Honduras Table of Contents
The non-Hispanic (nonladino) groups in Honduras consist of the Black Carib, the Miskito, the black population in the Islas de la Bahía, and a sizeable number of Arab immigrants. The Black Carib (also known as Garifuna in Belize and Guatemala) settled in the early 1800s in coastal villages along the Caribbean. Originally descendants of freed black slaves and native Carib from the island of Saint Vincent in the Caribbean, they arrived in Honduras when they were deported from Saint Vincent by the British in 1797 and resettled in the Islas de la Bahía off the coast of Honduras. From there, they moved to the mainland coast of northern Honduras. Their language, which they continue to speak, is a Carib-based creole. Their cultural practices are similar to those of the Black Carib who live in Belize and Guatemala.
The approximately 10,000 Miskito are a racially mixed population of indigenous, African, and European origin. Their language, still spoken by several thousand, is a creole based on Bahwika (in the Misumalpan family of languages), with contributions from West African languages as well as Spanish, English, and German. Spain's failure to conquer and colonize the eastern Caribbean lowlands of Central America made this area attractive to English-speaking buccaneers, traders, woodcutters, and planters during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. This remote area also became a refuge for black slaves and freed slaves. In the northern coasts of Honduras and Nicaragua, unions of indigenous people and the African and British immigrants produced a racially mixed group known as Miskito, who have a predominantly indigenous language and culture. Miskito settlements are situated near the Laguna de Caratasca and the banks of the Río Patuca in northeasternmost Honduras and are an extension of the larger Miskito communities in eastern Nicaragua. When the Nicaraguan Miskito population near the Río Coco was uprooted by the Nicaraguan government for security reasons in the early 1980s, many Nicaraguan Miskito migrated to Honduras.
Interestingly, although the Miskito and Black Carib peoples have similar racial origins, the Miskito are generally considered by Hondurans to be indigenous people, whereas the Black Carib are generally considered to be black. This difference in ethnic identification is probably a reflection of the different cultures of the two groups; Black Carib culture retains more African elements in its folklore, religion, and music than does the culture of the Miskito.
The Miskito and Black Carib peoples have traditionally been economically self-sufficient through subsistence agriculture and fishing. In the early 1990s, the men, however, were often forced to seek supplementary income by working outside their own regions. Thus, Miskito and Black Carib men often spend long periods separated from their families.
The population of the Islas de la Bahía is a black or mixed white-black population. The inhabitants are descendants of Englishspeaking whites and of blacks who came from Belize and the Cayman Islands during the middle of the nineteenth century. This population speaks mostly creole or Caribbean English, and their traditions are distinctly West Indian.
Another distinct ethnic group is the thriving Arab community. Arab immigrants from the Middle East (especially Palestine and Lebanon) began arriving in Honduras during the early part of the twentieth century. Because they held passports issued by the Ottoman Empire, they came to be called turcos in Honduras. This community retains many of its traditions and continues to be perceived as culturally distinct, although this distinctiveness is becoming blurred through increased intermarriages with other groups. Economically, the Arab community prospered first as merchants in the area of the banana plantations on the Caribbean coast. Following their success, many moved to the larger cities, where they became powerful economically, especially in manufacturing and commerce.
Data as of December 1993
Honduras Table of Contents