Award Winning Garifuna Film “Garifuna in Peril” Now Available in DVD
By Wendy Griffin
There have been various efforts by Honduran filmmakers to make films and while several Honduran films have been made by now, including “Xendra” and the recently released “Cuentos y Leyendas de Honduras” most never made it to Honduran movie theaters, nor did they get international distribution. Thus the success in recent film festivals of the movie “Garifuna in Peril”, co-directed by Ali Allie, a US independent filmmaker and Ruben Reyes, a Honduran Garifuna resident in Los Angeles, is amazing to me. Garifuna in Peril is now available as a DVD and is for sale in various places including www.Amazon.com, www.garistore.com, and www.garifunainperil.com. The DVD has Spanish and English subtitles. For sales outside the US, Amazon has cheaper shipping rates.
After showing in 6 US film festivals and the Pan-African Film Festival in Cannes, France in April 2013, the film won 3 major awards. These include “Indie Spirit Special Recognition Award” at the Boston International Film Festival, “Best Narrative Feature” at the Arizona Film Festival in Tucson, Arizona and a Gold Remi Award for Docu-Drama at World Fest Houston. They also won “Audience Choice Award” in Italy. The film was shown in many places last spring and fall including Newark, NJ, New Haven, CN, New York City, Atlanta, and its premier in South America was at the Bogatá, Columbia Film Festival.
The Boston International Film Festival showing was particularly dramatic, because the first day of the Film Festival, all of Boston was shut down, the subway was closed down, and the city was under lock down as police looked house to house for the second bomber of the Boston Marathon. The first day of the Boston Film Festival had to be cancelled, but police captured the bomber in time for the second and other days of the Film Festival. Because the directors of the film were in Houston at the award ceremony for the Houston film festival, they were represented at the Boston Film Festival by New York Garifunas José Francisco Avila of Garifuna Coalition and Teófilo Colon of BeingGarifuna.com.
The Garifuna in Peril film which has 55% of its dialog in the Garifuna language, available with either Spanish or English subtitles, was filmed in both Los Angeles and on Honduras’s North Coast in Garifuna communities of Triunfo de la Cruz and La Ensenada, outside of Tela. This film’s release comes at a crucial time in Triunfo de la Cruz’s history as the Garífunas there have a human rights violation case in the Interamerican Human Rights Court in Costa Rica against the Honduran government. The oral arguments of the Garifunas were heard 20 May 2014, and the Honduran government did not present an oral argument. Both sides presented final written arguments 20 June 2014, and the case is currently under deliberation by the Court.
Most of the actors in Garifuna in Peril were Honduran and Belizean Garifunas, including the main character Ricardo, a Garifuna language teacher in Los Angeles, played by Ruben Reyes. Themes included in the film include the effects of immigration, tourism development in the traditional areas of Garifuna communities, love in the era of AIDS, Garifuna land rights related to collective vs. individual rights to sell land in Garifuna communities, Garifuna history, how problems in the family can cause health problems according to traditional Garifuna beliefs and traditional language loss among native peoples in their homelands and among immigrants.
Reactions to the film have generally been positive. One woman Marjorie Salisbury who saw the film at the Arizona film festival, said, “I had no idea about the Garifunas, even that they existed.” Another man said, “After I saw the film, I stayed up all night researching Garifunas on the Internet.” A Puerto Rican librarian who saw the film at the SALALM conference in Miami, Florida was amazed to learn that the history of the Garifunas, who are partly descended from Arawaks. The Tainos of Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic where also Arawak speakers. Blacks also mixed with the Arawak speaking Tainos on these islands. The editor of latinalista.com highlighted the movie in her online newspaper, saying, “This story of Blacks who refused to be slaves is a story most Hispanics have not heard”. Reviews have appeared in the Hispanic, Caribbean and African press,and the movie has shown at Latin American, African Diaspora or Black ,Human Rights, Belizean, and Garifuna film festivals.
The Garifunas developed from the mix of Africans with Arawak and Caribean Indians on the island of Saint Vincent north of Venezuela. They fought two wars against the British in the 18th century, the last part of which included the resistance led by Chief Satuye which is shown in the Garifuan in Peril movie. They were taken to the Island of Roatan, Bay Islands by the British in 1797 after being defeated, and from there they spread along the Caribbean Coast of Central America now living in Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, and Nicaragua.
