Introduction / History
The Pech (also called pejoratively Payas or Payitas by the Latinos) called themselves "Pech" which means "People" but only refers to their own race. They call other people "Pech-Hakua" which means "Other People."
Originally they lived on the Honduran coast of La Moskitia from where they were chased by the Spanish conquistadors and Miskitos. Thousands died and the others fled to the heart of the rainforest.
Where Are they Located?
Today there are about 1500 Pech people divided into 9 communities. 90% of them live farther inland in the district of Olancho, principally in the municipality of Dulce Numbre de Culmi and San Esteban. The remaining live in the districts of Colon, and Gracias a Dios.
The rivers marking the natural borders of the Pech territory are the Platano, Wampu, Grande, Tinto, Cuyamel, and Patuca. These rivers constitute an essential foundation for their agriculture, transportation, and commerce.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Traditionally the villages were organized and led by a tribal council from which the Casique (village chief) was the head. Today however, in the face of the political challenges facing the Pech, the communities have reorganized themselves with a political core more apt to be recognized by the Honduran Government. Each Tribal Council is now composed of a President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer, etc. These bodies seem to have more power than the traditional Casique.
Today with increasing assimilation into Latino society and more intermarriage, the number of pure Pech people is decreasing rapidly. Of the remaining population, less than half speak their ethnic tongue fluently. With the loss of language, culture disappears rapidly. Unless steps are taken to support local efforts, the current generation might be the last of the Pech people.
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