Honduras Minister Abroad at Harvard

Though she is not under direct threat, family and friends of other ministers have been arrested and attacked. “I feel insecure about it,” Pastor says of his family’s decision to stay, “but if they want to reject my invitations or my exhortations that they go away from Honduras I have to respect their decision.”


The switch from politician to professor was not without precedent for Pastor, who had previously taught at El Colegio de Mexico, the University of Pennsylvania, Haverford College, and the University of Chicago, and served as a lecturer at Harvard. Though his post in Honduras is a political one, it is a political post for which he is academically trained.

A Tulane University graduate, Pastor received his Ph.D. in history from the prestigious El Colegio de Mexico.

This semester, Pastor is teaching two undergraduate courses, Central American and Mexican (or Mesoamerican) Peoples: 1500-1840, and a freshman seminar, titled Alternative Narratives: An Introductory Seminar on the Modern Literature and Historiography of Latin America.


It took a team, led by Fash, to open Harvard’s doors for Pastor. Scholars at Risk, a nationwide initiative that finds posts for academics who find themselves persecuted and thus unable to pursue their academic work had already hired its faculty for the fall semester. Undeterred, Fash sought a network of support within the Faculty of Arts and Science to gather the resources to find Pastor a position at Harvard.

“The University really took it on the chin this past year so the question became, ‘how are we going to fund this?’ Because you don’t just find 25,000 dollars lying around,” Fash said.

By the end of July, just a month later, Scholars at Risk had partnered with the Peabody Museum, the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, the Freshmen Seminar Program and the History department to offer Pastor the position of visiting professor.

“It was really very heartening that so many concerned citizens could act in such a conjoined and conscientious way,” Fash said. “It’s wonderful that Harvard can rise to the occasion even in our own fiscal crisis.”


While he doesn’t speculate about the nation’s political future, Pastor is a strong critic of the new government. And on his replacement in the new cabinet, he offers what he describes as an old Latin American proverb: “If you can’t say anything positive, you better not talk,” he says.

But Pastor has not shied away from speaking more generally. On Wednesday, the history professor gave a lecture for the Rockefeller Center titled “The Short Story of the Coup.”

“We are living a national tragedy,” he said in the lecture, a week after the ousted president secretly returned to Honduras only to set up camp in a Brazilian embassy.

Though Honduras is currently struggling, Pastor says he still cares about his homeland and what he preserved as a minister of culture. “I believe cultural heritage sights are essential to understanding identity, which is supposedly what binds together a civilized nation,” he said. “I don’t understand how we could live without artistic expression.”

Pastor expects to take up a position at the Colegio de Mexico for the spring semester. Beyond that, his fate is linked with his nation’s. “I am—what is it you call it? A patriot.”

—Staff writer Elyssa A.L. Spitzer can be reached at

—Staff writer Noah S. Rayman can be reached at