Since the 1930’s there has been a strong current of immigration of Garifunas to the US including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Houston, Atlanta, and New Orleans. The first play in the US by a Black author was about the death of King Shotaway (Satuye) and is believed to have been written by a Garifuna from Saint Vincent in the early 19th century. The story of the defeat of Chief Satuye’s Garifuna forces on the Island of St. Vincent was included in the Garifuna in Peril movie as a play within a play, which was written by a member of the Los Angeles Garifuna Writer’s Group William (Bill) Flores, who also plays the director of the play in the movie. The Prime Minister of St. Vincent has written a letter to Great Britain asking for reparations for the attempted genocide of the Garifuna people of St. Vincent.
One film critic included Garifuna in Peril in her list of the Top 25 Foreign Films of 2013. Honduras has been highlighted as a country that often excludes Blacks and Indians from its image of the “nation”, but what does it say about the US and who is part of the American nation if a film made by actors, directors, musicians, producers, and writers from Los Angeles, California, and part of the filming is in Los Angeles, is considered a “foreign” film? The director of the play William Flores has an interesting conversation with a young Garifuna boy who is in the play about not just being American, but being Garifuna-American. There is now a Wikipedia article on Garifuna-Americans.
In response to interest for more information about the Garifunas, the directors added a page to their website www.garifunainperilmovie.com/garifuna with information about Garifunas, including my article Garifuna Immigrants invisible. This article emphasizes the roles of the Garifunas in Central American and US economies, their roles in World War I and II, in modern Central American governments, and in local, national and international organizations which fight for the rights of Blacks, Indians, and workers.
Also highlighted is the international recognition that Garifuna musicians and Garifuna music and dance have received and where to hear or order Garifuna music online. There are many website addresses for additional information about these topics in this article. Parts of the article are available in Spanish on the blogs www.historiahondurasindigena.blogspot .com and www.crisisderechoshumanoshonduras2015.blogspot.com.
Also new on the Garifuna in Peril website is that Ali Allie’s first film about the Garifunas El Espiritu de Mi Mama (The Spirit of my Mother) which shows a Los Angeles Garifuna woman going home to Honduras to do traditional ancestor ceremonies like the bath of a soul and a dugu for her mother is now available for sale directly on the website. This film is in Spanish with English subtitles and has drumming, dancing of religious dances which they seldom permit to be filmed or recorded, music, traditional Garifuna clothes and beautiful scenery, like the canoe ride to the village, which I believe is Plaplaya in the Honduran Mosquitia where many Garifuna leaders like Celeo Alvarez and Luis Green and the singer Aurelio Martinez are from. I liked the acting, especially the uncle in the traditional village. At $9 the video is very reasonably priced. Ali Allie had the DVD of El Espiritu de Mi Mama redone in high definition form.
A summary of the Garifuna Immigrant Invisible article was presented at the SALALM (Seminar on the Acquisition of Latin American Materials) conference, the international organization of professional librarians who manage Latin American library collections in Miami in May 2013, (see www.salalm.org) where the Garifuna in Peril film was the opening film in the Film Festival there. The Librarians of US universities which teach Latin American studies obtained copies of the film, and a number of US universities such as Yale and Soka Universities have shown it in film festivals on campus since January 2013.
Many librarians also expressed interest in obtaining Garifuna music for their libraries’ Latin American music collections, after hearing the 19 pieces of Garifuna music in the Garifuna in Peril film at the SALALM conference. The US Native Americans and the Latin Americans who spoke at the2013 SALALM conference whose theme was “Indigenismo, Pan Indigenismo and Cosmovision” emphasized the importance of native language poetry, which is often part of indigenous language songs, music, dances, ceremonies, and which reflect the values and the oral history of the indigenous group. All of these themes are reflected in the Garifuna in Peril movie.
The first big showing of the movie Garifuna in Peril to Garifuna audiences after winning the awards was at the Second Annual Garifuna Film Festival in Los Angeles, California, organized in conjunction with the Garifuna Museum in Los Angeles. Following the well attended showings of Garifuna in Peril and several other Garifuna or Carib themed films, there was a gala event held in the evening with keynote speaker Belizean Garifuna linguist Roy Cayetano, reported Dr. Pam Munro, a UCLA linguist who has worked with the Los Angeles Garifunas for 20 years studying the language and who has produced a Garifuna book to learn Garifuna which she uses in a course on the Garifuna language at UCLA.
