Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Death of the Honduran Institute of Anthropology and History

Virgilio Paredes, Director of the Instituto Hondureño de Antropología e Historia (IHAH), and Áfrico Madrid, Interior Minister, appear to have sown the seeds that will ultimately reduce the IHAH to inconsequence and put the national patrimony of Honduras at risk.

Under Honduran law, all archaeological and historical sites and objects are the property of the people of Honduras, with the Instituto Hondureño de Antropología e Historia the guardian of this patrimony. IHAH is charged with conducting and regulating research on this national patrimony, with managing both the movable property and sites, and with disseminating knowledge of the patrimony to the people who are its ultimate owners.

A special office, the Fiscalia de Etnias, currently occupied by Jany del Cid, prosecutes violations of the law concerning national patrimony.

But the state government of Honduras has never footed the actual bill for the protection, management, or interpretation and public dissemination of the national patrimony. In 2012, the resources in the national government budget for IHAH (page A45 of the linked PDF of La Gaceta) looks like this:

42, 471,458

Income from Operations (admissions)




Transfers from the Central Government


Transfers of Capital from the Central Government



That's a total budget of $3.4 million dollars. $1.1 million is allocated by Congress.

But the larger portion, $2.2 million, is in income from visits to the national archaeological and historic parks and museums that IHAH maintains.

Less than a third of the budget is provided by the central government, and about two thirds of its budget is provided by income from visits to the parks and museums.

Where does the Institute spend its money? Here's the budget projections for 2012 (all amounts in lempiras):




Services (phone, lights, water, etc.)








Books, Magazines, and Gifts


Intangible Assets


Construction and Improvements

The central government's budget contribution does not even cover the payroll of IHAH for a year.

It is only through the income from admission to archaeological and historical parks and museums that it can perform all of its services, which include:

  • maintaining the National Historical Archives
  • maintaining archaeological parks open to the public
  • educating the public about national patrimony and its protection
  • fostering local and national histories
  • protecting archaeological sites from looting and destruction
  • research when construction threatens an archaeological site
  • enter into international agreements to protect the national patrimony

Now, in an open meeting in the town of Copán Ruinas, Helmy Giocoman, Mayor of Copan Ruinas, and Áfrico Madrid, Minister of the Interior, decided that the law governing IHAH would be changed to give municipalities a say in whether archaeological pieces can be loaned to foreign museums or not.

They also agreed to fire Salvador Varela, the local representative of IHAH, for failure to adequately communicate with the local authorities.

The Instituto Hondureño de Antropología e Historia reportedly participated in this dismantling of its mission.

And it agreed that a percentage of the income from the park will be transferred to the local government. The agreement left the amount to be negotiated later. Copan Mayor Giocoman hopes it will be 50 percent of the income. There is nothing to suggest he will not get his way, as he has already in these unprecedented steps effectively appropriated control of a national patrimony for the economic benefit of a particular municipality.

The agreement was signed by Madrid as representative of the government, Giocoman, representing the town, and Rosa Maria Lopez, an IHAH lawyer.

Virgilio Paredes, the director of IHAH, was not present.

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