The Republic of Honduras (Spanish: República de Honduras), in Central America, is home to several Mesoamerican cultures, in particular the Maya, before the region was conquered by Spain in the 16th century. Honduras declared its independence from Spain in 1821 (see Latin America).
The written history of Honduran theatre begins in 1524, when during his expedition to Las Hibueras, Hernán Cortés was accompanied by musicians, tightrope walkers, jugglers, and if we are to believe Bernal Díaz del Castillo’s account in his Historia verdadera de la conquista de la Nueva España (True History of the Conquest of New Spain), “an acrobat and a presenter of puppets” (“y llevó cinco chirimías y sacabuches y dulzainas y un volteador, y otro que jugaba de manos y hacía títeres”).
However, it is possible to trace much of the originality of the Honduran theatre to the pre-Columbian tradition of guancasco, unique vestiges of indigenous culture which were converted to a mixed ceremony after the Spanish Conquest. From the 16th century onward, priests and monks introduced the so-called “bailes de moros y cristianos” (dances of the Moors and Christians) from Spain or Mexico to Honduras. These were outdoor theatrical dialogues with music and dance, actors and extras, masks and musical instruments from Spain to create a popular show that depicted the Spanish Conquest. Later on, pastorelas (pastorals, based on literature depicting life in an idealized manner) appeared as another form of popular theatre in Honduras. Created by the Honduran priest José Trinidad Reyes (1797-1855), these performances were written in poetry form, usually in octosyllables and are among the first theatrical manifestations in Central America directly inspired by the local Honduran speech and characters. They were collected by the researcher Ernesto Duron and published in a single edition in 1905.
Among the pioneers of the Honduran theatre, the family of actor Miguel Montes de Oca founded the Compañía Infantil de Teatro Pedagógico (Pedagogical Theatre Company for Children). One of the descendants, Leonardo Montes de Oca, a mime and a puppet showman, perpetuated the family tradition and founded the group El Ropero (The Wardrobe). Mention must also be made of the actor Alonso Arturo Brito (1887-1925) and José María Tobías Rosa (1874-1933), the initiator of Teatro Escolar (School Theatre) in Honduras, who created moralistic and didactic one-act plays for Honduran students. Among other artists who contributed to the development of children’s theatre are Marisabel Guillén (b.1925) and also Martín Alvarado, author of Cantarramas, which combined legends and local traditions. Later, the Teatro Escolar presented historic, patriotic, or folkloric programmes in schools throughout the country, and its texts have also been adapted for theatre, mime shows and puppetry in schools throughout Honduras.
Mention should also be made to Teatro Latino (Latino Theatre) directed by David Vivas who worked with both puppets and actors, and Teatro de Títeres Bambù (Theatre of Bamboo Puppets) directed and animated by Edgard Valeriano and Danilo Lagos.
- Díaz del Castillo, Bernal. Historia verdadera de la conquista de la Nueva España [True History of the Conquest of New Spain]. Barcelona: Editorial Planeta, 1993.
- Salvador, Francisco. “1900-1950: Medio Siglo de escasa actividad” [1900-1950: Half a Century of Scarce Activity]. Honduras. Escenarios de dos mundos. Inventario teatral de Iberoamérica [Honduras. Scenarios of Two Worlds. Theatrical Inventory of Latin America]. Ed. Moisés Pérez Coterillo. Vol. 3. Madrid: Centro de Documentación Teatral, 1988.