The film recently made its African premier at the Zanzibar International Film Festival in Zanzibar, Tanzania. Studies of Garifuna foods, musical instruments, and religious/healing ceremonies and those of Miskitos and Ladinos in Honduras support the idea that many Afro-Hondurans probably left East Africa as slaves through the port of Zanzibar through which the Portuguese, Dutch and Arabs at various times exported up to 50,000 African slaves a year. Evil spirits among the Garifunas are known as “mafia” and the Mafia islands are near Zanzibar.
The English and Dutch pirates who supplied some of Honduras’s slaves did not have licenses to buy from West African countries controlled by the British like the Gold Coast, now Ghana, and the Slave Coast, now Nigeria, so that forced them to buy either through the Portuguese, the Arabs or the Dutch further south or in East Africa where people who spoke Bantu languages predominated. Most of the African words found in Garifuna whose origin has been identified are in Bantu like ñadu, sleeping mat or traditional Garifuna mattress, or mutu, people both those living and dead. Marimba, a musical instrument like a wooden xylophone with chambers that are resonators below, and Mondongo (cow stomach or tripe used for soup) are examples of Bantu words in Honduran Spanish, while a typical East African food is called in Garifuna pluplumaña a porridge made from sliced dried bananas which are grated and pounded or ground to make flour. Bay Islanders call this food konkantee, a word now used in Ghana for a yucca flour porridge, but North Coast English speakers called dried banana flour porridge or corn porridge “pap”, the Afrikans word for porridge, especially corn porridge, in South Africa.
An example of a musical instrument, derived from a Bantu instrument, among the Miskitos and the Garifunas is the gut bucket, which is an upside down washtub with a stick beside it and a gut cord between the tub and the stick. This instrument is known as “tina” (metal washtub) in Spanish and “singi” (probably from sink in English) in Garifuna and was known among rural US Blacks and whites as well.
The Garifuna in Peril film was supposed to show in May 2013 in Honduran Garifuna communities, but there was some problem with the distribution deal and also the UNAH Honduras’s most important public university wanted a different date, so the showings in Honduras were postphoned but it was shown successfully last fall. So the first showing in Central America was at the Belizean Film Festival where it was shown on 13 July 2013 in Belize City in the afternoon and in Orange Walk Town in the evening, and several other places in Belize.
Like in Honduras, few Belizeans have had an opportunity to be film stars, so it was exciting for the Belizean Garifunas to see their friends, cousins and other family members in the film. To raise money for the Belize trip they arranged additional showings in Los Angeles as fund raisers in June 2013, reported Ali Allie.
World Premiere of the Spanish version of the Garifuna in Peril Film
Following the Belize Film Festival, they also showed the film in Livingston, Guatemala which was the site of the World Premiere of the Spanish version of the film. Later Ruben Reyes returned to Central America to show the film in Honduras where it was well received by Garifunas, who sometimes did almost the impossible to make sure the film was shown in their communities like on Roatan, Bay Islands and San Pedro Sula, as described on BeingGarifuna.com.
The Garifuna in Peril film was invited to be shown as part of the Congress of Central American Linguists (ACALING) in Tegucigalpa at the UNAH at the end of August 2013 where there was also a book sale of books by Central American authors, including Honduran Indians, Garifunas and Bay islanders, a CD, video and craft sale by Honduran Indians and Garifunas. However, the co-director Ali Allie said they chose to wait until the fall to show the film in Honduras after a meeting between the UNAH president and co-director Ruben Reyes in Honduras. The UNAH in Tegucigalpa was the site of the movie’s premiere in Honduras.
US Garifunas Were At Last Included in Smithsonian’s Folklife Festival
By Wendy Griffin
The National Museums of the United States are known collectively as the Smithsonian. These Museums include the Museum of Natural History, the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), among others. Every year in early July the Smithsonian organizes a large festival celebrating the many cultures which make up the United States, called the Folklife Festival. Within the Smithsonian, there are different initiatives or programs which have projects in the communities and through these, the organizers of the Folklife Festival become aware of groups in the community that might be interesting to bring to the Folklife Festival.
