Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Two Sides of Honduras

This is Honduras, or at least the Honduras that the developers, real estate investors, and tourist guides want you to see.  It is beautiful.  I love it. It is the only thing you will see if you only go to the resorts or to the gated, gringo compounds.

Honduras is a country of marked differences, from the tropic heat of the North Coast to the moderate and sometimes cold Western Mountains. We have sunsets that are some of the most beautiful in the world...Sorry Key West, but it is true.  We have some  of the best diving you will ever do off the Bay Islands and Los Cayos Cochinos, better even than the Caymans in my opinion. 

                    You can live in a metropolitan area, and have almost all the amenities you find in the US.  You can live in one of the old colonial towns which are very picturesque, and show the influence of Spain.  You can even live among
ancient Mayan ruins dating to 900 B.C.

This is where I live.  This is considered upper middle class housing-upscale housing.   We have what is listed as a third bedroom and bath.  It is actually the maid's quarters. 


This is my Sister-in- law's house.  This is middle class housing.
She lives here with a daughter, and sometimes another daughter and a grandchild.

This is subsidized housing.  These little houses are two and three bedroom with electricity, water and plumbing.  They cost $10 - $15K USD.  The Honduran Government backs the loan.  It must be paid off in ten years.  This is how many Hondurans are able to buy their own home.

This is my neighbor's house up the mountain.  Can't find him?  I made it easy for you.  It is that little brown blob right in the middle of the picture.  This house is probably somewhere around 10' x 12' and has a thatched roof.  It is made of mud packed into interlaced tree branches, bamboo, or whatever can be used for lathing.  It is a casa de tierra, a house of earth. There is no running water and no electricity, no plumbing.  The kitchen is outside, and probably only consists of a fuego, which is like a BBQ pit covered with  piece of sheet metal and it is wood-fired; and a pila, which is a concrete sink with two sides.  One side holds the clean water, and the other is dirty.  The clean water is carried from a nearby creek in buckets.  You never allow anything dirty to contaminate the clean water.  If there is a pila, the lady of the house uses it to wash dishes, clothes, and children.  If there is no pila, she goes to the creek and beats the clothes on the rocks to get them clean.

Then there is this.  A small village of this.   Many small villages of this.  Again, no water, no electricity, no indoor plumbing.  No outhouse, just a latrine.  These are probably squatters, because Honduran law allows squatters to take land that has not been used for any purpose over a number of years.  The  casa de tierra is actually the better deal, because it does keep out the rain and some of the heat and cold.  There are actually families living here,  The Honduran government says a family is three adults and two children.  Most families are much larger.  This is the reason the Castro/Chavez Socialism/Communism model can easily take hold of a country, by promising to take land from the rich and give it to the people living in places like this.  The countries who profess to be democratic, especially those in the Western Hemisphere, need to take action, or the wolf will be at the door.

Honduras is a country of approximately 8,000,000 people.  The median age is 20.3, but most of the population is well below that. According to the CIA World Fact Book about 36% are un-or underemployed,  nearly 60% of the population lives in poverty. and of those employed, only 20% are employed in industry.  The rest are almost evenly split between agriculture and services.  We have a very young population ready to come into the job market, and virtually no jobs.


The minimum wage, after is was raised 61% last year, is L5,500 ($290.70) per month.  Many people work for less because they have to, some because one whole area of the country was exempt from the raise.  The canasta basica, the basic grocery cart,  contains contains 30 items.  As of 2008 it costs L4,309 ($324 USD), and it has gone up since the increase in the minimum wage, and the recent political turmoil.

So, what can be done to change this?  I believe the answer is in education.  The school system here is deplorable.  Children are not taught to think logically and strategically.  Last year, the children only went to school 100 days, due to a teacher's strike.  The teachers strike for just about any reason, and the only ones to suffer are the children.

As expatriates, we cannot change the system.  What Macho Man and I have decided to do is mentor a child.  This child is a family member.  We will see that he gets an education.  We will probably do some home schooling.  He wants to learn English, so he can talk to me, but that may be because I buy him chocolates.  ;-D  We will try to make sure he learns to make his own decisions, not based on propaganda, but on facts he can document for himself.

I am blessed.  I am very rich compared to most Hondurans.  I have potable water, electricity most of the time, enough to eat, and a roof over my head.  If I am not my brother's keeper, I am at least his helper.  I keep remembering, "Even as you do for the least of these my brethren."  I don't believe it is optional.


  1. Thanks for the info and I completely agree with you about education being the long term answer. This is the same anywhere in the world, but the realities are much harsher here, much more obvious and much more devestating for the future generations. I too, feel blessed to be able to live here, comfortably and affordably, but acknowledge that I also have a responsibility to help as much as I can.

  2. Thank you, Stephanie. You always give me such encouragement.