-A +A

Armenians of Central America

PrintPrintSendSendPDFPDF

By Pablo Roberto Bedrossian MD, MBA, San Pedro Sula, Honduras, 31 August 2009
 

Dr. Pablo Bedrossian (cardiologist) is the grandson of Agop Bedrossian, a Genocide survivor who lived through the age of 101. Pablo's passion is to uncover the history of Armenians in Central America. He gathers bits and pieces of information during his travels, writes in Spanish and publishes on the internet. He was born in Argentina and now lives in Honduras. At present he is the marketing manager of a pharmaceutical company.

The following "paper" is an English adaptation of his LOS ARMENIOS EN CENTRO AMÉRICA

The presence of a small village on the Atlantic beaches known as Nueva Armenia (New Armenia) is a curiosity. It is located about thirty minutes driving from La Ceiba, the third largest city in Honduras. It is a garínagu community. They are a mixture of Arawak (original inhabitants of Caribbean islands) and descendents of African slaves in the British West Indies deported from St. Vincent Island in the late eighteenth century. They are known as Garifuna, which is the name of their language.
 
There are also other areas in Salvador that have names related to Armenia or Armenians. In El Salvador, there is a municipality in Sonsonate district called Armenia. It is located northwest of San Salvador, near the Pacific Ocean.  It has its own website. A farm called Armenia Lorena should be mentioned too. It lies in San Rafael Pie de La Cuesta, San Marcos, Guatemala, and is well known for its waterfalls of La Trinidad.

It is not clear how and why these three sites received their names.

Central America is one of the least populated regions by the Armenian Diaspora. According to an article from Wikipedia 30 to 40 descendants of Armenians live in Costa Rica, 20 to 50 in Guatemala and 10 to 20 in Nicaragua. El Salvador is not mentioned, nor is Panama. The paper states that some 900 Armenians live in Honduras, but cites no sources.  These numbers are questionable.

The Armenians of Honduras had a little joy in 2007.  Marathon won the football (soccer) championship of the First Division despite the difficulties throughout the tournament. Manuel Keosseian led the team. This technician born in the Eastern Republic of Uruguay was hired in 2006.

I have heard of two other Armenians.

The first one was through reading the magazine that serves as an official tour guide, called Honduras Tips. It mentioned that “an American-Armenian owned a good restaurant” located near La Ceiba, Sambo Creek.  I went to that place a hot afternoon in 2006. I was told that the business was sold, but the owner still lived there. Everybody knew him.

When I explained the reason for my visit, he was very kind with me. He was a man in his 60s who spoke only English. He asked my name. When I said Bedrossian, he became excited and exclaimed, "it's my family name!” He told me that he was fifty percent Armenian, and did not know other compatriots in Honduras. I returned in 2007 to visit him. I was informed that he had returned to America to permanently settle there.

The second case concerns an elderly woman who had died long ago. Apparently the children still live in Honduras but have no ties with Armenians.

Maybe there is a third person. In September 2007, the newspaper La Prensa in its Social section mentioned a certain Manassarians. Despite the "s" at the end, it sounded like Armenians.  Bureaucrats sometimes changed the surnames of immigrants when they arrived to the country. This one could have been one of the cases. I wrote to the reporter asking him about Manassarians, but I got no answer.

Many of the most powerful families in Honduras are Christian of Palestinian origin. They came to the northern coast in the early twentieth century. Not only the Armenians suffered from the Ottoman yoke and persecution; many Greeks and Arabs  did too. They fled the country or were driven away. They arrived with Turkish documents.  Hence, here, as in Argentina, they are referred to as "Turks".  However, these Paelstinians came mainly from Bethlehem and Jerusalem,  and none of them want to be confused with their oppressors.

Besides Honduras, many Palestinians settled in El Salvador. It is noteworthy that both the former president of that sister nation, Elías Antonio Saca, like the late opposition leader, Schafik Jorge Handal, were of Palestinian origin. Palestinians also migrated en masse to Nicaragua with Turkish passports. These immigrants were integrated into the social and business life so successfully that in Nicaragua there is an expression "There are no poor Turks”.