One such program is the Smithsonian’s Latino Center, headed by Eduardo Diaz. This Latino Center, in conjunction with the National Museum of the American Indian, was responsible for organizing the new Central American Ceramics exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian which is right on the Mall in the Center of Washington, DC. This exhibit will be open through February 2015. In the exhibit, they mention the presence of the Garifunas in Belize, Honduras and Nicaragua and they invited Belizean Garifuna James Lovell, a Garifuna language teacher, filmmaker, and singer in New York, to be part of the International symposium in September 2013 organized in conjunction with this exhibit.
The Smithsonian’s Latino Center is already working on their next exhibit which will be on the Peoples of the Caribbean, according to their website. This exhibit will have to include the Garifunas, as they make the majority of the crafts previously made by the Caribbean Arawak and Carib Indians, as well as speak a language that is the best preserved example of Island Arawak. There are no more unmixed Caribs and Arawaks in the Caribbean due to the genocide of most of them after the conquest of the Caribbean islands by Spain, France, England, and Holland.
So, partially as a part of this exhibit, and partly as part of another initiative called Recovering Voices, a project to permit Indians who still speak their language to know the collections at the Smithsonian and talk about them in their native languages, the Los Angeles and New York Garifunas were invited to be part of the Folklife Festival this year, reported Ranald Woodaman of the Smithsonian’s Latino Center.
One of the participants in the 2013 Folklife Festival, whose theme that year was Endangered Languages, was Honduran Garifuna Ruben Reyes, the co-director , writer, and main character of the film “Garifuna in Peril”, now a resident in Los Angeles, reported Ali Allie, who is also a co-director of the film. New York Garífunas like James Lovell were also invited.
James Lovell, who has been featured on National Public Radio (NPR) for his work teaching Garifuna in New York City, works with linguist Dr. Daniel Kaufman and the Endangered Languages Alliance there. The Garifunas in New York are beginning to draw attention of the media having been included in a section of CNN on the Bronx where approximately 100,000 Garifunas live, and also in a Wall Street Journal article as one of the groups changing Harlem in New York City.
Partly because of a general financial crisis in the US, the showing of the film Garifuna in Peril, was not formally part of the Folklife Festival. But the directors of Garifuna in Peril have been accepted as part of a network known as TUGG which can provide showings of movies on demand in local theaters. If a group can promise that they can sell 70 tickets, arrangements are made to show the film in a commercial movie theater in that town (see www.TUGG.com.)
The first two TUGG showings they organized were in Miami, Florida and one included Garifuna dances by Miami Garifunas. Successful TUGG showings were also done in Atlanta, Georgia where the movie also showed at the Bronze Lens Film Festival. This Festival tries to be the premier venue for African Americans trying to get into the film making industry. The Garifuna in Peril movie has played at Latin American film festivals, at Black or African Diaspora film festivals, Belizean, and Garifuna film festivals.
The Smithsonian has millions of objects in its collections including thousands of pieces of archaeology of the North Coast and Bay islands of Honduras, including from the Ciudad Blanca or White city area, and ethnological pieces like Tawahka crafts from the 1930’s. The Smithsonian’s Folkway Records also has many sound recordings from Latin America, including 2 CD’s of religious or ceremonial Garifuna music recorded in Belize in the 1980’s and one of the first commercial recordings of other types of Garifuna music, done in Honduras in the 1950’s with notes by noted anthropologist and archaeologist Doris Zemurray Stone, daughter of the Cuyamel Fruit and later United Fruit president Samuel Zemurray.
The Smithsonian is interested in expanding its collection of ethnological pieces made by modern Honduran Indians and Garifunas, reported Dr. William Merrill, the Latin American Ethnographer for the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History and a member of the Recovering Voices project. The Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History has bought no Honduran Indian or Garifuna crafts in the last 60 years, except for the modern Lenca vase in the Central American Ceramics exhibit which is at the National Museum of the American Indian.
According to Dr. Merrill, the Museum of Natural History received a $10 million donation from a Columbian citizen, of which $4 million is to be used as an endowment to help support the Recovering Voices project. This endowment is being used to pay the salary of a linguist, Dr. Ruth Rouvier, who has experience working with Miskitos and Mayagna or Sumus or Nicaragua. Dr. Rouvier attended the Central American Linguists Congress in Tegucigalpa in August to talk to Honduran Indians and Garifunas and the Central American linguists who work with them about this program.
