Rafael Platero Paz

From the Archives

From the early 1930s into the 1980s, Rafael Platero Paz was the main studio photographer in the banana company town of El Progreso. As an artisan and an entrepreneur, he documented everything from children receiving their First Communion to prostitutes being monitored by public health officials. He made the negatives and, in his darkroom, he developed them into prints and postcards. With his photos, Platero Paz encouraged banana workers, peasants, and other members of the aspiring classes to dress up with their spouses and children and to inscribe themselves as honorable, respectable participants in the Honduran national imaginary.

When Rafael Platero Paz died, he left everything—around fifteen boxes of photographs and undeveloped negatives, his cameras, and equipment—to his daughter, Aida Dolores López de Castillo. As an amateur historian, Profesora Aída has published several booklets on the local history of El Progreso. Profesora Aída immediately took a keen interest in my research into the histories of Honduran cultures of photography. She offered me full access to her private collection, comprised of approximately 40,000 negatives, out of which I digitized approximately 2,000. These photographic images captured and co-constituted the discourses of nation and race, class, and gender that animated this vibrant banana company town in Central America.

Kevin Coleman