One of the original ‘banana republics’, Honduras was for years dominated by the United Fruit Company. US companies Dole and Chiquita now control much of the fruit production. While still a predominantly farming economy, many Hondurans are now also employed in the clothing industry, again by North American companies.
A combination of underdevelopment, oppression, human rights abuses and natural disasters has kept Hondurans in poverty – it is the third poorest country in Latin America.
Honduras is the second largest country in Central America. Three quarters of the land is made up of mountains and high valleys where agriculture and ranching are possible. It has a long Caribbean coast and shorter Pacific coast. The Caribbean coast is the most intensely developed and exploited region of Honduras, both in terms of economic activity in the coastal cities and growing tourism there and on the Bay Islands. La Moskitia, in the north east corner of Honduras, is a large rainforest.
Honduras has over 80 ecological protected areas. Deforestation and illegal logging are big issues, as is overfishing on the Caribbean Sea. Honduras is in the middle of the hurricane area – Hurricane Mitch in 1998 brought devastation and a psychological blow which many feel they haven't yet recovered from.
About ten per cent of the population is indigenous – divided into ten different ethnic minority groups. Ninety per cent is ladino – sometimes regarded as a derogatory term for those of Spanish or mixed descent. Honduras is very divided economically – the rich are very rich, the poor very poor. The urban poor are crowded into decaying neighbourhoods or the new shantytowns growing up on hillsides on the outskirts of Tegucigalpa. Both are rife with gang violence, often drug related. The youth gangs, known as maras, are said to have tens of thousands of members and use threats and violence to control their ‘turf’.
Although Honduras has a young population – half are under the age of 19 – the traditional value of family is still strong. The practical reality of looking for work means that many families are divided, with family members living in different cities, or in the USA. Money sent home is an important source of income for the remaining family members.
Although Honduras is primarily Roman Catholic in culture the Evangelical churches have grown here in the last 20 years and now represent some 15 per cent of the population, with increasing influence in national life.
Latin Link would like to recruit people prepared to develop a team in Honduras, and link with existing organisations.
Stride placements have included children’s work, camp ministry with Scripture Union and work with a project reaching children affected by brain damage.
There are many possibilities and invitations to work with children's projects in Tegucigalpa, literacy programmes, student ministries, medical programmes and support for those affected by HIV/Aids, teaching, rehabilitation, youth work, education and vocational training.