On the morning of June 28, Rodolfo F. Pastor began an unexpected journey to Harvard. As Honduran Minister of Culture, he suddenly found himself threatened, entangled in a military coup against his elected government.
Coup leaders had sought out his colleagues in the ministry, and Pastor feared for his safety. To avoid persecution by the new regime, Pastor went into hiding at a family cabin deep in the Honduran mountainside.
It was there that Pastor, who is also a renowned Latin American scholar, received a call from a longtime friend in Cambridge, Mass.
Harvard Anthropology Professor William Fash had read a contentious quotation in El Tiempo, a Honduran newspaper, criticizing the de facto government and worried that his friend might be in danger.
“It occurred to me that there was a safety factor,” Fash said.
He soon assembled a team which, by July, had secured Pastor a post as a visiting professor in Harvard’s History Department.
Since then, the University post has provided Pastor a means of maintaining a strong connection with Honduras, but from a safe distance behind Ivy-clad walls.
A HEART IN HONDURAS
Buried in the depths of Robinson Hall, Pastor’s new office is bare. No books sit on the shelves, no pictures hang on the walls. His office decor seems to suggest that he won’t be staying for long, that his worries lie elsewhere.
A few minutes into an interview with The Crimson, Pastor’s phone rings, and he immediately jumps to answer. It is his son on the line, calling from Washington D.C, where he serves as a diplomat on behalf of the Honduran government.
Technically, his son is unemployed—he is a diplomat for what Pastor calls “our” government: the administration ousted in June. But because the United States does not recognize the regime that took over in the coup, Pastor’s son has retained his title. Likewise, Pastor still considers himself Minster of Culture, Art, and Sports.
Reverting to Spanish, Pastor speaks on the phone for a few minutes and then hangs up, happy. But he deflects inquiries about the conversation, explaining that because the situation in Honduras is so precarious, anything made public could potentially change the course of events.
“We have news by the hour,” he says. “I can’t tell you much more about Honduras’ future. We get often hopeful about avenues for the future and then get frustrated, so I refuse to speculate.”
In the fourth poorest country in Latin America, Honduras’ pre-coup government had been seeking support for a national referendum that, if held and supported, would have dramatically changed the fabric of the government, a move those in the coup did not want to succeed.
The past months have been tenuous. In mid-August, Pastor flew to the United States, and has been in Cambridge since, safe from the turbulence of his home country. Bur his wife and youngest son are still in Honduras. Pastor’s wife could have joined him at Harvard, but he says her job in Honduras as an anthropologist and museum director prompted her to stay.