Eurague calls the Mayanization of the country. The Honduran currency has Mayan images, the Honduran passport has a Mayan image, the national soccer team includes Mayan imagery, the phone cards and of course so much of the private sector uses Mayan imagery in their advertisements.

What all this has to do with the 2009 coup was the fact that Dr. Euraque, who was working with the Zelaya government at the time, was part of an effort to transform the national identity through de-centering Mayan heritage and promoting the other indigenous identities.

This campaign around transforming Honduran identity was done by presenting and promoting the accurate history of Honduras. Dr. Dario and others began do this by creating a vibrant national archive that was very accessible to the public. After the coup the person in charge of the archive it became under the control of pro-coup forces. Under the new control of pro-coup forces, they transformed the national archive center into a recruiting center for the military/national guard. Dr. Euraque stating that not only was this a bad decision, but it is illegal under international law to have such cultural centers turned into military facilities.

Dr. Euraque objected to this decision and in an act of solidarity, his staff at the archive held a protest in support of his decision. In fact, the national archive even became a center of resistance shortly after the coup. Because of his ongoing resistance to the coup and the misuse of the national archive building, Dr. Euraque was removed from his job in September of 2009. All throughout this presentation, Dr. Euraque showed numerous examples of this process, with photos and documents, since he felt it was extremely important to document this time and in a sense create an personal archive of the consequences of the coup in Honduras.


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