DIPA is a technical team formed in May 2004, headquartered at the Asociación Copan offices and directed by Honduran archaeologist, Ricardo Agurcia F. DIPA offers advice to the Honduran Ministry of Tourism (IHT) pertaining to certain aspects of the World Bank-financed Copan Valley Regional Development Project (PDRVC).
The PDRVC uses archaeological tourism as a poverty-reducing strategy to benefit rural Honduran communities. Using Copan’s success as a framework, DIPA advised the government about meaningful tourism infrastructure as well as cultivating informative and engaging experiences at several currently undeveloped Honduran archaeological sites.
Micro-credit loans, business grants, a series of educational trainings, guiding workshops, and craft courses have enhanced the opportunities of small entrepreneurs living near these five archaeological parks.
DIPA Sites – El Puente
Located in the Municipality of La Jigua, Copán Department, El Puente Archaeological Park is in the Florida Valley, about an hour east from the Copán Ruins. This 5.5-hectare park was declared an Archaeological Zone in 1989 and was developed as the second Archaeological Park in Honduras. Excavations financed by the Japanese government began in 1990 as part of the La Entrada Archaeological Project, Second Phase (PALE II). After four years of intense research and conservation, El Puente opened its doors to the public on January 20, 1994. Despite its accessibility and proximity to the tourist destination Copán, El Puente receives very few visitors a year. DIPA is working on innovative aspects to stimulate visitors to discover El Puente. Among these attractions are a “Mayan Village”, the reconstruction of a traditional Mayan dwelling area and the interpretation of daily Mayan life. A “Mayan Garden” has also been proposed with native plants and trees used by the ancient Mayans for cooking, medicine and construction. It is expected to incorporate an archaeological laboratory, demonstrating the excavation process, and to incorporate a restoration laboratory into the Visitor Center, demonstrating the restoration of artifacts.
DIPA Sites – Los Naranjos
The Eco-Archaeological Park of Los Naranjos is located on the northern shore of Lake Yojoa in the Municipality of Santa Cruz de Yojoa, Department of Cortés. Los Naranjos lies 80 km south of San Pedro Sula and 155 km northwest of Tegucigalpa. In 1995, the basin of Lake Yojoa was declared a National Monument. In 1996, the Asociación Copan created the park’s first Management Plan, and in 2001 the park began operating.
At Los Naranjos, DIPA was involved in the creation of a new Management Plan. With its rich cultural resources and an impressive natural landscape, Los Naranjos has tremendous potential to draw visitors interested in archaeology and the natural environment.
DIPA Sites – Plan Grande
Unique among the five sites of the PDRVC, Plan Grande is situated on the island of Guanaja, one of the Bay Islands of Honduras. It is the only archaeological site in the Bay Islands that still has numerous stone stelas and other stone monuments, yet this site has never been fully excavated.
The archaeological site occupies the western edge of a flat plain on the north side of the island. To the east, the steep limestone cliff of Marble Hill rises 50 meters above the plain. These vertical limestone cliffs are filled with caves where ceremonies were carried out in prehistoric times. At Plan Grande, DIPA will be involved in developing the site’s first management plan.