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Catarino Castro Serrano Pioneer of Garifuna and Afro-descendant Electoral Politics 


By: José Francisco Ávila 
Continuing with the celebration of Black History Month in the United States this time we highlight the Garifuna and Afro-descendant Electoral Politics of Honduras. The dictionary describes the word Pioneer as Person who takes the first steps in some human activity. Based on that definition, there is no doubt that Catarino Castro Serrano is the pioneer of Garifuna and Afro-descendant politics. He was the first Garífuna to occupy a political position in Honduras by popular election from 1929 to 1933, here is his history and the political trajectory of the Garifuna and Afrodescendant. 
Catarino Castro Serrano. Politician and Honduran writer. First Garifuna elected to the National Congress of Honduras in the history of the country. 1929 -1933 [1] 
He was born in the Garifuna community of Iriona Viejo, in the municipality of Iriona (Department of Colón) in 1892. Son of Jacinto Cacho and Martha Lalín Serrano. Since his friends mocked his last name, calling him "Cacho de Vaca" or cow’s horn, in his adulthood he adopted Castro. 
Castro Serrano completed his primary education in the port city of Trujillo. In the 1910s, a group of young Garífunas from the Cristales neighborhood in Trujillo received state scholarships to study in Tegucigalpa. Castro Serrano, was among them and was able to earn a Commercial and Public Accountant high school degree.  Later, he was employed as administrator of the San Isidro market in Comayagüela. He worked  as an independent  bookkeeper for several commercial houses in the Tegucigalpa. 
He learned several languages, including Spanish, French and English. He worked as a language teacher in several schools in Tegucigalpa. In 1921 to celebrate the centennial of independence, Catarino Castro Serrano wrote his first transcendent work, “Honduras in the First Century: our political, diplomatic, military and cultural life of the first hundred years (1821-1921),” which served as a source of information for many Honduran students and intellectuals. 
At the dawn of the 1920s he was a prominent member of the Central American Unionist Party, he was founding president of the Unionist Society "Álvaro Contreras"; founding vice president of the Unionist Society "Francisco Morazán" and director of the unionist newspaper “El Renacimiento.” 
In the middle of the decade, Castro Serrano was part of the group of intellectuals that formed the group "Renovación", which received its legal status on December 2, 1925, from the hands of Mr. Juan Manuel Gálvez (who would hold the presidency of Honduras in the period of 1949-1954), then Secretary of State in the Office of Governance, Justice and Health. "Renovación" was a civic association of writers and journalists. 
In the 1928 General Elections of Honduras, during the political campaign for the succession of President Miguel Paz Barahona, Dr. Vicente Mejía Colindres, candidate of the Liberal Party, was elected the 37th President of the Republic of Honduras for the period 1929-1933. Mr. Catarino Castro Cerrano, participated as the Liberal candidate for the Honduras National Congress to represent the department of Colón and despite not having the full support of his fellow citizens, won the seat, becoming the first Garifuna elected a political office in a popular election in Honduras, for the period 1929 -1933. From his position as a Congressman, he worked hard to create a school in Trujillo, a goal that would be achieved when the Departmental Institute Spirit of the Century was founded in 1930. In addition, he introduced a bill to the Congress so that illegitimate children had the same rights as the legitimate ones. 
Simultaneously to his efforts in the National Congress, Castro Serrano distinguished himself in journalism. During the government of Dr. Vicente Mejía Colindres, he edited and published, the monthly magazine “Guía de Honduras”, the official publication of the Office of International Economic Information, which circulated since 1905, although irregularly. Some historians also attribute to him the publishing of the “Nuevo Oriente” newspaper of the Spiritism Society of Honduras, of which he was an active member. 
He was the first Garifuna to hold the position of principal of the Departmental Institute Spirit of the Century. He also became interested in spiritualism and theosophy, considering them in line with the Garifuna conception of the world, although he was vigorously attacked by the Catholic Church. 
Catarino Castro Serranodied in Tegucigalpa on January 10, 1939, victim of a heart attack. 
His legacy and the Current State of Affairs 
According to information to be validated, it would take 29 years for another Garifuna congressman to be elected in the person of Hilario Mena Meléndez in 1957. Fifteen years later, Professor Abel González Caballero would be elected for the period 1972-1974. It would take 34 years for the following Garifuna or Afro-descendant Congress members to be elected in the 2005 General Elections of Honduras for the period 2006-2010: Aurelio Martínez for the department of Atlántida; Rubén García for the department of Cortés and Dayana Martínez Burke for the department of Francisco Morazán. In the 2009 General Elections of Honduras, the following candidates were elected for the period 2010-2014, Perla Simons Norales was elected to represent the department of Francisco Morazán. In the General Elections of Honduras of 2013, none of the 19 Garifuna or Afro-descendant, candidates was elected.  [2] 
The 2017 General Elections of Honduras, were a vindication for the Garifuna and Afro-descendant people. The following seven Garifuna or African descent candidates, among men and women and from different parties, were elected: Tomás Ramírez for the department of Atlántida, Gilberto Yearwood, Osmán Chávez and Rubén García for the department of Cortés, Edinora Brooks, Ashanti Crisanto and Johana Bermúdez for the department of Francisco Morazan 
There is no doubt that Catarino Castro Serrano is the pioneer of Garifuna and Afro-descendant politics. The objective of this article is to present a positive model to follow who reflects the experiences and the racial and ethnic origin of the young people so that they help develop a positive racial identity. According to journalist Kenny Castillo Fernandez, "The mere presence of black faces in Congress is positive. The mere fact that they are there is an excellent example for future generations and a sign that the black population of our country contributes in all areas, not as it’s often portrayed as  soccer players, cooks or dancers."  [3]

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