After 16 hours of bus ride we finally got to San Pedro Sula in Northern Honduras. By the time we got there, we were dead tired and not a little bit freaked out. Up until Tegucigalpa, Honduras seemed like a bit exotic but nice country with green mountains dominating the landscape. Going out of Tegucigalpa we could see huge slums that seemed to be going on for kilometers out of the capital. Although the roads seemed to be better, the entrance to a modern motorway was guarded by a man with huge rifle. Later, we would see those men – members of private security it seemed – in every establishment, from gas station, to mall, to the drugstore. In the two days that we’d spend there, we would never get used to this.
Why two days? San Pedro Sula, with its high fences and bulletproof (or so it seemed) gates, with extremely bad reputation, where even the taxi has to be chosen with care didn’t sound inviting. However, after long journey we learned that the bus to our next location – Puerto Barrios in Guatemala – leaves at 5:30 in the morning. This, we couldn’t take and in the end we’d decided to take a day to do some last shopping, write on our blogs, regroup…
It is easy to understand the precautions when we learned that Honduras has the highest rate of intentional homicides in the world, with 82.1 per 100,000 people (2010), compared to El Salvador – which holds second place with 66 homicides per 100,000 people. The Northwest border with Guatemala (where SPS is) is considered one of the most dangerous regions in whole Central America.
Before the colonial times the majority of Honduras’ area was inhabited by the Maya civilization as proven by numerous ruins found all over the country. In early 16th century Christopher Columbus landed in Honduras as a first European in known history. By the middle of the century, the country was conquered by the Spanish who arrived from Mexico. Since then Honduras was part of the Spanish Empire for around 300 years as part of the Kingdom of Guatemala. Silver mining was a big business for the Spanish who brought thousands of slaves from Angola to work for them.
Honduras gained independence in the first half of 19th century. Soon, neoliberal politics reached the state, which favored the multinational companies. Those companies – mostly tropical fruit exporters – have been great influence in the recent history of Honduras – the country itself was an inspiration behind the term „banana republic” coined in 1904 to describe fictional nations whose economy is in majority based on natural resources’ export, with political and economical destabilization. The country’s economy is dependent on transnational companies and free market policies, with little input from other sources. This huge economical influence brings with it also a political influence, meaning that the companies are practically controlling the state. This is what’s been happening in Honduras since 1870’s, with different companies controlling the most valuable resources, which are in this case the tropical fruits and then mainly bananas.
In the 20th and 21st century political tensions (like the ones with El Salvador, leading to the „Football War” or „100 Hour War” in 1969 and others, resulting from unstable situation in the Central American region) and natural disasters – hurricanes, floodings – caused severe economical and social damages that no doubt contributed to today’s security issues. Other factors include drug trafficking, gangs, and low conviction rates.
Despite those things, we’ve managed to survive our stay in San Pedro Sula and actually bring some good memories with us of a nice little B&B that we’ve stayed in. On the third day we woke up at the crack of dawn again to continue our travel.