The Lenca are the largest of eight indigenous people groups in Honduras. There are about 116,000 Lenca Indians who live in 1,196 villages. The Lenca language is almost a dead language. Like the language, much of the Lenca culture has been lost since the 1920‘s. The Lenca are the poorest people group in all Honduras, as well as the least educated. The majority of Lenca are Catholic. However, in recent years many have become evangelicals. There are Lenca who maintain their ancestors’ beliefs and practices. In some villages, there is a medicine doctor or shaman who plays an important role in curing the sick.
Most Lenca are farmers. The average salary is about five US Dollars per day. The Lenca men cultivate crops such as corn, beans, coffee, garlic, and sugarcane. During the coffee harvest, November through February, most Lenca families move to large coffee plantations to harvest coffee. The men also work as carpenters and masons. The Lenca women mainly work in the home. They are also skilled artisans in pottery and sewing.
The Lenca diet is simple. Tortillas and beans are a part of every meal. A cup of coffee can be served at almost any hour of the day. A variety of fruits and vegetables are available throughout the year. One of the most popular meals in the homes of the Lenca is soap de gallina India, which is the Lenca version of chicken soup. On special occasions, such as weddings and birthdays, tamales are prepared.
The Lenca homes are constructed of mud-bricks, a dirt floor, and clay tiles for the roofs. Most homes lack basic sanitation, electricity, and running water. The average home is 215 square feet. Large families share a one bedroom and one kitchen home. The mountain air cools the homes at night.
The Lenca have an amazing spirit of hospitality. Upon visiting the Lenca people in their homes, there is always a quick response to find an empty chair or a comfortable place to sit. Coffee and bread or some form of soft drink is almost always offered during visits. The Lenca people are very humble. They always stop what they are doing to accept guests and visit.