I was struck by the absence of the author of the book that details the political, military, diplomatic and cultural evolution that occurred in that first century of independent life. The book has served as a source of information for many Honduran students and intellectuals.
Catarino Castro Serrano (1832 – January 10, 1939) was a Honduran intellectual, author, publisher, educator, and politician of Garifuna descent.
The First Honduran Garifuna intellectual, in 1921 to celebrate the centennial of Honduras’ independence, he wrote his first transcendental work, “Honduras in the First Century: our political, diplomatic, military, and cultural life of the first hundred years (1821-1921), which served as a source of information for many Honduran students and intellectuals.
This year marks the centennial of the publication of his book and the bicentennial of Honduras’s independence.
In 1929, he became the first Black person elected to the National Congress of Honduras, for the period 1929 – 1933, representing the department of Colon.
Catarino Castro Serrano was born in the Garifuna community of Iriona Viejo, department of Colón, near the Honduran border with Nicaragua, in April 1892. He was the illegitimate son of Jacinto Cacho and Martha Lalín Serrano.
At the age of 7, he moved with his family to the port city of Trujillo, where he completed his elementary education.
Castro Serrano completed his primary education in the port city of Trujillo. In the 1910s, he was among a group of young Garifunas from the Cristales neighborhood, who were granted state scholarships to study in Tegucigalpa, and was able to earn a Commercial and Public Accounting high school degree.
After graduation, he was employed as administrator of the San Isidro market in Comayagüela in Tegucigalpa. He also worked as an independent bookkeeper for several commercial houses.
In his adulthood he adopted the last name Castro, instead of his father’s Cacho, because his friends mocked him, by calling him “Cacho de Vaca” or cow horn.
Some friends of the time describe him as an elegant man, of good manners and persevering in his academic tasks. He was a brilliant lecturer and combative writer.
He learned several languages, including Spanish, French and English and worked as a language teacher in several schools in Tegucigalpa.
At the dawn of the 1920s he was a prominent member of the Central American Unionist Party. He was the founding president of the Unionist Society “Álvaro Contreras”, founding vice president of the Unionist Society “Francisco Morazán” and director of the unionist newspaper The Renaissance.
In the middle of the decade, Castro Serrano was part of the group of intellectuals that formed the group “Renovación” Renovation, a civic association of writers and journalists. He received its Certificate of Incorporation, on December 2, 1925, from the hands of Juan Manuel Gálvez, who was then Secretary of State in the Office of Governance, Justice and Health. Gálvez went on to become president of Honduras for the period of 1949-1954.
Honduras National Congress
In the 1928 General Elections of Honduras, Dr. Vicente Mejía Colindres, the candidate of the Liberal Party, was elected the 37th President of the Republic of Honduras for the period 1929-1933. He succeeded President Miguel Paz Barahona,
Catarino Castro Serrano ran as the Liberal Party candidate for the Honduras National Congress seat to represent the department of Colón. Overcoming some resistance because his race, he was elected to the Honduras National Congress, for the period 1929 -1933, becoming the first Garifuna in Honduras history, elected to a political office in a popular election.
From his position as a congressman, he worked hard to build a school in Trujillo, a goal that would be achieved when the Departmental Institute Spirit of the Century was founded in 1930. He would go on to become the first Garifuna to hold the position of principal of institution.
According to referenced material, his mother was his father’s sister-in-Law, and he was legally married. Therefore, their relationship and the newborn son, were considered illegitimate. Catarino Castro Serrano introduced a bill in Congress granting illegitimate children the same rights as the legitimate ones.
Simultaneously to his efforts in the National Congress, Castro Serrano distinguished himself in journalism. During the government of Dr. Vicente Mejía Colindres, he edited and published, the monthly magazine Honduras Guide, the official publication of the Office of International Economic Information, which circulated since 1905, although irregularly.
Some historians also attribute to him the publishing of the New Orient newspaper of the Spiritism Society of Honduras, of which he was an active member.
He also became interested in spiritualism and theosophy, considering them in line with the Garifuna conception of the world, although he was vigorously attacked by the Catholic Church.
Catarino Castro Serrano died in Tegucigalpa at the age of 41, on January 10, 1939, victim of a heart attack.Meanwhile, I invite you to stay tuned for future updates on my progress and the book launch announcement.
The Catarino Castro Serrano Kinder Garden School in Cusuna, Iriona, Colon, is named in his honor.
Honduras en la primera centuria: nuestra vida política, diplomática, militar y cultural de los primeros cien años, 1821-1921
Catarino Castro Serrano: First Intellectual Garifuna Honduran, Biographical Notes, Salvador Suazo, Ventura Arzú Isidro Sabio González, and Jose González, Honduran Institute of Anthropology and History, Yankin Vol XXIV, No. 1 / 2008
Datos biográficos en: EnCaribe consultado el 4 de septiembre del 2012.
Duque Castillo, Elvia. “Aportes del pueblo afrodescendiente: la historia oculta de América Latina, April 3, 2013
José Francisco Ávila
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