But back to the Armenians in Central America.  Ramon Gurdian, one of the descendents of Armenians in Nicaragua, is a marketing manager for a major company in Guatemala. According to him, some young Armenians arrived in the late nineteenth century to Nicaragua and made history. The brothers Santos and Gurdian Castulo settled in Nicaragua, while the third, a cousin (Arthur? Virgil?) emigrated to Costa Rica.

The Ortiz Gurdian family is one of the most important economic groups in the region. In 1996, Ramiro Mayorga Ortiz and Patricia Gurdian founded the prestigious Gurdian Ortiz Foundation which is dedicated to supporting health and culture. The Museum of the Foundation is in Leon, Nicaragua. There, I inquired about the origin of the Gurdians.  The guide categorically denied their Armenian origin. However, Ramon Gurdian confirmed that the brothers and their cousin came to Central America from the land of the "stone crosses" and Mount Ararat.

In 2006, visiting Guatemala, in one of the largest dailies of the country I came across a very interesting interview with Samuel Berberian, dean of the Faculty of Theology of the Universidad Panamericana.  This distinguished theologian, born in Argentina, expressed very profound and original thoughts. He reminded me that the Christian faith for our people is much more than a tradition: it is part of its essence. In 301 Armenia became the first country to recognize Christianity as official religion. Its history, full of martyrs, persecutions and genocide, has demonstrated the unshakable faith of the people in Jesus Christ. Berberian is often consulted by various media as an authority on ethics.

There is no organized Armenian community in Central America, nevertheless there are people like Keosseian, Gurdian and Berberian who make history. Ramon Gurdian estimates that there are about 150 Armenians in Costa Rica, at least 300 in Nicaragua, 15 in Guatemala, 20 or 30 in El Salvador. The latter was the residence of Edgardo Surenian, the evangelical pastor and his family that recently went back to Argentina.

Obviously, this note is not the product of a thorough research. It is rather the collection of pieces in an attempt to rebuild the history of the Diaspora. Therefore, it has an open end. I hope to meet other compatriots through communication that this note may generate. This paper may help document the contribution of Armenians to the Central American society and provide a worthy testimony of our history.

Dr. Pablo Bedrossian can be reached at [email protected]
 
Your rating: None Average: 3.7 (9 votes)

Comments

Hi from Panama City

Hi, I am Artyom Sahakyan, recently moved to Panama City from New York. I enjoy Central America, but miss my relatives, friends  and church.  I was really happy to find this link and would like to be part of Armenia Union in Central America. 
Best Regards 

I Was Always Curious

I was always curious whether I was Armenian because I live in an Armenian community. They tend to think I'm Armenian. My father said that his father lived in Armenia, El Salvador and my mother said that his father and mother were Turks.

Armenios en Ecuador.

Muy Senor mio:

Este articulo me interesaba muchisimo!  Yo soy armenio cien porciento y naci en los Estados Unidos de padres que nacieron de Lebanon.  Quiero agregar mi experiencia de una cuidadita en Ecuador que se llama "La Armenia."  Tenia novia de Ecuador y fuimos alli para encontrar este pueblita.  Cuando lo encontre, pregunte la gente por la razon del nombre de la cuidad, y nadie me pudo dar una respuesta.  Pues, hice una investigacion para que sepa la razon del nombre de Armenia.  Apparentamente, habia armenios alli, pero cuando fui no aparecio ni uno.  Este tema me interesa muchisimo, y muchas gracias para el articulo y solo queria compartir mi experiencia.  Me voy a columbia en marzo, y buscare por mas armenios!!  Si conocen algun area que tenga armenios por favor indicame para que pueda conocerlos!  Muchas gracias..

-Harout Doukmajian

[email protected]

Armenia, Colombia

Estimado Pablo,  I appreciate your informative article. Thank you for your efforts and sharing. I am also responding to Jirair Tutunjian's comments. First, I was unaware of Armenia, El Salvador. I am familiar with Armenia, Colombia. I have been to Colombia dozens of times on business and always challenged my direct reports and colleagues to find out how the city of Armenia got its name. I heard several "theories" including the founder's mother was Armenian, the founder had once loved an Armenian girl, and that it was a biblical reference. I tend to believe the latter. Kind regards to all.

