Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Story of Don Jose, an unknown artist from Guarita, an unknown town; or Honduran Patrimony that could be saved but probably won't

I recently had an exchange on my high school's virtual reunion site on Facebook with another alumni.  Now, you must know that I went to high school in North Carolina, so I found it a pleasant surprise to find another former student sharing somewhat my passion for all things Honduran.  Our exchange went something like this:

DG:  I'm living between New Orleans and Tegucigalpa...

Trish:  What were you doing in Tegucigalpa?  One of my favorite restaurants is there!

DG:  My family is in Honduras and I live in New Orleans and commute back and forth.  But my home is Tegucigalpa because home is where the heart is...What is your connection with Honduras?

Trish: ...I was part of a foundation to save the murals of an "outsider" (untrained) artist in Guarita, a little village in the highlands near the border of El Salavador.  He had painted his entire colonial home (with 12' walls) in "mud paintings" made from the local pigments...

DG:  How are the murals now?  Were they saved?  Unfortunately, Honduras' patriomony is decaying from neglect....would love it if you could email some photos of the murals as I collect tidbits about Honduran culture, history, and art...

Trish:   Unfortunately not.  We had two meetings with the Minister of Culture and she sent people from the Ministry of Anthropology and Archaeology to look at the site.  There was even talk of adding this to their project called the "Lenca Trail" but basically I think they were hoping we were going to be able to find funding for the project.  With the economy as it is in the US people aren't very receptive to spending money on the arts, especially in another country!...I traveled with a professional photographer and we have an amazing  folio of the murals...

Well, my interest was tweaked and I googled it.  I found the following:

The House as a Book:  Colonial History and Reading in the Outsider Art of Jose Expectacion Navarro  (Gauarita, Honduras)

"In the small town of Guarita, Honduras, is a house that from the outside, looks like most of the other small adobe and stucco house in town.  However, inside, the walls of this house are covered with murals and text depicting such subjects as the Virgin of Suyapa; the pre-Columbian history of the Mayas; the Spanish conquest of the Americas, especially Central America; Honduran independence in 1821; the arrival of the three kings at the birth of Christ; and much more, all intermingled with personal history from the family  of the artist who created all of these scenes, Jose Expectacion Navarro.  Don Jose, who passed away in 2002, was a history teacher and principal of the local school as well as having served as the secretary of the municipality.  When his wife passed away in 1984, he began to paint  his murals as a way to deal with his grief.  The results are a fascinating blend of pictures and text giving a personalized view of Honduran history both politically and religiously.

The murals that Don Jose created are the work of both a widower working through his loss and the expression by a local intellectual of how personal and local history connect to the wider history of the region.  By turning the inside of his house into  a history book, Don Jose interprets the past, especially through the adaptation of colonial forms of presentation, whether from his native Honduras or from other parts of Spanish America."

And yes, my new Facebook friend sent me some great photos which I'm pleased to share below.

Wouldn't it be great if my fellow expats and those interested in Honduran culture and art could find a way to help save this valuable work before time destroys it?  Please leave comments.