No Enclave — Exploring Honduran Los Angeles

Hondurans are the eighth largest group of Latin Americans living in the US in the US and, after Salvadorans and Guatemalans, the third largest population of Central Americans in the US. However, whereas Los Angeles is home to the largest populations of Salvadorans and Guatemalans outside of El Salvador and Guatemala, the same cannot be said about Hondurans, although population estimates vary widely. According to Statitista, there were 42,901 Honduran Angelenos in 2010.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE HONDURAS

The Maya established the city of Copán which flourished from around 150 CE and until roughly 700 to 850 CE. Copán was the capital of the Xukpi kingdom. Maya city-states in the region underwent a marked decline in the 9th century and afterward, the Lenca emerged as the dominant nation on the region’s Pacific Coast.

On 30 July 1502, someone on the crew of Genoese explorer Christophorus Columbus‘s ship sited land and named it Honduras, or “depths,” for its deep coastal waters. By 1540, Spain had conquered most the country (resistance in the north continued until the 18th century) and established the Roman Catholic Diocese of Comayagua in 1561. It was part of the Capitanía General de Guatemala from 1609 to 1821. It was part of the First Mexican Empire until 1823, when it became part of the United Provinces of Central America. Several Central American configurations rose and fell before the Republic of Honduras was established on 5 November 1938.

In the early 20th century, American companies (in particular the United Fruit Company, later rebranded Chiquita) controlled the country’s economy which was configured almost entirely to banana production, leading writer O. Henry to coin the term, “Banana Republic,” in 1904. A military coup unseated democratically elected President Ramón Villeda Morales in 1963. The country finally returned to civilian rule in 1979. Civil War erupted next door in El Salvador in 1980 and the US developed an airstrip and port in Honduras to provide military support for right wing death squads in the Honduras’ neighbor. Honduras, itself, was spared outright civil war but did experience political violence including a campaign of extrajudicial killings in Honduras conducted, most notably, by the CIA-trained and equipped Battalion 3-16.

In 1998, Hurricane Mitch destroyed most of the country’s crops and infrastructure and killed some 5,000 people. in 2009, San Pedro Sula acheived the dubious distinction of being having the highest murder rate in the world. President Juan Orlando Hernández has been in office since January 2014, defying a ban on re-election and protests. In 2018, the president’s brother, Former Congressman Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernández, was arrested in for complicity in several murders and using his political position to traffick tons of cocaine. Today, more Hondurans cross the US border seeking asylum than any other people.


HONDURAN AMERICANS AND ANGELENOS

Hondurans are a multi-ethnic people. Indigenous people include the Lenca, Miskito, Ch’orti’, Tolupan (or Xicaque), Pech (or Paya), and Mayangna (or Tawahka). Most Hondurans with European ancestry trace their roots to Spain, Germany, and/or Italy. Many Hondurans are descended from West Africans brought to the Honduras as slaves. There are also significant Jewish, Lebanese, Palestinian, and Syrian populations.

Most Honduran Angelenos arrived after the 30 June 1968 enaction of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, the passage of which opened to door more widely for immigrants not from northern or western Europe. Many early Honduran immigrants settled in cities like Miami, New York City, and Los Angeles. Immigration from the Honduras surged in the late 1980s and early ’90s.


HONDURAN CUISINE & RESTAURANTS IN LOS ANGELES

Lunch at Doña Bibi’s (a baleada and agua de nance)

The most obvious indicators of Hondurans in Los Angeles are Honduran restaurants, of which there are a fair few. One of the first, perhaps, was La Masia, which was located in West Hollywood in the late 1970s. By the mid-1980s, there were small clusters centered in Westlake and Huntington Park. The first location of Honduras Kitchen was established in 1992. Rincon Hondureño has been around since the late 1990s. El Katracho opened around 2006. So far, the only one I’ve eaten at is Doña Bibi’s, next to MacArthur Park in Westlake — which is probably the closest thing the US has to a pan-Central American neighborhood which is why, despite Mexicans being the plurality, its sometimes referred to colloquially as Pequeña Centroamérica. With three locations, El Sazón Ktracho is one of the US’s few, maybe only, Honduran restaurant chains — albeit a small one.