Mark

Armenia, Colombia

From what I read some time ago Armenia in Colombia was founded on October 14, 1889 by Jesús María Ocampo purchased for 300 pesos from Antonio Herrera. Villa Holguín was the original name, but changed it to Armenia in memory of the Christian Armenians who were killed in the late 1800s.

Armenia, Colombia

I was in Armenia, Colombia in the early '70s. I asked people about the origin of the city's name. No one could help me. Then I saw in a tourist brochure that it was named after a Biblical country (a number of other Colombian cities and provinces in that general neighborhood have names from the Middle East). Mr. Kasparian, I have to say I like your version better, although the mass killings of Armenians didn't begin until the mid-1890s.

Armenia, Colombia

I searched and was able to come up with this:

http://travel.mapsofworld.com/colombia/colombia-tourist-destinations/arm...

" History
Armenia was founded by Jesus Maria Ocampo in 1889 who came to Armenia in Colombia from Anaime in Tolima trying to find shelter in the mountains of Quindio and bought this land from Antonio Herrera. Colombia Tours will give you the facts about Armenia and how it was sold gradually for settlements. The city was originally named Villa Holguin,with respect to the prevailing president of the country at that time. It is believed that the name was later changed to Armenia in memory of the Armenian people who were murdered in 1894-97 following the Hamidian massacres."

 

Armenia, Colombia

I found this site and have spoken to the owner of the site who has done much research on this.
Welcome to Colombian Armenia - an interesting site with information
 

Armenians in Cuba

Hi:

I am Frank Díaz Donikián. I was born in Cuba. My grandparents were armenians who lived in Cuba. My mother learned armenian as her firts language. Now I am living in Miami, FL. United States. If I could be useful to give information about Armenians in Cuba, you can make contact with me. Best Regards:

Frank Díaz Donikián

Cuban Armenians

Dear Frank Diaz Donikian,

I am writing to you from Buenos Aires where I am on a short visit. I live in Montreal. The reason I am writing is because today I was talking with Dr. Carlos Antaramian of Mexico who is researching the life of Jacobo Haroutiounian. In the 1920s Mr. Haroutiounian found the biggest gold mine in Mexico. He was also famous/notorious because he was involved with Pancho Villa at the end of the Mexican Revolution. He eventually fled to Cuba where he died.

Mr. Antaramian is a passionate anthropologist and a professor. He is planning to go to Cuba to search through archival documents for information about Mr. Haroutiounian and the Armenian community in Cuba--or what's left of it. I strongly suggest that you contact Mr. Antaramian on my behalf at [email protected]. I am sure he would very much like to meet you.

By the way, did you know the late Gaspar Gasparian, an accountant in Havana? For years he worked at the Comercio Exterior de Cuba"?

Best regards,
Diran Avedian
 

Hello Frank, I am An American

Hello Frank,
I am An American Armenian and I am trying to find out what immigrant ship my mother as a child sailed from Marseille, France to Havana, Cuba in the fall of 1923.  She stayed in Cuba for a few months and eventually was able to enter the US via Key West, FL.  I can't find any online information and cannot travel to Cuba.  If you know of anyone that can help I would love to hear from you.  Thank you.

Hola Frank!!!

Hola querido Frank!!

Te escribe Shushan, la muchacha de Armenia que estudiaba en Cuba. Quisiera recuperar el contacto contigo.Con los e-mailes que tengo no consigo hacerlo.Ademas estoy haciendo mi tesis relacionado a las relaciones de Armenia con los países Latinoamericanos y necesito información sobre los armenios en Cuba.

Me alegraría muchícimo, si pudiera nuevamente estar en contacto contigo .

Gracias!!! Saludos desde Armenia

Armenians in Cuba

Hi Frank, I'm Armenian and I live in Miami, I need information about life for the Armenians in Cuba.
 
