June 10, 2007

What the heck is a Catracho?

Photo: La Prensa Nicaragua

is the nickname for Hondureños (Hondurans). An interesting thing is that not many people, including some Hondurans, know where the nickname came from. So La Gringa is going to tell you.

After spending a looong time mentally translating this La Prensa Nicaragua article, I found almost exactly the same thing, word for word, in this Wikipedia article about Florencio Xatruch. Here is a summary of the highlights:

In the war of 1856-1857 when Central American forces were united to fight William Walker in Nicaragua, Honduran troops were commanded by two generals, Florencio Xatruch and his brother Pedro. When referring to the Honduran troops, the Nicaraguan people would say, "here come the xatruches," which later became catruches, and finally became catrachos.

Florencio Xatruch was a hero to Hondurans and Nicaraguans. He was named General in Chief of the Allied Armies of Central America for a time. After returning to Honduras, he was named Minister of War and Commerce of Honduras in 1861, became Vice President of Honduras in 1864, and briefly acted as President in 1871. Later he returned to Nicaragua where he also held governmental positions. He died there in 1893 at the age of 82.

The Nicaragua National Congress authorized the following epitaph: "Nicaragua to the Honduran by birth but Nicaraguan by adoption, General Florencio Xatruch, and this is a testimony of admiration and thankfulness for the services he provided to the Country".

In case you don't know, William Walker was a U.S. doctor, lawyer, and damned gringo soldier of fortune who had visions of privately conquering Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Belize, and Costa Rica, where he would create states ruled by white English speakers. In fact, he was self-proclaimed ruler of Nicaragua from 1855 to 1857.

The Central American countries banded together to fight him. Twice Walker surrendered and was repatriated to the U.S. In 1860, he returned to Honduras with plans to overthrow the Honduran government with the help of Honduran Liberal Party leader Trinidad Cabañas.

This third time he was captured by the British, who instead of sending him back to the U.S., turned him over to the Honduran military. Like a bad penny, he kept turning up so the Hondurans executed him at the age of 36. He is buried in Trujillo, Honduras, where his grave is marked by a simple stone engraved "WILLIAM WALKER" with a metal plaque reading "WILLIAN [sic] WALKER -FUSILADO- 12 SEPTIEMBRE 1860." (Fusilado = Shot to Death).

In Central American countries, the successful military campaign of 1856-1857 against William Walker became a source of national pride and identity, and it was later promoted by local historians and politicians as substitute for the war of independence that Central America had not experienced. Ironically, Walker's name is better known in Central America than it is in the U.S.

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