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The Pech People of Honduras
General Information

The Pech (also called pejoratively Payas or Payitas by the Latinos) called themselves "Pech" which means "People" but only refers to their own race. They call other people "Pech-Hakua" which means "Other People."

Originally they lived on the Honduran coast of La Moskitia from where they were chased by the Spanish conquistadors and Miskitos. Thousands died and the others fled to the heart of the rainforest. (Read History).

Today there are about 1500 Pech people divided into 9 communities. 90% of them live farther inland in the district of Olancho, principally in the municipality of Dulce Numbre de Culmi and San Esteban. The remaining live in the districts of Colon, and Gracias a Dios. (View Population Statistics)

The rivers marking the natural borders of the Pech territory are the Platano, Wampu, Grande, Tinto, Cuyamel, and Patuca. These rivers constitute an essential foundation for their agriculture, transportation, and commerce.

The Pech have suffered much ethnic, economic, and social discrimination. In 1985 they founded the "Federacion de Tribus Indigenas Pech" in an effort to preserve their culture and be recognized by their government as one people with its own culture, language and history. Since 1985, the fight continues for their human rights and cultural survival. View info on Land Titles and Language Preservation effort.

Traditionally the villages were organized and led by a tribal council from which the Casique (village chief) was the head. Today however, in the face of the political challenges facing the Pech, the communities have reorganized themselves with a political core more apt to be recognized by the Honduran Government. Each Tribal Council is now composed of a President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer, etc. These bodies seem to have more power than the traditional Casique. View the Members of the Tribal Council of Las Marias.

Today with increasing assimilation into Latino society and more intermarriage, the number of pure Pech people is decreasing rapidly. Of the remaining population, less than half speak their ethnic tongue fluently. With the loss of language, culture disappears rapidly. Unless steps are taken to support local efforts, the current generation might be the last of the Pech people.

 

Note: Background photographs and design by Jean-Philippe Soule 1997

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