Best, Sandra

There are certainly more Armenians from Cuba

Frank:

I was also born in Cuba of Armenian roots. My mother's side is Armenian. My last name is Abadjian. It would be pretty nice to have a little talk with you. 

Armenians in Cuba


Dear Frank,

My name is Kathrin Pollow. I'm doing research for a German film project. We heard that Armenian women, already in possession of the US-American citizenship, traveled to Cuba in order to marry Armenian immigrants, who went there to evade the immigration quotas of the United States in 1921. Once married, they entered the States as a couple. Have you heard of this? Or would you or your family know somebody who can tell me more?
Would be great to hear from you.

Best,

Kathrin

Question re Armenians in Cuba


Gaytzag and Ara,

Do you know any way to be in touch with Armenians in Cuba? An Armenian expert from Chile is invited to participate in a French film in La Havana and he would like to contact Armenian descendents living in Cuba.

Best regards. 

Another Armenian to Cuba

Hello.

My name is Philippine. My grandmother is Armenian, and I have lived in Yerevan for a year. I will soon go to Cuba for a semester to do research. I'm very interested to know more about Armenians living there. Are there any? It would be great to speak to some Armenians there.

Best.

Born in Cuba

My baby girl and baby boy were both born in Cuba.

Hi

My family is from El Salvador. My grandmother's maiden surname on my father's side is Sibrian. I've seen this name through out El Salvador. Aparently the name is of Armenian origin. My family comes from Chalatenango department near the Honduran border. However there is no cultural trace of any Armenian in the family, other than maybe certain phenotypes. I find this very interesting.

Daniel, tu nombre es


Daniel, tu nombre es probablemente de origen español. Existen Cibrian y Sibrian en España. No todas las terminaciones en "ian" son de origen armenio, pero intentaré averiguar si hay alguna posibilidad que tu apellido sea de origen armenio. Gracias!

Daniel, probably your name is from Spain. There are Cibrian and Sibrian lastnames in Spain. Not all  "ian"s are Armenian people, but I'll try to find out more about your last name.

Best regards.

Thank you Pablo

Thank you for your efforts, Pablo.

In the '70s I visited the village of Armenia in El Salvador, a few weeks after stopping in the city of Armenia in Colombia. Following my trip I tried to determine the origin of the Armenia name. I learned that the Spanish colonial government sometime picked biblical names for existing settlements or for settlements that they had established. For example, a number of other towns and provinces close to Colombia's Armenia are also named after biblical place names. Of course, the Armenia connection is from Noah's Ark landing on Mount Ararat. 

Thank you Paron Bedrosian for

Thank you Paron Bedrosian for taking the time to write what you know of the Armenian community of Central America.

Manuel Keosseian?

Dear Pablo,

Is this Manuel Keossesian in any way related to a great intellectual, who sadly passed away only a few years ago, who resided in Montreal, Quebec?   He was for a brief period our school Principal in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  If this Manuel is related to my former school principal, then indeed this website has done more than justice. 

Thank you for the wonderful article and for going into endearing detail.  Very well written, sir. 

Kindest regards,

Hagop Nalbandian
Burbank, CA

To Ara and Gaytzag

Thank you, Ara and Gaytzag. I do appreciate your comments.

Central America is a region that includes five countries: Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Panama doesn't consider itself as part of Central America, but you can add  to the List. Cuba is in the Caribbean region, as Dominican Republic or Jamaica, and it has very few relations with Central America. Nevertheless, some Palestinians came to Honduras from Cuba when Fidel Castro took power (for exemple, the Baboon family). I don't have the complete information, but I heard that they emigrated to Cuba from Palestine at the same time that the Palestinians came to Honduras, just at the turn of the twentieth century.

When I visited Cuba in 2005 for personal reasons, I met no Armenians  nor I heard any comments about them. I think Gaytzag is right when he said that most of  the Armenians left Cuba when president Batista was overthrown.