These programs of the Smithsonian open several different types of opportunities for Hondurans. One possibility is to sell Honduran Indian and Garifuna crafts, books, CD’s and videos in conjunction with the exhibit on Central American archaeology and the next one on Peoples of the Caribbean. One way to do these sales would be through the gift shop of the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI). The NMAI gift shop has two locations—one in the Washington, DC museum and one in the old Heye Foundation building near Battery Park in New York City. The application to submit a proposal to sell in the giftshop is available on the NMAI New York website. There is one proposal for both giftshops.
The other possibility is to organize what Hondurans call “expo-ventas” in conjunction with the events. These are short events, often only an afternoon, in which Honduran Indian crafts, books, CD’s, and videos are displayed and sold. The Smithsonian already is planning certain public events related to the Central American Archaeology Exhibit, such as the inclusion of the Garifunas in the Folklife Festival in July 2013 and a Central American Family Day around 15 September, Central American and Mexican Independence Day, which would be good events to organize “expo-ventas” for, to take advantage that a lot of people are outside and attending the events.
It is also possible to organize “expo-ventas” specifically related to talks about Honduran Indians or Garifunas or Garifuna dance presentations or poetry readings by Garifuna poets or painting exhibition of Garifuna and Honduran Indian painters which could be presented at the Smithsonian, including in their New York City facility, in connection with these exhibits. For example, one possibility is to show the video about the Ciudad Blanca, and have talks by people who have been there like Wall Street Journal editor and writer Chris Stewart, author of the new book Jungleland, and people who could analyze the archaeology there in relation to the Central American exhibit at the Smithsonian, and have at the same time a craft and other cultural things sale at the event.
Presentations of Garifuna dances are always popular, but up until now after the dances the Garifuna dance groups have generally not had anything for sale like CD’s, videos, books, calendars, Honduran crafts, coconut candies, or batana shampoo, that people could buy and take home with them, and which would help the economy of the economically depressed villages back home.
Ali Allie is exploring possibilities of combining showings of the Garifuna in Peril movie at universities and churches in conjunction with the Honduran Indian and Garifuna Craft project sales and talks by people knowledgeable about the Garifunas in the US . Information about academic presentations and licenses for showing the movie are on the movie’s website. Academic sales of the DVD during the pre-release sale, when special discounts were available, were good, reported Ali Allié. He has also been actively working to make Garifuna in Peril available through streaming video.
The US National Museum Smithsonian Institute Interested in Traditional Indigenous Knowledge
The US National Museum Smithsonian Institute Interested in Traditional Indigenous Knowledge
By Wendy Griffin
Other initiatives of the Smithsonian, the National Museum of the United States, that could include Honduran Indians and Garifunas are projects related to Traditional ecological knowledge (TEK). The Encyclopedia of Life of the Smithsonian is studying traditional indigenous knowledge of the environment.
Doug Herman, Senior Geographer at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, is working on an Indigenous Geography website, which they hoped to have up November 2013. These Smithsonian programs are working with Penn State University, which has the Interinstitutional Consortium for Indigenous Knowledge (ICEK) and the Marjorie Grant Whiting Endowment for the Enhancement of Indigenous Knowledge and is part of an international Network related to Indigenous Knowledge, according to Helen Sheehy, librarian at Penn State, in her presentation at the Salalm conference in May 2013. See the ICEK website www.icik.psu.edu.
The Under Secretary of Science of the United States Eva Pell left Penn State University to go to work in this position with the federal government and is working to encourage cooperation between the Smithsonian’s research programs and the Indigenous Knowledge network. At Penn State’s library is the Center for Indigenous Knowledge and Rural Development (CIKARD). This center includes information for example on Rainforest and on Traditional Agriculture. Penn State’s Agriculture Department is involved with the Traditional Indigenous Knowledge Network which has a list serve and a possibility of seeing seminars related to the Network on the Internet.
