It is said that the knowledge of history and related disciplines is the cornerstone of learning about liberty in a democratic society. Without history, we have little to write about, little to relate to, and little that connects our lives with the past, present and the future. For us here on the Bay Islands, I believe that history is uniquely preeminent. Why? Because we are a people governed by principles, not ethnicity or religion as some other cultures are. We face demographic challenges absent in many other societies. Places like Japan, China and Saudi Arabia for example have populations that are relatively homogeneous compared to us. This is fundamentally important! Knowledge of shared civic ideals (customs, mores, and traditions) then is what binds us as a people.
Celebrated author and historian David McCullough writes: “history is the course of human events. For a free self-governing people something more than a vague familiarity with history is essential, if we are to sustain our freedom”. I would prefer to end this paragraph slightly different and have it read “if we are to secure our freedom”. I bemoan the fact that so many of us, especially the youth, lack the understanding of history and civics needed to make informed choices. Denigrating history and the social sciences is cause for missing out on important learning that improves our way of life and our capacity for successfully moving our society forward. It is imperative then, that we have a proper understanding of who we are. And to do so, means we need to know where we came from. At times identity can be the most fundamental of struggles. Sadly, the Honduran educational system in concert with the central government have conspired over the years to deny us relevant information and knowledge that connects us to our past. In addition, whatever information grudgingly provided is not necessarily accurate.
During the past year many of my columns have featured historical topics, this was not accidental but by design. It is my contention that we need to develop a history book for our children and have it implemented, beginning at the elementary school level. I was fortunate to have a grand-mother who possessed encyclopedic knowledge of Bay Islands history. Also a teacher by the name of Victor E. Stanley who tutored me privately because the material covered was not allowed in the classroom. There was even a period when the teaching of English was strictly prohibited here in the Bay Islands. In other words, it was a crime to teach English. Did you know this? I would say that the central government was guilty of contemptible hypocrisy! Because at the same time that English was forbidden to us, they were making sure that the youth in the capital were getting the best English teaching possible. Even today it is difficult to find a member of the elite class from Tegucigalpa who didn’t attend an American school. And why is this? Because they know full well that English is the universal language of commerce and culture. Knowledge of English is essential for a successful career in any field of endeavor.
Now that tourism is at the vanguard we have finally been vindicated in our determination to hang onto our English heritage. Today, everyone is eager and anxious to learn English. How about that! I wonder how many Bay Islanders today would recognize the name Savas Solorsano? Here is someone whose name should elicit reverence from Bay Islanders. Mr. Solorsano from Diamond Rock stood up to the black shirts during the 1940’s. He opposed their tyrannical rule and was murdered by them for refusing their demand to sacrifice his domestic animals for their sustenance. This took place during one of the most demonic chapters in our history, for which I believe there has never been a formal apology; and what of the Robinson brothers, Thomas (Tom) and Dougmore from Coxen Hole? These two legends rose to prominence during the 1950s as staunch defenders of the Bay Islanders way of life. Throughout our history we have had many heroes. Going back to the early 1850s, there was Sir Uwins Elvin, our first Governor General who in addition to presiding over the first legislative assembly of the Bay Islands, was also a Justice of The Peace. Then there was the Honorable Thomas Price, our first Lieutenant Governor, Mr. Thomas Connor and Mr. John Sargent McBride, both Justices of The Peace during this same period.
I believe it is time we learn more about our heroes and heroines and give them the recognition they deserve, along with their proper place in Bay Islands history and folklore. In closing, allow me to quote renowned author Michael Korda: “Success has always been easy to measure. It is the distance between one’s origins and one’s final achievement”.