Honduras: Save a River, a Rainforest, and Indigenous Peoples
Cultural Survival encourages children and teens to learn about Indigenous Peoples, especially how they organize to defend their rights and protect their lands. Sometimes, when governments and companies are not respecting their rights, Indigenous people ask us to help them by writing letters.
Right now, deep in Central America’s largest tropical rainforest, Indigenous people are trying to stop construction of dams on the Patuca River. The Tawahka (ta-WA-ka) people have lived along the banks of the Patuca for 3,000 years, growing oranges, cocoa, cassava, rice, and beans in the fertile soil. There are no roads in this vast jungle called the Moskitia (mos-KEE-tya). The river is the only way the Tawahka people can travel. Dams would block their canoes and threaten the survival of many kinds of fish and forest animals—even jaguars. The Tawahka and other Indigenous Peoples of the Moskitia keep protesting against the dams, but the Honduran government isn’t listening. Let’s write letters and see if we can get their attention!
Sometimes people just need to be reminded.
In the Central American country of Honduras, the government seems to have forgotten some things. They know the value of their tropical rainforest—the second largest tropical rainforest in the Western Hemisphere, after the Amazon. They created the Patuca National Park, the Tawahka Asangni Biosphere Reserve, and the Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve to protect the forest ecosystem, which includes rivers like the Patuca and endangered species like the jaguar and tapir.
The Honduran government also knows that Indigenous Peoples have rights. They signed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
But now the Honduran government is doing something that could destroy the tropical rainforest and violate the rights of the Indigenous Peoples. They signed a contract with a Chinese company to build dams on the Patuca River. A Tawahka leader named Lorenzo Tinglas says that if these dams are built, it will be the end of the tropical forest and the end of the Tawahka people.
How would dams destroy the forest? Thousands of acres of forest will be flooded when the reservoirs behind the dams are filled. As the submerged vegetation rots, it releases methane and other gases that accelerate global warming. Global warming changes the climate, and climate change affects all the plants and animals in the forest.
To build the dams, first they will have to build roads through the rainforest. The roads and the reservoirs will block the age-old migration routes of rainforest animals, from the smallest frogs to the largest jaguars. The roads will make it possible for people to get into the forest to hunt, to cut trees, to build farms. How would the Tawahka people, who depend on the river and the forest, survive?
The Tawahka people and their Pech, Moskito, and Garifuna neighbors want to stop construction of the dams before it starts, and they are asking us to help. Please write a letter to Honduras’ president today. Remind him of the value of his country’s rainforests and the rights of its Indigenous Peoples.
Save a River, a Rainforest, and the Indigenous Peoples!
Please write a polite letter to the president of Honduras. Tell him why you care about protecting the tropical rainforest, rivers, and Indigenous Peoples of the Moskitia. Remind him that Indigenous Peoples have rights, and that they don’t want dams to be built on the Patuca River. Ask him what he will do to recognize their rights and protect the Moskitia’s rivers and rainforests.
SEND YOUR LETTER TO:
Sr. Porfirio Lobo Sosa Presidente de la Republica de Honduras Edificio José Cecilio del Valle Boulevard Juan Pablo II Tegucigalpa HONDURAS
LETTER WRITING TIPS:
Start your letter with this salutation: "Dear Mr. President,". Make sure your letter is polite and respectful. At the end of your letter, ask the president for a reply. Include your name, your age, and your address on your letter. You might get a letter back from the president of Honduras! Postage from the US is 98 cents.
The Indigenous people of the Moskitia say Kaparcawa, Tinki Pali, and Seremei – Thank you!