Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Mario Felipe Martinez Castillo

When I became interested in the colonial history of Honduras, I read a lot of colonial history.  Among those who wrote about Honduras were people like the geographer William V. Davidson, and historians like Rodolfo Pastor Fasquelle, Mario Argueta, Mario Ardon Mejia and for the more recent past, Dario Euraque.  But no one impressed me more than the work of Mario Felipe Martinez Castillo.

He was a founder of the History program at UNAH, and easily the most knowledgeable person about 16th century Honduras.  He wrote about colonial art, and the society that generated it.  He was interested in the "family" of Hondurans who both formed the colony and whose descendents still wield power today.

From 1970 to 1980 he lived in Spain and worked daily in the Archivo General de Indias researching the early history of Honduras.  It was there he found the 1558 declaration of the service and merits of Rodrigo Ruiz (AGI Patronato 69 R.5) which for the first time confirmed in a contemporary document, the existence of the national hero Lempira.  His book on Lempira in 1987 both analyzes that document, and transcribes it, challenging everything that Honduran school children still learn today about their national hero.

He authored 14 books, and co-authored several others:

2011  Los forjadores de nuestra identidad
2009  Temas históricos inéditos de Honduras
2004  El paternalismo y la esclavidtud negra en el Real Minas de Tegucigalpa
2004  La Intendencia de Comayagua
2000  Por las rutas de la plata y el añil:  desarrollo del arte colonial religioso hondureño
1993  Honduras en su historia y en su arte
1992  Cuatro centros de arte colonial provinciano hispano criollo en Honduras
1990  Honduras:  cultura e identidad
1988  Catedral de la Inmaculada Concepción de Valladolid de Comayagua
1987  Los últimos dias de Lempira y otros documentos:  el conquistador español que venció a Lempira
1982  Apuntamientos para una historia colonial de Honduras
1981  Presencia de grupos mexicanos antes y despues de la conquista de Honduras y pervivencia de la lengua Nahuatl en el área supuestamente Lenca.
1967  Capitulos sobre el Colegio Tridentino de Comayagua y la educación colonial en Honduras
1961  La escultura en Honduras

It's not often you get to meet one of your heroes.  In 2008, my friend Rodolfo Pastor Fasquelle arranged for me to meet his "mentor", Mario Felipe Martinez Castilllo, while we were attending a conference on minor Atlantic ports in the colonial period.  He hosted a dinner at a beachfront restaurant in El Paraiso near Omoa where he introduced the two of us.  Mario Felipe was gracious and listened to me talk about my own research on the 16th and 18th centuries in Honduras, but it was clear that his years of work had given him a greater knowledge of the 16th century events in Honduras than he had ever had the time to write about.  I was both jealous and envious of the depth of that knowledge, and hope one day to be able to approach it.  After the meal ended, we wanted to talk more, but he didn't do email, and I almost never go to Tegucigalpa, so it never happened.

Mario Felipe Martinez Castillo died Monday at the age of 80.

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