Tegucigalpa

Today we landed in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. It’s such a beautiful city. We could see that the city is surrounded by mountains as we were flying over. It seemed like the city came out of nowhere. It would make sense that Tegucigalpa is surrounded by mountains because it is a mining town, but I honestly wasn’t expecting it to look like an inland oasis. From above I saw this huge soccer stadium. I was hoping we could catch a game, but of course first we had do the tourist thing, so we went to the city.

I’ve never been to Honduras before, but I must say, Tegucigalpa kind of looks like my hometown. There was a Burger King, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, advertisements for Coca-Cola, and a sign telling us the total jackpot for the lottery. It’s funny to see all of this in a foreign country. I read somewhere that the city didn’t start building structures over two stories tall until the 1980’s and now all of a sudden it’s a modernized city!

Tegucigalpa Image Collage

When we got to the museum, which used to be the Presidential Palace, I noticed the crowd of people start to pick up. It seemed like all 1.3 million Tegucigalpans decided to come to one place. I was thinking to myself, “Seriously, guys, you can come see this stuff anytime you want. Why do you wait until I’m here to want to come out?” I mean, there were soooooo many people and no elbow room. Finally, I had to stop and ask someone what was going on. The man told me that it was a holiday, so many people had come to see the Virgen de Suyapa in the Basilica. That was a new one to me, so I asked him who she was. He said it’s a two-inch statue of the Virgin Mary that performs miracles. Miracles? I guess he saw my puzzled look, so he told me the story of two little boys who fell asleep in a cornfield. One boy woke up because he felt something like a rock under his back. He saw it was small and threw it as far as he could. A little while later he felt it again. He looked down and saw it was the same thing as before. Finally, he put it in his pocket and went back to sleep. The next day, in the daylight, he saw it was a tiny statue of the Virgin Mary, so he took it home and put it on his mother’s prayer altar. From then on, the statue started performing miracles.

virgendesuyapa

I have to admit, this was a little farfetched for me, so I went to the Basilica to see the statue. Of course I had to wait for a bajillion other people to go before me, but it was true, there was a tiny, two-inch statue that had drawn all this attention. It was placed in an enormous, gold and glass case that was beautiful to look at while I waited though! The devotion of the people in the church was very inspiring, and many people were lighting candles and singing while they waited for the next service to start. I couldn’t stay, though…it was just too hot! I bought three bags of water (yes, BAGS of water, not bottles!) from a local vendor, and I gave one away to a little kid who was waiting outside with his baby sister and a dog. What a long day for such a tiny statue!

Activities:

  1. What is the story of the Virgen de Suyapa?
  2. Go to Google Maps (https://www.google.es/maps) and find Tegucigalpa. Describe where it is located and how the geography of the city might affect the lifestyle of its inhabitants.
  3. ¡A escribir! Look at the pictures of Tegucigalpa. How is it similar and different from your hometown?
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Joya de Cerén

We’re on a side trip to El Salvador for the weekend. This morning my mom woke me up and told me to get dressed because we were going to see the joyas de Cerén. I was super excited because I needed some new jewelry, and I really wanted to buy some gifts for my friends back home.

It didn’t take me long to get ready. We all loaded into an air-conditioned bus and took off. We passed by market after market, and I couldn’t help but wonder why we didn’t just stop already. Finally, we pulled into a parking lot and I saw the sign that said “Parque Arqueológico de Joya de Cerén.” Whoops! I tapped my mother and kindly told her that she needed to practice her Spanish a lot more. I had to explain to her that joyas are jewelry and joya is jewel. She had said we were going to look at Cerén jewelry when she really meant the Jewel of Cerén, which is an archaeological site. This is a common mistake, but it was enough to confuse me.