This could be an exciting collaboration between Honduras’s new Intercultural Agriculture training programs at the National Agricultural University (UNA) in Catacamas, Olancho which is planning to open branch campuses in the Lenca area in Marcala, La Paz, in the Garifuna area in Santa Fe, Colon west of Trujillo, and in Puerto Lempira, in the Mosquitia. The Intercultural Agriculture program at the UNA is partially sponsored by the new Honduran Secretaria de Pueblos Indigenas y Afro-Hondureños (Ministry of Indian Peoples and Afro-Hondurans) and the Honduran Ministry of Agriculture and Ranching (SAG), reported Ms. Sabio a Honduran Garifuna Chemistry professor there. CURLA, the Honduran public university in La Ceiba, is also helping with the studies of traditional Garifuna agriculture, including medicinal plants in the area of Santa Fe, reported John Moran, History Professor at CURLA.
The Garifuna mayor of Santa Fe Engineer Noel Ruiz is an agronomist who was active for many years with FUCAGUA, the environmental NGO in the Trujillo, and with Garifuna Emergency Committee of Honduras (CEGAH) and was instrumental in getting these new programs in Santa Fe. The Garifuna Emergency Committee’s programs of incorporating reforestation of traditional Garifuna plants like root crops, craft plants, palms and trees used in construction, crafts, and foods, and medicinal plants, with development projects like classes to make Garifuna crafts, starting a market in Trujillo, small business projects, organic agriculture, breakfast feeding program with traditional Garifuna foods, preparing materials for intercultural education won prizes internationally for best practices development such as semi-finalist of the UNDP Equator prize for the best practices of protecting the environment while fostering development, the Asoka prize for best practices for recovering after a disaster, and featured on the “Best practices” section of Huairou’s website. Huairou is an international group of NGO’s that work with women.
Noel Ruiz was so popular as an agronomist that both taught modern agricultural techniques like seed banks and organic compost, as well as listened to traditional Garifuna agricultural practices like planting in a good moon, that he was elected as mayor of Santa Fe, Colon, currently the only Garifuna mayor in Honduras. He was reelected to that position in the 2013 General Elections.
The experiences of the Garifuna Emergency Committee (CEGAH) in their development projects and attempts to record traditional information and use it to plan development project is in the book Los Garifunas de Honduras by Wendy Griffin and CEGAH. A copy of that book and similar studies with the Pech, a Honduran rainforest tribe, were donated to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian Vine Deloria Jr. Library to help facilitate this cooperation between the Smithsonian and the Honduran Indians and Garifunas. Discussions have been started with the Penn State library to also make these materials available to the people in the traditional Indigenous Knowledge Network. Similar discussions have started with the programs at CURLA and through the Honduran Secretary of Honduran Indians and Afro-Hondurans with the UNA’s Intercultural Agriculture program.
The Smithsonian also has internships for community members and graduate students to go and work for a few months at the Smithsonian under the Smithsonian’s noted anthropologists, archaeologists, and museum specialists to learn about these fields and to study the Smithsonian’s collection in relation to their ethnic group or country. There are special internships for Indians, including Latin American Indians, and Latinos (Spanish speakers). The Smithsonian’s Museum of the American Indian has a special office to work with Latin American Indians. The head of this office is Ramiro Matos.
The Smithsonian Institute has an extensive website, plus each division often has its own website like www.Americanindian.si.edu for the National Museum of the American Indian and www.latino.si.edu for the Smithsonian’s Latino Center. Unfortunately all Smithsonian websites are in English, even the parts that specifically deal with Latinos or Latin American Indians, except the part on the exhibit on Central American Ceramics which is bilingual Spanish/English. This part of the website has the beautifully illustrated catalog of the exhibit available for download for free. Both the Lencas and the Mayas of Copan are featured in this exhibit.
The Smithsonian is working on making its extensive collections available on the Internet. The current portal for the collections I do not find easy to use and it is all in English. The Smithsonian is actively working with Wikipedia’s GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) program, reported Leigh Thelmadatter, the Wikipedia Volunteer Ambassador in Mexico. Wikipedia is very active in making information available in different languages, not only major national languages like Spanish, but even indigenous languages like Guarani or Nahuatl.
This cooperation between the Smithsonian and Wikipedia might help ease some of the language problems associated with the English only Smithsonian website.
While many academics do not view Wikipedia in a particularly good light to do academic research, many other professional researchers like William Merrill, Latin American Ethnographer of the Smithsonian’s National History Museum, and myself, find it a very useful place to begin. Wikipedia has sponsored a number of really interesting Wikiprojects like African foods as part of a Wikiproject Africa and Indigenous Languages of the Americas that provide information not available in Honduras any other way. According to Leigh Thelmadatter, about 80% of research now done starts by looking at Wikipedia, even if the students and professors do not cite it.
