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The Pesch of Honduras Face Uncertain Prospects

The line that ethnographers draw across Central America to mark the division between Mesoamerican Indians and those of South American and Caribbean origin passes right through the middle of the Republic of Honduras. In comparison with its neighboring Guatemala, only remnants of indigenous Indian culture survive in present-day Honduras; 90 percent or more of its population is Mestizo or Ladino.…

The Caribs of Dominica: Land Rights and Ethnic Consciousness

The last survivors of the once-powerful Carib people, the original inhabitants of most of the Lesser Antilles, now live on the two eastern Caribbean islands of Dominica and St. Vincent, and in Belize, Guyana, and Suriname. The Caribs' existence today, five centuries after the voyages of Christopher Columbus, is living testimony to their bold resolve to survive and to resist European colonial…

The Aluku and the Communes in French Guiana

The Aluku (also known as Boni) Maroons are just one of six ethnic groups, or "tribes," descended from African slaves who fled Surinamese plantations in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and successfully created their own societies in the forested interior (the other five groups are the Saramaka, Djuka, Paramaka, Matawai, and Kwinti).(1) The Aluku are distinguished from the others in that…

The 500,000 Invisible Indians of El Salvador

Any discussion of the Indians in El Salvador must first establish that they do in fact exist. A commonly held notion in the capital city, San Salvador, is that there are no longer any Indians in the country; foreigners are invariably told that indigenous culture has been abandoned, except for a few extremely threadbare and insignificant pockets in remote, rural areas. The general sense among…

Miskito and Sumo Refugees: Caught in Conflict in Honduras

Since 1981, the conflicts between the Sandinista government and the indigenous peoples of Nicaragua's Atlantic Coast have captured intentional attention. The indigenous peoples of Nicaragua (the Miskito, Sumo, and Rama) - and especially those who have fled as refugees into Honduras - are caught in the middle of complex national and international power struggles within which they struggle for…

Mapping the Distribution of Indians in Central America

A reasonable first step in the study of Central American Indians is to identify and locate people of Amerindian heritage. Most attempts at mapping the distribution of Indians in Central America have been produced by anthropologists and based primarily on language, including those by Brinton (1891), Thomas and Swanton (1911), Lehmann (1920), Jiménez Moreno (1937), Mason (1940), Johnson (1940 and…

Language Rights on the Nicaraguan Atlantic Coast

Much has been written in recent years on the Miskitu people of the Caribbean coast of Honduras and Nicaragua, the area commonly referred to as the Atlantic Coast. The Miskitu (or Miskito), with at least 70,000 members in Nicaragua, are the largest Indian group in the region; they have been the most prominent in the efforts to articulate and secure cultural, linguistic, economic, territorial, and…

Introduction - 13.3

All of Central America today is in sorry shape, each country in its own fashion. Guatemala, currently making a tentative and not altogether convincing transition from military to civilian rule, remains as tense as a coiled snake. El Salvador is mired in a seemingly endless civil war that has brought internal chaos and economic depression. Nicaragua is trying to stay above water while fending off…

Indians in Cuba

Punta Maisi, Cuba The old Indian woman, a descendant of Cuba's Taino-Arawak people, bent over and touched the leaves of a small tree. Her open-palmed hand lifted the round, green leaves in a light handshake. "These are good for inflammations of the ovaries," she said. "I gave them to all my young women." "She knows a lot," her daughter, Marta, said. "She doesn't need a pharmacy. You have…

Indian Institutes in Argentina: From Paternalism to Autonomy

The situation of indigenous peoples in Argentina has attracted far less attention than that of Indians in Brazil, the other South American colossus where indigenous peoples are a tiny minority of the population. By the end of the nineteenth century, Argentine Indians were surrounded by and at least partially incorporated into the larger economy. In contrast with Brazil, Argentina's Indians today…

In Eastern Panama, Land Is the Key to Survival

The Kuna and Emberá people are Indian groups living in the Bayano region of eastern Panama. After the Bayano Hydroelectric Complex was constructed in 1976, they were forced to resettle. Recent events have imperiled what little access to land both groups have today. The Bayano region, which begins at the town of Cañitas (80 km east of Panama City on the PanAmerican Highway) and extends to the…