On this trip, mom and I opted not to take the guided tour. Instead, we read the signs as we passed them. I learned that Cerén is a small town located near a volcano named Loma Caldera and was famous for its rich farmland. In 590 AD the town was evacuated because the volcano was going to erupt. Little did the people living there know that their homes would not be unearthed until 1976. They were soooo lucky that day because archeologists have not found the remains of any humans, which means that everyone got out safely.

joyadecerenbymario-robertodurano
The coolest part of the site was that this place was covered by fourteen layers of ash and was completely preserved. We passed by Andy and Janet’s tour group. They told us that when archeologists first uncovered the site, it was so well preserved that there was still uneaten food in the bowls, perfectly intact. How beautiful and gross at the same time. It’s so cool to get such a keen insight into how the people lived, but would 2500-year-old food smell bad?
We tried to hit all seventy of the buildings that had been uncovered in the site but it was too hot. I went through four bottles of water! Where’s the prehistoric bathroom?!?!
It was a pretty awesome experience. I’d like to go there again after they uncover some more of the town. Bonus: I was able to grab some jewelry at the air-conditioned gift shop. So I got my joyas and mom saw her joya.

Activities:

  1. Why is the writer of the post confused when her mother tells her they are going to see the joyas de Cerén?
  2. What happened in Cerén in 590 AD?
  3. Take a look at the gallery of pictures from Cerén: https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/675/gallery/
  4. Are there any historical sites like this in the US?
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El Güegüense o Macho Ratón

Have you ever been to a masquerade ball or a costume party where everyone’s face is covered and you don’t know who’s who? That’s what it’s like on some days at the Festival of San Sebastián in Diriamba, Nicaragua. It takes place every January 17th to the 27th. People take to the streets to celebrate Saint Sebastian, the city’s patron saint, and to watch a theatrical reenactment of Nicaragua’s first literary work, El Güegüense o Macho Ratón. All of the colors are vibrant and the people are very friendly.

I felt bad because I didn’t have a mask on but I soon forgot about it. First, these three indigenous-looking men came down the street playing small, woodwind instruments. They were followed by a little boy playing a wooden drum. I think the little boy could have been one man’s son because they looked alike. The small band contained the only people that were unmasked. Then around 20 men in horse masks with brightly colored manes came galloping down the street in neat rows with no shoes on. Barefoot on the street! Behind the horses were around 20 men in colonial Spanish dress and Christopher Columbus-style masks. They danced around each other for a few minutes, then around 20 of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen came through the rows of holding their gorgeous fan dresses. It was definitely telling a story, and thankfully I knew what the story was.

gueguense-diriamba
I did my homework before we came to the festival: El Güeguense or Macho Ratón is a story that was originally told in Nahuatl. It’s like pioneer stories of the United States that were told orally, then written down generations later. This story, however, is not a happy one. It all started when the Spanish conquistadors came to Diriamba. They asked to speak to the indigenous leaders, who agreed to a meeting. During the meeting the conquistadors told the people of Diriamba to surrender to their rule. The leaders went back to think about it and ultimately declined, at which time they boldly attacked the Spaniards. Pretty brave, huh? This led to a revolt, in which the Spaniards proved too powerful for people of Diriamba. Unfortunately, many of the indigenous population were killed and the survivors were forced to live under corrupt Spanish rule.

A short time later, an anonymous writer created a theatrical play called El Güeguense or Macho Ratón, mocking the Spanish rulers’ style of oppression and greed following their victory over the people of Diriamba. It was passed orally though the generations until one day in 1942 it was written down and published in a book.

So every year, during the Festival of San Sebastián, people dance to the same beat and portray this time of oppression for the people of Diriamba. It seems sad to think about, but the people are celebrating. They’re celebrating the bravery of their ancestors, celebrating Nicaragua’s first literary works, and the advancements the people have made since that dark time in history. I was glad I was able to celebrate with them.

Activities:

  1. Go to Google Maps (https://www.google.es/maps) and find Diriamba. Describe where in Nicaragua it is located. Zoom in to see the satellite image and some of the photos that were taken around the town. What can you infer about this town?
  2. What is the sad story behind El Güeguense or Macho Ratón?
  3. Do you know any US celebrations that pay homage to a historical event? Name a few.
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