Friday, July 20, 2007
Happy Lempira Day!
Today is a holiday in Honduras, celebrating the Honduran hero, Lenca Indian Chief Lempira, who, according to the legends, united different Lenca tribes to fight against the Spanish conquistadors in the early 1500's.(For more about the chief, here is his Wikipedia article.) His name may sound familiar to you, as the Honduran currency is named after him. That's him, on the right side of the one Lempira bill.
On the Honduran island where we used to live, the children in the kindergarten dressed up as Indians, and marched in a 10 minute parade, accompanied by the high school marching band (all percussion). Lempira Day was a sweet little moment, and the parents all came out to watch, but really it was not a big deal.
Here in Gracias Lempira, the capital of the department named for Chief Lempira and the home of the Lenca Indians, however, the day commemorating Lempira is a major event, and a boon to the local economy. Tourists come from all over Honduras to see the parade, and to participate in the other events, including a rodeo, concert, carnival, and a festival in the park, with many booths set up for vendors.
The parade has grown into a celebration of the entire heritage of the people of the department of Lempira; it is more then just a recognition of the accomplishments of Chief Lempira. The parade celebrates the local Lenca Indian heritage, the Indian warriors who fought with Lempira, the agricultural lifestyle of the residents of this mountain area, the conquistadors, the Spanish missionaries, and the current 'cowboy culture.' All of the schools participate, and each school (or each grade within a school) portrays a particular aspect of local history. One section of the parade even recognizes each municipality in the department, by name.
The costumes are homemade, and they vary in sophistication . . . but it really is amazing to see the fabulous creations which can come together using dried corn and beans, leather, feathers, palm fronds, bits of terra cotta, etc.
I love Lempira Day! This whole town is just so much fun!