Other Honduran restaurants include Antojitos Hondurenos Gloria, Baleadas y Más, Casa Honduras Restaurant, Copan Sula, El Katracho, El Oasis Catracho, El Rincon, Honduras Restaurant, Honduras’ Restaurant, La Casa La Ceiba Restaurant, Ledy’s, Mi Bella Honduras, Mi Tierra K-Tracha, Rincon Hondureño, Sabor Hondureño, and Semitas Katrachas. The word “Catracho,” “Katracha,” or some variation is a dead giveway, “Catracho/Catracha,” being slang for someone from the Honduras — from Catalonian Honduran General Florencio Xatruch.

Honduran cuisine is similar to the cuinese of El Salvador, and some of the aforementioned restaurants serve dishes from both. Lenca roots and Spanish influences are found in both Honduras and El Salvador and pupusas and plaintains are popular in both. The West African influence on Honduran Cuisine, however, is more pronounced — thanks in part to geography. El Salvador’s only coast is on the Pacific separated from the Caribbean by the American Cordillera and thus, buffered somewhat from the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Honduras, on the other hand, has a much longer Caribbean coastline than Pacific. Additionally, their are many more Garifuna (descended from West Africans and indigeonous Caribeans including the Arawak and Kalinago), who in the 18th and 19th centuries settled especially in the Honduras and Belize.

Coconut meat and milk are used widely in Honduran cooking. There are many times of tamales and soups, icluding sopa de caracol, made from sea snails, bean soup, beef soup, and tripe soup — most of which are mixed with cabbage, plantains, and yuca, and served with corn tortillas. There’s also baleadas, carneda, chicken with rice and corn, and fried yojoa with pickled onions and jalapeños. Widely consumed tropical fruits include bananas, papaya, passion fruit, pineapple, plantain, plum, and sapote. Agua de ensalada, made from chopped fruits, is a popular beverage, as is agua de nance. A banana-flavored soda, Tropical, is also popular.


PROMINENT HONDURAN ANGELENOS

Not surprisingly, some Honduran Angelenos pursue a career as a film and television actor. The best known is surely America Ferrera, who was born in Los Angeles to Honduran parents and who starred in Ugly Betty. Other Honduran Angeleno actors include Brina Palencia, Daniel Zacapa, Dennis Mencia, Francia Raisa Almendarez, and Maximiliano Hernández. Stand-up comedian Ned Arnel “Carlos” Mencía was born in San Pedro Sula but raised in East Los Angeles. Drag queen Roy Haylock (better known by his drag name, Bianca del Rio) is half-Cuban and half-Honduran and was born in New Orleans. Honduran Angeleno musicians include rapper Basqui (of ASR) and Anubis Black. Radio’s Renán Almendárez Coello (El Cucuy De La Mañana) is Honduran, as is Raquel Roxanne “Rocsi” Diaz. Journalist Michelle Fields is of partial Honduran background. Honduran Angeleno artists include Celea Guevara, Christopher Giron, photographer Henry Flores, tattoo artist Josue Acosta. Architect Giselle A. Zelaya is an Honduran Angeleno, as is model Guillermo Fajardo, and designers Ana Alvarado and Kathy Leiva. Influencers Dilcia Guzman and Julisa “Yulyspin” Pineda are also Honduran Angelenos.


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Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, essayist, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking paid writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities. He is not interested in generating advertorials, cranking out clickbait, or laboring away in a listicle mill “for exposure.”
Brightwell has written for Angels Walk LAAmoeblogBoom: A Journal of CaliforniadiaCRITICSHidden Los Angeles, and KCET Departures. His art has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft ContemporaryForm Follows FunctionLos Angeles County Store, the book SidewalkingSkid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured as subject in The Los Angeles TimesHuffington PostLos Angeles MagazineLAistCurbedLAEastsider LABoing BoingLos Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA?, at Emerson College, and the University of Southern California.
Brightwell is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on AmebaDuolingoFacebookGoodreadsInstagramMubi, the StoryGraph, and Twitter.

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