While Honduras has often been overshadowed by the impressive arts emerging from neighboring countries, the country's vibrant and diverse population has a number of achievements in the fine arts. The country has been blessed with many gifted writers, including journalist Rafael Heliodoro Valle, poet Juan Ramón Molina, and novelist Ramón Amaya Amador. The very first novel published by a Honduran was by a female. Lucila Gamero de Medina, born in Danlí, wrote Blanco Olmedo in 1903, which was followed by several other novels, such as Amalia Montiel.
As Honduras became a center of banana production and the number of textile factories increased, so did the journalistic attempts at exposing them. Banana Cultures: Agriculture, Consumption, and Environmental Change in Honduras and the United States (University of Texas Press, 2006), by John Soluri, covers the history and growth of Honduras's banana industry along with the consumer mass market in the United States, while Ramón Amaya Amador's novel Prisión Verde (Editorial Baktun, 1983) gives an unsettling account of life on a banana plantation through the eyes of a worker. Peter Chapman's Bananas! How The United Fruit Company Shaped the World (Canongate U.S., 2008) details how United Fruit set the precedent for the institutionalized power and the company's influence in shaping several Latin American nations.
Several well-known writers from abroad have also found comfort here. William Sydney Porter, aka O. Henry, spent a year or so in Trujillo and Roatán while escaping embezzlement charges in the U.S. The influence of his time in Honduras was seen by coining the term "Banana Republic" and writing Cabbages and Kings (Doubleday, 1904), a collection of stories revolving around the fictitious Central American town of Coralio, Anchuria. The Mosquito Coast (Houghton Mifflin, 1982), the novel by Paul Theroux (later turned into a 1986 movie starring Harrison Ford, River Phoenix, and Helen Mirren), takes an egotistical inventor, Allie Fox, who is disgusted with American society, along with his wife and four children, from the United States to the north coast of Honduras. With a local family, they set up their own society in the jungle while battling Christian missionaries, guerillas, and the harsh environment of La Mosquitia. Peter Matthiessen's Far Tortuga (Vintage, 1988) follows a group of turtle hunters from Roatán to the waters neighboring the Mosquito Coast of Honduras and Nicaragua. Poetic and by no means a traditional novel, the story is highly recommended.
Having hosted countless adventurers, Honduras has provided a backdrop for a plethora of excellent travelogues. Theodore Morde, who possibly had ties to the CIA and claimed to have found a lost city in La Mosquitia, wrote the somewhat strange travelogue Lost City of the Monkey God. In Roatán Odyssey (Patricia J. Mills, 2007), Anne Jennings Brown details her life as she moved to Roatán with her then husband, the adventurer Howard Jennings, who eventually attempts to kill her in the jungles of Ecuador while searching for Inca gold.
Cultural insights into the history and people of the country have been told through a number of interesting books. Medea Benjamin's Don't Be Afraid, Gringo: A Honduran Woman Speaks From the Heart: The Story of Elvia Alvarado (Harper Perennial, 1989) is the story of a poverty-stricken peasant in rural Honduras that's a favorite read of many volunteers and Peace Corps workers. And the Sea Shall Hide Them (Nightengale Press, 2005) by Utila-born author William Jackson, recounts the tale of the murders of 10 crew members aboard the ship Olympia as it made its way from East Harbour to Roatán in 1905. Enrique's Journey (Random House, 2006), by Sonia Nazario, details the true story of a 16-year-old Honduran boy who goes to find his mother, who left him to live in the United States. It's a gripping account of the immigrant experience in Central America and there's even talk of turning it into an HBO series.
For those looking to get more in-depth information on the Maya civilization, there are several excellent options. Older but still relevant, John Louis Stevenson's Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan (Volumes I and II), first published in 1841, describes dozens of Mayan sites as they were being rediscovered, including Copán. The Maya (Thames and Hudson, 2005), by Michael D. Coe, is a good primer on the history of the civilization. A Forest of Kings: The Untold Story of the Ancient Maya (Harper Perennial, 1992), by David Freidel and Linda Schele, creates one of the most realistic accounts of what life was actually like in the Maya world. Maya Art and Architecture (Thames and Hudson, 1999), by Mary Ellen Miller, explores the aesthetic beauty in the pyramids and stelae throughout the Mayan world.
While there is yet to be a proper wildlife guide to Honduras, those wanting more background on the avian life in the country will want to pick up a copy of A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America, by Steve N. G. Howell and Sophie Webb (Oxford University Press, 1995). Adventures in Nature: Honduras (Avalon Travel Publishing, 1997), by Ron Mader and Jim Gollin, thoroughly details the protected areas of Honduras and the wildlife found within them.
Along the North Coast and Bay Islands, the Garífuna have won acclaim for their dance and music, particularly punta, or bangidy, an intense dance performed by pairs amid the beats of drums, maracas, and other instruments. Punta has probably caught on more on the international scene than any other form of Honduran music. Top albums include Aurelio Martinez's Garífuna Soul and the late Andy Palacios's critically acclaimed Wátina. Ceibeño Guillermo Anderson has a growing following on the world music circuit, as well. The musician fuses Honduran Garífuna rhythms, such as parranda and punta, with better-known reggae, salsa, and other Caribbean styles, and frequently sings about the protection of the natural environment. While musicians in both La Ceiba and San Pedro Sula are peddlers of Latin America's ever-present pop, rock, rap, reggae mix of reggaeton, none has particularly caught on outside of their local followings.
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