Honduran Garifuna Doctor Who Graduated from ELAM Joins His Country’s Cabinet

Garífuna doctor graduated in Cuba and is a member of the Honduran executive. Photo: Prensa Latina

Dr. Luther Castillo Harry, who on March 17, 1999, received a scholarship to study at the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) in Havana, was appointed Secretary of Science, Technology and Scientific Innovation of Honduras.

For the representative of the Garífuna community, this academic institution turned out to be “a paradise in the heart of the Caribbean, where the dreams of the children of the poor were fulfilled and from which men and women of science and conscience graduated”.

Coming from Moskitia, one of the most remote regions and home to four of the nine indigenous and Afro-Honduran peoples in the country, he says that, along with his backpack of hopes, he carried some rubber boots because, according to what he had been told, he had to study in mornings and cut cane in the afternoons.

“I came from an intricate place, without electricity or roads, where traveling to Tegucigalpa was very expensive and the value of a medicine book was equivalent to my family’s salary in a year. In the first vacations I had to return my father’s boots because he had not cut cane, ”he said.

During a dialogue with leader Fidel Castro, while he was in his second year of college, Luther alluded to the founding of the National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH) in 1847 and said that, 118 years after its inauguration, he left its classrooms the first Garífuna doctor.

“Fidel was very interested in the story and told me ‘go back there and bring 20 young people.’ In that historic 2001, we managed to incorporate them into the center of higher education and today we have more doctors from those towns who graduated from ELAM, during the last two decades, than in 175 years from UNAM”, he highlighted.

After his return, almost no one believed that a young doctor, of a proverbial oratory and embraced with the solidarity ideas of the Island, would build a hospital in that forgotten place; however, Luther won the trust of his people, he added them to his project and block by block the first health institution in that land emerged.

The Garifuna arrived in Saint Vincent and later mixed with the Carib and Arawak indigenous communities; As a result of this interaction, those also known as Garínagu arose, a people that, in the words of the Honduran doctor, “has a wealth of historical struggle for life.”

During Manuel Zelaya’s administration (2006-2009), he became director of External Cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and, once the coup d’état of July 28, 2009 took place, the social movements in Honduras promoted a solidarity campaign to protect the life of the social leader.

In a message broadcast in various media at that time, the ELAM graduates transmitted Luther’s warning verbatim: “Inform the compas who denounce that my name is on the army list for my capture and there is an order to shoot me if I resist.” ”, and demanded the guarantee of their physical integrity.

Luther took over as head of the international medical brigade after the 2010 Haiti earthquake; He spoke in the United States Congress and Senate, the European Parliament and other international organizations and as a lecturer at universities in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Certified in the specialty of Family Medicine and medical and international development director of the Breegi Scientific group, the Honduran doctor is a founding member of the Libertad y Refundación Party and recently was part of the transfer commission of the elected president Xiomara Castro.

“With the firm conviction of serving my country, determination, dedication and the guidance of God and together with our doctor Mary Vallecillo and the great team that accompanies us, we will serve unconditionally,” he assured this Tuesday after being sworn in as Secretary of Science, Technology and Scientific Innovation.

On video, interview Dr. Luther Castillo when he was a student at ELAM

Cuba Debate

(With information from Prensa Latina)

Translated by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.