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  The Pech
of Las Marias

Population, Language and Education

In Las Marias, a few Miskito People started to intermarry with the Pech about forty years ago. Because of the influence of the church  (in Spanish and Miskito only) and then later on the bilingual school (Miskito and Spanish), their children learned Miskito but not Pech.

Today 485 people live in Las Marias, 30 % are Pech, 10 % Miskito and 60 % Mestizo. Most people speak Miskito, all speak Spanish, but as few as 20 people speak fluent Pech. (Both the school and religious masses are done in Spanish and Miskito but not in Pech). Most of the grand-children of the few Pech elders identify themselves as Miskitos as it is the language they speak and for most of them half of their blood.

In Las Marias live four large Pech clans. Two large clans are divided into a dozen of families, and two smaller ones make up another half-dozen. In the past ten years four brothers and sisters moved from Olancho with their families and have re-invigorated the cultural and language preservation hopes of a few elders.

With such a small population dominated by the Spanish and Miskito language which is reinforced by church services and school classes, the Pech Language might disappear with the generation of Don Ubense and Don Bernardo who are now in their late forties. The family from Olancho seems to think that in addition to the Pech bilingual school project, the village should invite more Pech families to move from Olancho.

The reality is that the Pech are one of the smallest indigenous groups in Honduras and even in Olancho their language is disappearing quickly.


The School in Las Marias

The only school in Las Marias is a primary school with classes in Miskito and Spanish. The school is subsidized by the government.

In general, the educational opportunities in Las Marias are very limited. There are usually three teachers to teach 6 grades, but this year there is only one teacher for the entire school. Students aren't receiving the education promised by the government, one that is standard in Latino communities. As for secondary education, the closest high schools are located in Barra Platano and Brus Laguna. Most families can't afford to send their children. As of today, no Pech people have ever gone to University.

The school attendance is usually close to 70%,
but this year with only one teacher, it has been
closer to 40%.


Today, the Pech are one of the smallest indigenous groups in Honduras. Many elders believe that preservation of their people depends on various factors, primary among which is limiting intermarriage with other ethnic groups.

In an effort to protect their women against marrying Latinos, the Pech encourage very young marriages (between 14 and 16). In addition to regarding mixed marriages as the cause of lost ethnicity, they see the Latino men as machos who only treat women as sexual objects and abandon them after a short period of time without assuming the responsibilities of fatherhood. Countless cases throughout recent history influence their beliefs.

Before Religion and outside influenced on their society, Pech, couples used to live together and have children without getting married. It left them more freedom to separate and even get back together. Today most have a church wedding and an official ceremony with registration.



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

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