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The Pech

The tribe of the Pech is not well investigated. In pre-Columbian times the Pech lived in the center of what today is the Honduran Moskitia. The area of the Pech reached from the Aguans River over the Patuca River to the Cape Gracias a Dios. In the interior of the country, they lived up to the north of what today is the department of Olancho.

Lehmann and other anthropologists are sure that the Pech also settled on the Bay Islands, based on a report from 1622 describing a Spanish mission to the mainland, where Indian people from the Bay Islands were used as translators and guides. And Stone and Epstein connects the archeological pieces found on the Bay Islands with the handcrafts of the Pech from the mainland. By the way: Not only the Pech settled in the Bay Islands, but also some Mayan traders.

The legends of the Pech tell about there descendants: They are children of the lightning. The ancestors of the Pech lived as lightning and fought against Takasco, the leader of enormous cannibals. The warriors of Takasco where called Chaca Chacey, mighty crocodiles. An unknown hero who brought the corn, the agriculture and the medicine induced the creation of the Pech. Girard found out that the centre of the Pech must have been the region of the Platano River, based on written symbols in big rocks forming monuments along the river (Petroglyphos). The Pech are also called Payas, Poyers and Pahayas. They are refuse to be called these names, because they mean wild, uncivilized and barbarian. In fact, that was how the Spaniards called them. The Pech name themselves "Pech" - people. Persons from other tribes are "Pech Akua" - other people, or "bula" - Latinos. Lehmann and Greenberg concluded that the language of the Pech was derived from the Chibcha language family. Other scientists are convinced that the Pech language is an isolated dialect without connection to other groups.

In the 16th century the Pech territory belonged to the province of Varaguas (or Cartago), reaching from Panama to the Cape Gracias a Dios. Afterwards, the Moskitia was ordered to be part of the province of Tegucigalpa. The Spaniards waited until the year 1564 to send the first expedition to the region of the Pech. The resistance of the Pech made the Spaniards conclude that the only way to conquer the area could be by the church.

During the middle of the 18th century the coast of the Moskitia was colonized by English, French and Hollandaise settlers. Fastly, they became friends with the Miskitos and provided them with arms. The Miskitos used the guns against the other local tribes including the Pech. The Pech had no other option but to flee to the interior of the mainland along the rivers Patuca, Platano, Sicre, Paulaya and Sico. The Miskitos followed even to these areas hunting and catching the Pech and selling them as slaves to British traders. The population of the Pech decreased instantly. The remaining Pech settled on the Platano River up to the mountains of the Sierra de Agalta. The Pech got accustomed to the constant man hunt made by the Miskitos and changed their lifestyle to a nomadic was of life. Their food consisted of fish and meat. Agriculture was not highly developed, in the cultivation of manioc or corn.

The older Pech say the life of the Pech went as follows: "For four centuries we, the Pech, have wandered through the forests of Agalta, taking refuge from white settlers and Miskitos, trying to avoid captivity and the life as slaves." The Pech learned perfectly how to survive under all circumstances. Their will to survive and to be independent helped them maintain parts of their culture and their language. Even when made to confess to the catholic religion, they still kept part of their own religion. But with the actual flood of settlers to the unpopulated forests of Olancho, the future of the Pech is now in danger. A lot of Pech are mixed with Miskitos, and less and less people are able to speak the language of the Pech.

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