3 Questions for ...

Dario Euraque
Associate Professor of History
 

Professor Euraque has been appointed director of the Honduran Institute of Anthropology and History (IHAH) in Tegucigalpa, Honduras for two to three years, beginning July 1, 2006.

What responsibilities will be associated with your position in Honduras?

There are many, of course, but among the key ones will be to conserve, protect, and restore the historic monuments, archaeological sites, and the many intangible cultural traditions of Honduras. By law, the institute is charged with that responsibility and, as the director, I will work to ensure that we do that. Along with the administrators of the institute, it is my job to protect those things that the Honduran government considers the cultural heritage of the country

There are important archaeological sites in Honduras—Mayan sites, for example—that are of interest to experts from around the world. There are “world cultural heritage” sites, which are protected by UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization]. When archaeologists come to dig in those places, there are specialists at the institute who oversee the digs to make sure that everything is done correctly and in the right place, and that when cultural treasures are found that they remain in Honduras. In that sense it is a policing responsibility, but a very delicate one.

Another, quite interesting responsibility involves designing policy that integrates all the many facets of the institute. There can be competing interests within any organization. People in different positions naturally have different agendas. A group of archaeologists and museum professionals, or ethnographers and historians, may have very different perspectives on a particular artifact, about what to do with it or how best to display it. In Honduras, like everywhere, there are a range of audiences who might want access to certain materials. So part of my job will be to integrate and manage these competing interests toward a common goal. I have to think about and design policy that takes all these things into account.

There is also a diplomatic component when it comes to dealing with the embassies and consulates of various countries whose citizens or representatives may want access to an artifact or some information. The institute must be both firm and flexible at the same time.

It is a very dynamic position that will no doubt present many challenges.      

What opportunities might become available for Trinity students as a result of this arrangement?

I’ve already begun to make some arrangements that will benefit our students. Kenyon College has a study-abroad program in Honduras focusing on archaeological excavation—they’ve been sending students there for 20 years—and there are two archaeologists at Kenyon who, of course, know that I’m the new director of the institute. 

I have proposed that our two schools form a partnership and start a joint project there. Kenyon’s program is what is called an “island” program, meaning that the students go and do their excavations, they’re trained in field work, they learn a little Spanish, and they’re taken on a few excursions here and there but they see almost nothing of Honduras other than the field sites that they use. Trinity’s study-away programs, by contrast, are exactly the opposite. Our programs, philosophically and in principle, are designed to engage our students with the broader society. So, I told the Kenyon folks that Trinity is prepared to work with them to expand their program. They will benefit from my official and academic contacts in the country as well as Trinity’s experience doing this in other parts of the world. We will benefit from partnering with an established program. It’s this sort of collaborative effort that should be good for everyone involved.

I can also use the connections and agreements that exist between the IHAH and similar organizations throughout the region to expand some of Trinity’s programs that are already on line. For example, we have a Global Learning Site in Santiago, Chile, which does not have an archaeological component, for whatever reason. I should be in a position to help make arrangements for new and expanded programs because of this appointment, if these are things that the College wants to do. In other words, as the director of the institute and a member of the Trinity College faculty, I’m hopeful that I can help to enhance and enrich the study away opportunities for our students.   

What are you most looking forward to about living in Honduras and what will you miss most about Trinity?

I’m looking forward to the very smells and sensibilities that I have been writing about for such a long time. I have published four books about Honduran history; I’ve done research throughout the country, from the most sublime archives to the most nondescript village in the middle of nowhere. But, for the most part, I’ve written about Honduras when I was away from Honduras. In a strange way that’s an alienating process because, even though I was writing about Honduras, I wasn’t writing in Honduras. This job—every document I read, every person that I come into contact with, the sun that I see, the food that I eat, the smells—are going to be about the intellectual work that I have done for many years. That’s what I’m looking forward to.

I’ll miss the smallness of Trinity and the sense of collegiality that is so prevalent on our campus. As a scholar, I can choose to either be out there doing lots of things for the College or not. In my new position, I won’t be able to decide not to do things. So I’ll miss the freedom that comes with being an academic—opportunities to develop new ways of doing things or being able to take the time to think of things in different ways. I’m sure I’ll miss that freedom. And, of course, people.  I’ll miss seeing my colleagues and my students on a daily basis.

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What they’re reading

 

 

Liz Burns M’93
Assistant Director of Special Academic Programs

 

Between book group selections, I picked up Frank McCourt’s Teacher Man. I hadn’t read the Pulitzer Prize-winning Angela’s Ashes or his follow up, the autobiographical Tis, but I thought I might like this most recent memoir of McCourt’s 30-odd years as an English teacher in New York City public high schools.

I wasn’t disappointed. He’s a great story teller—funny and wry and masterful with the language he struggled to teach to a few generations of mostly indifferent students. You can feel the pain of the innocent, bumbling young teacher man who has to rely more on his imagination than on anything he learned in his college education courses. McCourt’s descriptions of the classroom, like the jostling and posturing of teenage boys entering the room, are eloquent, and he captures the voices of students through the years: New Yorkese blended with Italian, or Puerto Rican, or Chinese. 

His students constantly lure him away from the lesson plan with questions about his life in Ireland, and it’s clear to see that his later autobiographical writing has its roots in the anecdotes and memories he shared with students.

Next up for me, our Trinity Women’s book group selection, Nuala O'Faolain’s true tale of another, and infamous, Irish-American, The Story of Chicago May. Join us! We’ll meet sometime this summer or early in the fall when O’Faolain may be on campus.

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