The Society

Honduras Table of Contents

HONDURAN SOCIETY is, for the most part, rural and poor. The overall standard of living in the country is one of the lowest in the Western Hemisphere. Foreign as well as domestic assessments of the country have focused on its poverty to the point where this assessment dominates the outlook of the Honduran people.

Almost all social indices show Honduras lagging in development. The annual per capita income is low, health services are extremely deficient, infant mortality and child mortality rates are high, and literacy rates and other educational indicators are low. In 1993 the majority of the population in Honduras remained poor, and a high rate of population increase made alleviation of that poverty in the near future unlikely.

Honduras's relatively low population density would seem to be a positive factor. An abundance of land, however, has not ensured the availability of land for cultivation. The terrain consists for the most part of mountains with only narrow coastal plains. Much of the arable land is used for export crops and is not available to small farmers. Banana (and some pineapple) agribusinesses predominate in the country's most fertile land in the Caribbean coastal plains. Land available for agriculture has actually decreased since the 1950s, as farmland has been converted to rangeland to support an expanding cattle export industry.

The continued underdevelopment of the country produced a crisis of confidence in Honduran society in the 1980s. Indeed, during that decade, economic and social pressures produced an acute sense of disorientation in Honduran society. The combination of a worldwide economic crisis, a sharp rise in crime, and the absence of an independent police force and judicial system left the average citizen with a pronounced sense of vulnerability.

Despite the depressing statistics, however, Honduran society has numerous strengths. Among some of the positive factors are a relatively high number of grassroots organizations, a peasant movement that has continued even during periods of repression, and a corporatist political system in which organizations and classes instead of political parties make their political demands. Positive, too, is the absence of civil war and the high level of terrorism experienced by neighboring countries.

The question for Honduras in the future is how, given the country's limited resources, to deal with severe poverty and to avoid the repression and violence that poverty often engenders.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress