The Tolupanes, a group of indigenous people who live in central Honduras, survive in extreme poverty while waiting for assistance from the government. Despite their proximity to cities such as Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula, the Tolupanes see very little progress. Many live without electricity, health centers, or schools. They subsist on a traditional diet of maize and beans, but also harvest bananas, cassava, pumpkins and coffee. They also eat freshwater mussels.
Their native language is threatened, even while elder members of the group try to teach their children their language and customs. According to some scholars, the Tolupán culture is very different from that of other ethnic groups in the country, since they try to retain their traditional clothes and the mother tongue, although both are at risk of disappearing.
A report by the Fides news service note that In the Tolupán culture, women are pushed into the background and do simple arts and crafts work, such as necklaces made with seeds. The Tolupanes are known as being isolated and adverse to the surrounding Hispanic culture of Honduras. Hispanic Hondurans, who are known locally as Ladinos, are dominant in the area, having deprived the Tolupanes of their lands during the second half of the 18th century with the mediation of a Spanish religious. As reported by the mountain tribes of La Flor, hundreds of Tolupanes lost their lives during the conflict with the Ladinos for the land.
A spokesman for the Tolupanes, Marvin Moreno, told HispanTV last week that the Honduran government has "abandoned" the Tolupan ethnic group. Moreno also said that there are no "clear policies" on the part of the government to protect the Tolupanes in the area new their mountain home in La Flor. Tolupan children attend schools designed for Ladino children, said Moreno, thus hastening the disappearance of the native language of the Tolupan people.
Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.