Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies
Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies

PhD Student Rony Castillo Is Honored in Honduras’ African Heritage Month

Mon, April 24, 2017
PhD Student Rony Castillo Is Honored in Honduras’ African Heritage Month

LLILAS doctoral student Rony Castillo was honored for his pioneering work in education during the Honduran celebrations of 16th annual Mes de la Herencia Africana (African Heritage Month).

Castillo’s biography and photograph were part of an exhibition celebrating prominent Black Hondurans that opened on April 3 at the Ministry of Education in Tegucigalpa and then at the Universidad Autónoma de Honduras. The exhibition bio highlighted Castillo’s extensive academic and professional achievements in areas related to bilingual education, Afro-Hondurans, and Garífuna language and culture.

Castillo was born in Iriona, Colón, Honduras. He is a native speaker of Garífuna, an Afro-Indigenous Arawakan language that is the predominant indigenous language of Honduras. Because of the limitations of his country’s state-run bilingual education, Castillo says many Garífuna-speaking children are at a lifelong disadvantage in school and often do not go on to pursue advanced degrees. He credits his father, an educator, with encouraging him in his studies as a child and young adult. Castillo holds a master’s degree in project management and a doctorate in business administration, both from the Universidad Católica de Honduras. He is currently pursuing a doctorate in sociolinguistics through LLILAS with portfolios in education, linguistics, and African and African Diaspora studies.

A leader and innovator in the area of Spanish–Garífuna bilingual education, Castillo dreams of creating a new educational model in which communities are at the head of the table in designing bilingual and intercultural education curricula. He has plans to establish a Garifuna school that pioneers an autonomous program in bilingual education. In this program, teachers would be fully bilingual and would also possess bilingual and intercultural pedagogical training. The curriculum he envisions would be community focused, built on Garifuna people and culture, and honoring Black Hondurans.

Castillo has also been working with fellow Garífuna since 2009 to found the Intercultural Garífuna University (UGI), an autonomous, self-sustaining institution built on its own land, and according to its own philosophy, culture, and life principles. The university would be supported with a marine- and agriculture-based economy. OFRANEH, a Garífuna non-governmental organization, has recovered an area of ancestral land, Vallecito Faya, which is being considered as a site for the university’s home. Castillo envisions the creation of international partnerships between the university and scholarly institutions abroad, such as the University of Texas.

Castillo’s work places an emphasis on creating an education system that honors Black Hondurans and responds to their culture and their educational needs. This philosophy is echoed in his thoughts on Honduras’s celebration of African heritage:

“African Heritage Month was established to raise awareness of the richness of African culture and its contributions to the development of Honduran society and culture. However, instead of spending time on dance performances and public celebrations, this month should be focused on activities aimed at improving the living conditions of the Garífuna community, programs like Garífuna language revitalization and the generation of local development that emanates from the ideals of the Garífuna people and in deep connection with the nature we value—rivers, the sea, and the land.”

For more information and to view photos of the inauguration of the Mes de la Herencia Africana, visit Facebook.

Bookmark and Share

  • Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies

    University of Texas at Austin
    SRH 1.310
    2300 Red River Street D0800
    Austin, Texas 78712