As an example of its use in Honduras, the new book by the Honduran Institute of Anthropology and History (IHAH ), the highest authority in Honduras for culture, history and anthropology, on African slaves in Honduras in the sixteenth century, Minería Aurifera, Esclavos negros, y Relaciones Interetnicas en el siglo 16, by Honduran Pastor Gomez, there are Wikipedia maps of the African kingdoms that some of the Honduran slaves came from like Mali, the Songhay, and the Congo. Where else in Honduras would you find these historical maps of African kingdoms besides on Wikipedia?
For the Smithsonian Exhibit on Central American Ceramics, which was done specifically to interest Salvadorans of the Washington, DC area to come to the Museum, the Smithsonian planned to add the links from their website about the exhibit to the mitologia pipil (Pipil Mythology) and Señorio de Cuscatlan (The State of Cuscatln, the Pipil state in Western El Salvador at the time of Spanish conquest) articles in Wikipedia in Spanish which show in detail the culture of the Pipils and the influence of the Nahua speaking Pipils in all of Central America including Honduras at the time of Conquest. So I am excited about the possibilities of Wikipedia to facilitate the transfer of information from centers where the information is stored or generated, like the Smithsonian, to Honduran students and researchers, and the Indians and Garifunas themselves. Information in Spanish on websites related to Honduran history and culture will be part of the Internet for Hondurans project on www.historiahondurasindigena.blogspot.com which will rebegin in January 2015.
Besides the basic Wikipedia program, there are other Wikipedia programs that could facilitate the flow of information between the US and the Honduran Indians and investigators, such as Wikimedia Commons which has data files including voices recordings and photos, and Wikispecies. One of the big problems both between Honduran Spanish and Spanish in other countries, and between indigenous languages is to know what species that this name refers to. For example almost every one in Honduras, knows zacate means grass and yuca is an edible root crop used to make cassava bread, hule is rubber, and quequeo is a collared peccary, but these are not the names for these things in South American Spanish, or in Pech, Garifuna, Miskito or Bay islands English.
Having the local names for different plants and animals often shows interesting relationships like the word banana comes from African languages meaning food or that zacate, hule and jicaro in Honduran Spanish are derived from the Nahua languages spoken also in Mexico and El Salvador.
According to Guadelupe Armijo, the librarian at IHAH’s library in Tegucigalpa, and what I see here in Internet cafes in Trujillo, at least Honduran elementary and secondary students are often actively encouraged by their teachers to consult Wikipedia as part of homework assignments. In fact, given the small number of books available in Honduran public or school libraries, what is available on the Internet at the cost of $1 an hour in an Internet Café or $15 a month with a Tigo modem far exceeds what is available from any library in Honduras, and is available to every ethnic group in Honduras, even the Tawahkas in the middle of the rainforest of the Mosquitia, so I think that it will be a powerful tool of exchanges of information between Central Americans, the Indians and Garifunas, and the US centers of research like the Smithsonian and to Mexican research about Honduran Indians that originated there. It also links Honduras to areas about which it was previously impossible in Honduras to get information about, like the connections between Garifunas and Black English speakers in Honduras with Afro-Caribbean cultures and the cultures of Africa.
Some people have been active in trying to reactivate Wikiproyecto Honduras, which now has about 20 members up from six. The Wikipedia Foundation provided funding for Leigh Thelmadatter, the Volunteer Ambassador in Mexico to come from Mexico City to do training in Honduras with members of the National Network of Local Historians and with university professors, Indians, librarians and researchers, in conjunction with the Central American Linguist Conference in Tegucigalpa in August 2013. The librarian portion of the training had to be cancelled because the training was scheduled in the UNAH’s Facultad de Medicina’s library behind Hospital Escuela, but the nurses were on strike related to not being paid and the gates were locked because the grounds had been taken over by the strikers.
Currently Wikipedia has no Outreach programs in Central America or in the Caribbean, such as Wikipedia in Education, Wikipedia Student groups, or GLAM, Wikipedia’s project with Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums, or Wikiproyectos dealing with the different Central American countries. More information on how to get involved will be covered in later articles and are also in Spanish on the blog www.historiahondurasindigena.blogspot.com.