It's interesting the book "La Bomba" mentioned by Gaytzag. A wonderful work written by Jose Maria Gorriaran. I read it several years ago and I was very impressed how Mr.Gorriaran was able to transform his tragedy into an opportunity.

Gaytzag, I'm sure it's an honor to be named in this book. I do admire Mr.Gorriaran and if you see him, please, send him my gratitude for all that he did for the Armenian cause.

I visited Barcelona in 2004. What a city! Now I'm in touch with Glenda Adjemiantz, an Argentine living in Madrid. She recently visited Armenia and wrote a very nice article about her experience. Also a friend of mine, Jorge Fernández, is spreading the Armenian cause in Spain.

Best regards.

 

 
 

Armenios de America Central

Apreciado Pablo,

Antes que nada, quiziera que me perdones por no haberte contestado anteriormente.Estaba y estoy muy atareado.
He leido con mucho interes tu descripcion de los Armenios en Centro America.Es cierto,  Cuba no se considera como parte de esto,sino que forma parte de las islas en el mar Caribeña.Asi que tienes razon.

Aqui en España donde me paso 3-4 meses al año se ha formado una comunidad Armenia que no podriamos ni soñar.Apenas habian media docena de familias en Barclona, y un centenar en totalidad-incluyendo Madrid Capital-
Sin embargo desde hace unos diez años embezaron a entrar...tu diras..de Armenia mayoriamente  los Armenios en busca de trabajo.Ahors se estima ,mas o menos, como 50/60.000 que estan dispersado en Barcelona, Valencia,Alicante, Madrid y Bilbao,mas en otras localidades .

Muchos llegaron pafra trabajar en la construccion.Como la crisis  mundial tambien ha afectado España, los que vinieron  en los ultimos 2 años se han quedado en muy mala situacion.

Nuestros establecimientos como son de Beneficiencia(UGAB) y los "off-shoots" de ARF(FRA) HOM, todavia no se han visto por aqui.Yo ,desde hace 3 años he frecuentado a dos comunidades, como son Barcelona y Valencia, centros -no muy adecuados  en donde unas y unos jovenes de Armenia  iniciaron clases de enseñanza de  la lingua Armenia,historia,musica y danzas tradicionales Armenias  solo los fines de semana.He tomado video de estos y tambien hablado por los alumnos,empujandoles a seguir aprendiendo ,sobretodo la lengua-para que no la pierdan.Asi como he aprfeciado  el labor  de los @profesores@ que dan lectura  ahi..etc.

Favor, que me perdone,pero he hecho algo importante en mes de Junio en Yerevan,iendo a  la Ministra de Diaspora 2 vecez y conseguido que envien libros de enseñanza para  los ninos-niñas.Lo han hecho.Tambien lleve con migo de vuelta de ARmenia una media decena de DVD´´s especialmente  hecha en Yerevan -De Hovanness Toumanyan,en ARmenio  ,en color  y tipo micky mouse  .He pedico a  la señora directora de l a comunidad de Barcona que hagan copias   para enviar a  las comunidades-arriba  mencionada, como Valencia etc,
Pues , no tengo mas que decir excepto  LA BUENA  NOTICIA  ES QUE POR FIN...por  lo menos  Los del litoral Mediterranea(Barcelona  y sus alrfededores) van a tener Una Iglesia Apostolica Armenia  ,cerca de "Playa De Aro" .Va a venir el arzobispo de Paris a consagrarla  finales de este mes.

Desde luego estoy planeando  ir(iremos  nuestra familia) para participar  en este EVENTO tan espderado.
Te saludo  y espero oir  de ti proximamente.Si quieres puedes  leer mis Bulletines(articulos) en mi propio web site  www.Armenidad-worldwide.org  especialmente seccion en Español.

Hama Haigagani Siro
gaytzag  palandjian
                    

To Gaytzag

Thank you, Gaytzag. I'll answer your mail in Spanish language that you chose. If some reader wants an English translation, please, let me know, and I'll send it.

