The Honduran Gringo
Profile of William Lewis, AKA Guillermo Yuscaran

September 1st, 2009
by Thomas Tomczyk


Lewis at his art studio in Tela.

Lewis at his art studio in Tela.

People recognize Guillermo, 69, on almost every Tela street. When he walks into a restaurant people smile. He divides his life between Santa Lucia and Tela, where his young son attends school and his wife studies at University.

Everywhere he goes, wearing a wide-brimmed straw hat, a Hawaii shirt, shorts and sandals, he is a recognizable and welcome visitor. A poet, writer of fiction and biographies, and a painter, Lewis has spent twenty plus years in the city of Tela documenting the landscapes and human characters through what he calls “metaphysical music.”

Lewis is a Californian who moved south, first to Venezuela, then to Honduras. “I’m just a writer. I write about Honduras, but I am a Gringo,” says Lewis, who’s other two sons: Jebney and Greg live in US.

“The nexus of my own work down here is identity, without realizing it. Here I am Bernard Lewis, my given name, and I am Guillermo Yuscaran. Its like two countries, two identities, two names,” says Lewis whose mother was half Iranian, and whose father was a Welsh-Irish emigrant to the US. “I am a soup of identity,” he says to describe himself.

In 1966, at the age of 27 Guillermo wrote a 212 page dissertation and received his PhD in Hispanic Studies at UC Santa Barbara. He soon realized “that academic the thing wasn’t for me.” At 32, he answered a wanted ad: ‘Teachers wanted in Tegucigalpa,’ in the “Saturday Review of Literature.” He travelled by a Norwegian freighter to Panama and then on to Tegucigalpa.

At Honduras’ capital Lewis and his young American wife taught grade 7 to 9 Social Studies at the American school. Lewis started freelancing, writing stories about Honduras for “Readers Digest,” and his first fiction stories. “You’ve got to trust the rightness of what happens to you, even if it’s bad. That’s when it gets tough,” says Guillermo.

In the 1980s, he met Velasquez, a well known primitivism Honduran painter, by knocking on the door of the painter’s Tegucigalpa home. “He had a congenital hair lip and kind of a cleft palate. So I figured that was the reason that no one ever wrote about him,” said Lewis, who wrote an article about the artist and soon found himself being his official biographer writing books that now define this Honduran artist.

Guillermo uses art as a tool in his self analysis. Dogs, snakes, moons, fish and doves: Guillermo’s canvases are a true Jungian workshop. The artist has been painting images and feelings from his dreams for years. “Dreams are a source of imagery, symbols; it’s a tool for keeping my life on track,” says Guillermo. “Over the years I’ve been familiar with what comes out of my unconscious and how it applies to my life.”

He prefers working in the mornings, writing or painting, but once he gets inspired he works around the clock, for two or three days. “When I get off base I really get into my dreams.” The painter often uses a tape recorder to describe his dreams the moment he becomes aware of them. “I just bury the dream into the recorder and try to stay asleep. It’s almost like watching a movie,” says Lewis sitting in his studio surrounded by colorful canvases. [/private]

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