Honduras

Traditions and customs of Honduras

What traditions and customs are there in Honduras?

We delve into the customs and traditions of Honduras.

Gastronomy

Food in daily life

Beans and corn tortillas are the mainstays of the diet. The beans are usually fried, and the tortillas are small, thick, and usually handmade; Ideally, they should be eaten hot. A peasant’s lunch may be little more than a large stack of tortillas, a few tablespoons of beans, and a little salt.

The ideal meal includes fried plantains, white cheese, rice, fried meat, a kind of thick semi-sweet cream called butter, a scrambled egg, a coleslaw and tomato or a slice of avocado, and a cup of sweet coffee or a bottled soda..

These meals are served in restaurants and houses for breakfast, lunch and dinner throughout the year. Bananas and cassava are important foods in much of the country, especially in the north and the Mosquitia. Diners usually have a porch or a door open to the street.

Dogs, cats, and chickens roam the tables, and some people throw bones and other scraps at them. There are Chinese restaurants owned by recent immigrants. In the early 1990s, North American fast food restaurants became popular.

Food customs on ceremonial occasions

Special and Christmas foods are an upgraded version of typical food, but feature more meat and perhaps more emphasis on cream and fried plantains.

Christmas food includes torrejas, a white bread soaked in hot syrup, and nacatamales, which are like Mexican tamales, but larger and moister with a more gelatinous dough and wrapped in banana leaves.

Marriage

Marriage is based on the Western ideal of falling in love. There are few formal rules that prohibit marriage to people from different social backgrounds, although people tend to marry neighbors or people they know at school or work. Almost all people marry or live with someone and have children.

Starting a home is a financial struggle for most couples, so women’s income is appreciated. Divorce and remarriage are fairly common and slightly stigmatized.

Monogamy is the formal rule, although a middle-aged man who can afford it may set up a separate household with a younger woman. If found out by younger women, most wives find the idea repugnant and threatening to marriage.

Clothing

A firm handshake is the basic greeting, and people shake hands again when they part. If they chat some more after the last handshake, they shake hands again just as they leave.

Among educated people, when two women greet each other or when a man greets a woman, they join their right hands together and squeeze their cheeks or give a light kiss on the cheek. The peasants shake hands. Their handshakes tend to be soft.

Peasant women greeting a person they like may touch the other person’s left elbow, left shoulder, or right shoulder with their right hand (almost giving a hug), depending on how happy they are to see a person..

Men sometimes hug each other (firmly, quickly, and with pats on the back), especially if they haven’t seen each other for a while and are fond of each other. This is more common in cities.

Peasants are a bit more inhibited with body language, but city folk like to be close to the people they talk to and touch them occasionally while making a point of conversation. People can look strangers in the eye and smile at them. People are expected to greet other office workers as they pass through the hall, even if they have already been greeted earlier that day.

On country roads, people say goodbye to people they pass even if they don’t know each other. In crowded airports and other places where people have to wait in a long, slow line, some people push, shove, cut in front of others, walk around the line, and draw attention to themselves to be served first.

Religion

Religious beliefs

Almost all Hondurans believe in God and in Jesus Christ, although sometimes in a vague way. In a traditionally Catholic country, many people have joined the Protestant evangelical churches. People usually keep their religious beliefs to themselves, but Catholics may wear a crucifix or religious medal around their necks.

Many people have a sense of divine destiny. Accidental death is attributed to the will of God rather than an unfastened seat belt or other physical cause. The upper classes remain predominantly Catholic, while many of the urban poor are now Evangelical.

Newspapers tell stories of witchcraft, writing about people who were sick until a witch doctor sucked a toad or a piece of glass from their bodies.

Religious professionals

The Catholic Church is the national religion, as established by the Constitution. However, the liberal reforms of the 1820s led to the confiscation of Church property, the closure of the seminary, and a great decline in the number and morale of the Catholic clergy.

In the 1960s, the mass was heard regularly only in the big cities. At this time, foreign clergy, including French Canadians, began to revitalize the Honduran Church. Many priests supported peasant movements in the 1970s, and some were killed by the military.

In the 1980s, the bishops were strong enough to play a key role in resisting pressure from the United States for Honduras to go to war with Nicaragua. Various Protestant churches have been active in Honduras since the early 20th century, especially since the 1970s, and have gained many converts.

Evangelical clergy are informal lay clergy for the most part, and small Pentecostal chapels are common in villages and in the poorest neighborhoods of cities.

Rituals and sacred places

Most Catholics go to church only on special occasions, like Christmas and funerals. Evangelicals may go to a small chapel, often a wooden shack or room in a house, for prayer meetings and Bible readings every night. These can be important havens against the pressure of being impoverished in a big city.

There is a minor ritual called crossing the milpa that is practiced in the department of El Paraíso, in which a magico-religious specialist, especially one who is a twin, eliminates a potentially devastating maize pest, such as an inchworm or a caterpillar.

The specialist recites the Lord’s Prayer while sprinkling holy water and walking from one corner of the cornfield to another in the shape of a cross. This person makes small crosses from corn husks or caterpillars and buries them at four points in the field.

Death and the afterlife

Beliefs about life after death are similar to those of the Western tradition in general. An additional element is the concept of the hejillo, a kind of mystical contagion that comes from a dead human body, whether the death was caused by age, disease or violence. People who must touch the body should carefully wash themselves as soon as possible to purify themselves.

Secular celebrations

Independence Day is celebrated on September 15, with patriotic marches and speeches. Labor Day, celebrated on May 1, includes worker marches. During Holy Week (the week before Easter), all who can go to the beach or a river for picnics and parties.

On the Day of the Cross in May in the countryside, people decorate small wooden crosses with flowers and colored paper and place them in front of their houses in anticipation of the start of the rainy season. Christmas and New Year are celebrated with gifts, festive meals, dances and fireworks.

The arts and humanities

Arts support

Some works of art receive public support through the Ministry of Culture, as well as through the sale of tickets, CDs, etc. Some artists also have day jobs.

Literature

There is a modest tradition of serious literary fiction. Ramón Amaya’s novel Prisión Verde is perhaps the best-known work of fiction. It describes the sufferings of the workers of a banana plantation at the beginning of the 20th century.

Graphic arts

There is a Honduran school of Impressionist painting whose favorite subjects include village street scenes. This style was first developed by Antonio Velázquez from the historic mining town of San Antonio de Oriente, Francisco Morazán department, in the 1950s. Velázquez was a barber at the nearby Zamorano agricultural school.

He was self-taught, and Hondurans refer to his style as “primitivist.” Newspaper cartoons are popular and important for social criticism. Cartoonist Darío Banegas has a talent for hilarious drawings that express serious comments.

Performing arts

There are several theater groups in San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa, of which the most important is the National Theater of Honduras (TNH), formed in Tegucigalpa in 1965. Its directors have been professors at various public schools and universities.

Other groups include the University Theater of Honduras (TUH) and the Honduran Community of Theater Actors (COMHTE), formed in 1982. These groups have produced several good plays. Honduras also has a National School of Fine Arts, a National Symphony Orchestra and several music schools.

There are a handful of serious musicians, painters, and sculptors in Honduras, but the best-known group of artists may be the rock band Banda Blanca, whose hit “Sopa de Caracol” (Snail Soup) was based on Garifuna words and rhythms.

In the early 1990s, he topped the Latin music charts. There are still some folk music performances at parties and other events, especially in the country. The accordion, guitar, and other stringed instruments are popular.

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