Felicitaciones por tu iniciativa. Es extraordinaria. Conoci España en 2004 y quede fascinado por tanta riqueza cultural. No sabia que habia tantos armenios alli. Creo que te conte que tuve contactos con Glenda Adjemiantz, [email protected], argentina radicada en España, a quien conoci por via electronica por un emotivo articulo que publico en www.ian.cc sobre su visita Armenia, pais que aun no conozco. Tambien tengo contacto con Jorge Fernandez, otro argentino radicado en España, cuñado de mi primo Ricardo Bedrossian, quien ha difundido la causa armenia. Puedes ver lo que escribio en http://www.ian.cc/notas/noticias_ian.php?id=122. El es pastor evangelico.

Creo que para conservar la armenidad es clave mantener la cultura, la historia y las tradiciones. Mi mama es hija de españoles y nieto de italianos, pero igualmente me siento definitivamente armenio. Sin embargo, no hablo ni leo el idioma. Lo que has hecho con la Ministra de Asuntos de la Diaspora es extraordinario. 

Por si te interesa, acerca de Los Armenios en Centroamerica, tengo tres articulos publicados en español. El primero, es el que has leido aqui, en adaptacion en ingles. Tengo dos mas: "Las dos historias del apellido Gurdian" y "Sitios de Centroamerica que se llaman Armenia". Los puedes encontrar via Google.

Fuerza y adelante!!

Armenians of Cuba

In 2006 I had to meet with a Cuban Armenian lady in Havana named Donikian who spoke perfect Armenian. According to her there are a few of Armenian descent. Some Canadian Armenians do business in Cuba, but they have not emigrated, and hence cannot be considered Cubans.

Thank you Pablo

I am thrilled to find out about Pablo Bedrossian's Armenians of Central America. I know about Armenians in South America, but  this is new. However, if we consider and accept  that Cuba  is also part  of Central America, then I am informed that there were some 500 Armenian families before Fidel Castro's Revolution. Most probably the majority left the island. I have a poetry book by a Cuban Armenian lady.

Being an adopted son of this beautiful wonderful country Spain, I speak and write fluent Spanish.  My name appears in just recently published book Armenios written by José Antonio Gurriarán, the author of the famous "La Bomba"

There is a newly formed huge Armenian Community in Spain. There are close to 60,000 people dispersed mainly in Barcelona, Valencia, Alicante, Madrid and Bilbao. For the past three years I have attended and encouraged  the Sunday school in Barcelona. A video of some 25  pupils (now up to 40) was sent out to be shown on Armenian TV programmes.

Last  Spring  in Yerevan, I asked the Minister, and she obliged by sending school books. Later, upon my second visit I was given DVDs in Armenian about H.Toumanyan and others prepared specially for children. They are copied and distributed to Sunday schools in the above mentioned cities.

The most important news is that an Armenian Church, rented for thirty years, will be consecrated by the Archbishop of Paris at the end of this month. I hope there will be quite a crowd and a video will be taken to be shown locally and in LA.

Central America

Hello, Mr. Palandjian. I didn´t see your comment until now. Thank you! Your information about the Armenian community in Spain is very interesting. I'm in touch, by Facebook, with Glenda Adjemiantz, an Armenian born in Argentina now in Spain. I read "La Bomba" many years ago, but not "Armenios".

Sometime ago a number of Armenians decided to research their roots in Latin America, just as Carlos Antaramian has done in Mexico (he wrote a book about it) or Nelly Boulgourdjian in Argentina. My research was not as professional as theirs, but I tried to inform readers about Armenians in this region. Cuba isn't part of Central America, and we have very few relations with it (I visited the country in 2005), but your information is very interesting and maybe I will do further research in this field.

Best regards.

My mail is [email protected] 

Post new comment

Note

Keghart.com edits comments for grammatical and spelling errors, obscenity, libelous, offensive and confrontational expressions. Please limit comments to a maximum of 200 words. Incomprehensible or irrelevant sentences and duplicate comments will be removed. Following receipt of your comment, Keghart.com will send you a verification email to safeguard against spam and impersonation, please click on the link in that email.
Comments are usually posted within 24 hours following your verification.

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
pendreschekednes