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Reflections

I called this section "reflections" for lack of a better term. Later on it will be filled with a variety of different topical entries.

What is Happening in my Country?November 7, 2008

The Sharing ChurchJune 1, 2008

PovertyNovember 15, 2007

Regionalisms in HondurasSeptember 16, 2007

ImmigrationJuly 9, 2007

Coming to Honduras has made me think more about immigration into the US more than I had previously, even though I went to college in a town with lots of immigrants. I am sure that is because now I know personally people who have migrated or at least tried. I don't consider myself much of an expert on this question, at least as far as the "facts" are concerned, but here I will try to at least share my experience.

Almost every Honduran it seems has a family member, relative or close friend that lives in the States. I have heard that El Salvador's population would jump from 6 million to 9 million if all its emmigrants were to come back. I don't know what the figure is for Honduras, but I imagine it is something similar. According to the information I have found, remits (money sent back to Honduras by Hondurans working abroad) is the largest single contributer to the Honduran economy, and would represent about a third of national income if added to the country's GDP. This perhaps is convenient for Hondurans government, since it doesn't have to provide services for the Hondurans living abroad, but means that the Honduran economy depends on a work force abroad. Honduran news programs claim remits are simply spent on consumer goods rather than invested. Separations of parents and children can also contribute to social problems like delinquency.

Since I have come to Honduras, a number of people from my street or nearby have tried to leave to go to the United States. Some return after being caught, including a 15 year-old who tried to make the trip completely on his own. I suppose it seems like an adventure, and I can't help wondering if I had grown up in a low-income Honduran family, if I wouldn't have tried to make the trip at least once, for that sense of adventure. I suppose it stops feeling like an adventure when you are cold, go with out food and water, or encounter personal danger along the way.

My Honduran family has relatives that live in a small town in Minnesota. There are some 14 of them packed in a house they rent from a woman sympathetic to immigrants. For several weeks they all had to stop working due to a crackdown by migration officials. Consuelo's brother arrived last year, several months after my arrival. He left his wife and two-year-old son behind, with the goal of saving up to buy a house in Honduras when he returns, and he is working at a turkey plant. "It's a dog's life," he told his sister describing life in the United States.

Then at the MCC regional retreat, migration (in general, but mostly Central American) was the chosen topic. A Nigaraguan representing a networking organization presented, and our discussions emphasized that migration is often forced as a survival effort, due to lack of development or opportunities in the migrants' communities of origen. We discussed how to support the human rights of migrants, do community development, and advocate for dignified work.

It is true migration is not always forced, and many migrate not because of poverty per se, but because they can and see it as an investment for a better quality of life. Hondurans who go north often see it as a way to get ahead, to buy a house or car, with the idea of returning after two years working in the US. They can also be influenced by the "American Dream," an idealized hope of acquiring wealth if one can just set foot in the United States. The result is a lack of vision for developing the community of origin with the resources it has, especially when community leaders or qualified individuals themselves migrate.

I offer a metaphor for the limited knowledge that I have of Honduran history. I recall a time I was losing at the board game Monopoly, for not having had the opportunity to buy much property. Now imagine a scenario where a poor player, low on property and cash, strikes a deal with a rich player. The rich player will build a hotel on a game space of the poor player (since the poor player has not the resources to do so), and in return the poor player might get a small cut of the income, or at least the security of not having to pay when landing on at least one hotel. There might be a reason it is strategic for the rich player, maybe it would mean developments on three spaces of the same color. Though I'm sure this is against Monopoly rules, it is obvious which player would benefit more from the deal. It is the simple rule of capitalism. The profits go to those who made the investment.

During its history, Honduras has certainly been taken advantage of by foreigners, first by the Spanish, later by gringos: The Rosario Mining Company near Tegucigalpa that for a time was the largest silver and gold mine in the western hemisphere, and sent plenty of profits back to New York, or the banana companies in the 20th century, that had no qualms about turning over Honduran governments when they didn't suit the purposes of the company. In the present age of globalization, for better or worse, there are now hundreds of clothing factories near San Pedro that pay about a dollar an hour, as well as hundreds (well, a lot anyway) of U.S. food franchises, and American-like malls. There is still a tremendous amount of foreign investment in Honduras, but how much benefit reaches the poorest?

Migration should concen us most when people are practically forced to leave for survival and suffer indignity along the way. The root of the problem is not addressed by a longer and more technologically advanced wall on the U.S. border, as though that would settle the issue in Central America. Billions would be spent on the project, for our national security. Despite whatever humanitarian aid the U.S. has given to Honduras, I wonder what U.S. foreign policy would look like if it were genuinely concerned about Central America. Maybe you could accuse that of being idealistic. Bad governments serve the interests of the governing, and good governments serve the interests of the governed, but don't expect a nation to care about the well-being of those who aren't its citizens, apart from mutual beneficial agreements.

Yet the United States has also always had an ideal that "all men are equal," understood over time to include slaves and women, and might also include people from other nations. For foreign policy and trade agreements could influence the number of inmigrants trying to sneak accross the border. Maybe a renegotiation of free trade agreements could decrease causes of migration. Or a program alternative to the wall designed to stimulate the Central American local economies, though my cynical side wonders how it can be done without strings attached, corruption, or limiting Hondurans's say in the direction of their country's development.

I don't know the answers to the big questions. At least I feel like by living in Honduras I have a better intuitive understanding of these issues that doesn't come from statistics. I find myself much more concerned with realities that otherwise wouldn't noticibly intersect with my life. And I think in today's world there are is need for humility in politics, and politics with a personal face.

The Blessing of GodJune 3, 2007

Questions not all Frequently AskedMay 18, 2007

El MuditoMay, 2007

QuotesFeb 12, 2007

The Mencía familyMarch, 2007

Updated June 22, 2008