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Armenians of Central America

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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]
 
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Comments

Armenians in Colombia

Can anybody help me with Armenians living in Colombia? I would appreciate to get any contact details of Armenians living in Armenia (Colombia).

Best regards.

Manuel

Armenians in Cuba?

Hi there, anyone could help us if we can find Armenians in Cuba. We are visiting Cuba in 2 weeks and would love to see Armenians! Whenever I travel I'm searching for Armenians and guess what I always find them, but information about Cuban Armenians is scarce! Anyone to help us? 
Muchas Gracias
Annie

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 

Visiting Panama City

Artyom, 

Thanks for Keghart making it happen.

I just spoke with Armen and he said that you moved to Panama City. Guess what, I'm currently in Panama City and staying at Hard Rock Hotel. If you can make it tonight, let's meet at the Sky Bar(62nd floor). I'll wait for you between nine and 10:30 PM hopefully you can make it.

Hope to see you soon.
Arsen
1/20/2015

Short Visit to Panama

Hi Artyom,

On August 20 my husband and I will visit Panama City for 10 hours. We would like to meet Armenians in Panama. If you you have contacts there please email me at [email protected]

Best regards,                                                                                                                                           Annie Arakelian

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

Cuba

Hello,

First, Happy New Year!!!

I'll visit Cuba on January 11, 2015  for 10 days.

Are there "Hay"s in Cuba?

Thanks,

Masis

Armenian in Cuba

I will be in Cuba in April and would like to find Armenians and Armenian churches, if someone can help me find them. Thank you very much.

Le voyage

T'as trouvé quelque chose ?

Hi Frank!

Hi Frank, how are you? Soon I'll visit Cuba. I would like to know if there is a working Armenian community or no! Could you please help me?

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.

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