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1 iNtRoductioN t heCaribbeancoastofCentralAmericaishometonumerousEnglishspeaking communities of British West Indian descent. From Guatemala to Costa Rica, the enclaves created by West Indians and their descendants represent the failure of nationalist ideologies to fully incorporate this population into the scope of their respective nations. Allegiances to Caribbean language, culture, religious traditions, and broader political and social traditions of the African diaspora serve as both historical and cultural reminders that modern Latin American nationalistic notions of mestizaje, or an exclusive mixed race identity, as championed during the early decades of the twentieth century, had limitations. The Republic of Honduras, like many of its Central American neighbors, embraced a concept of mestizaje that emphasized the Iberian and indigenous biological and cultural heritage of the nation. With this focus solely on the interaction between the Spanish and the indigenous, all other elements of Honduran culture were ignored or denigrated. As a result, the historiography of Honduras is devoid of many black participants. While some scholars concede that this absence in the literature is the result of Africans and their descendants being selectively ignored in the historical debate, others insist that the African presence in Honduras left little lasting impact on the racial and cultural landscape of the country. However , in recent years significant scholarship has emerged that focuses on the formation of communities of African descent in Honduras. Primarily ethnographic in nature, these studies emphasize the Garífuna (Black Carib) community and its indelible contribution to the cultural fabric of Honduras, particularly along the Caribbean littoral of the nation.1 Absent 2 RACe, nAtIon, AnD West InDIAn IMMIGRAtIon to HonDURAs from this discourse is mention of the sizable population of Hondurans of West Indian descent who often settled in the same coastal cities as the Garífuna. It is the Garífuna who maintain the monopoly on black identity in Honduran cultural discourse, due largely to the fact that they represent the majority of the population of Afro descent in the country and have resided in Honduras continuously for over two hundred years. However, the West Indian experience, which dates from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, also contributed to the racial discourse in Honduras by challenging Honduran responses to immigration, labor, and foreign influence, as well as preexisting discourses on race and identity. The process of identity transformation among people of African descent in Honduras is best examined through the assessment of the liberal reform period. Traditional Honduran historiography dates the beginning of this multifaceted modernization process from 1876 with the inauguration of the liberal regime of President Marco Aurelio Soto (1876–1883). This is seen by many as a watershed in Honduran economic and political development due to innovative legislation such as the suppression of the tithe, the introduction of public education, and the codification of legal commercial mining and administrative laws.2 This is also the period that saw the development of the multinational banana industry and the subsequent importation of West Indian workers into the country. Mario Argueta suggests that the internationalization of the Honduran North Coast began with the liberal reforms, during which the Honduran government offered economic incentives to foreigners to aid in the modernization and industrialization of the country, primarily through agriculture .3 These reforms served as the catalyst for the mobilization of foreign capital (mainly British and U.S.) into the country and the subsequent introduction of black migrant labor to work on the foreign-owned railroads and fruit plantations. An examination of the reforms also raises questions about how the local population viewed the arrival of a foreign, majority black work force into the region. In the case of the North Coast of Honduras , some workers arrived initially from the United States, but the overwhelming majority came from the numerous British Caribbean islands, most from Jamaica, followed by neighboring British Honduras (Belize). The status of the immigrant black population in Honduras was often uncertain. The anti-black political and social climate of Honduras, which traditionally targeted the Garífuna and other Afro-mestizo populations, was the initial reason for the tense relations among locals and West Indi- IntRoDUCtIon 3 ans. However, this apprehension about West Indians did not begin with the labor policies of the fruit companies. The Anglophone and Protestant blacks of the Bay Islands claimed British citizenship well into the twentieth century despite the incorporation of the islands into the Honduran nation in the 1860s. Ross Graham, among others, asserts that Bay Islanders clung to their “Britishness” in order to exclude themselves from...


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