Honduran Americans are immigrants or descendants of people from Honduras, a country in the center of Central America. Honduras is bordered to the north by the Caribbean Sea, to the west by Guatemala, to the southwest by El Salvador, to the southeast by Nicaragua, and to the south by the Pacific Ocean. More than three-fourths of the land area of Honduras is mountainous. The total land area of the country is 43,278 square miles (112,090 square kilometers), making it slightly larger than the state of Tennessee.
According to official United States government statistics, as of July 2012 the population of Honduras was 8,296,693. Roman Catholics make up 97 percent of the population, and 3 percent belong to various Protestant denominations. The vast majority of Hondurans, 90 percent, are mestizo (mixed indigenous and European). The next largest group is indigenous peoples (Pueblos Indigenas) at 7 percent, with smaller populations of Afro-descendant (2 percent) and white (1 percent). With 60 percent of the population living below the poverty level, Honduras is the second poorest country in Central America. Exports to the United States account for 30 percent of the country's GDP and remittances for another 20 percent, tying about half of Honduras's economic activity to the United States.
The first wave of Honduran immigrants entered the United States beginning in the early twentieth century in two groups: artists and writers, most of whom were sponsored by institutions or corporations and went to large cities, primarily New York; and working-class immigrants who were employees of Honduran banana companies and settled mostly in New Orleans. After a political coup in 1963 left the livelihood and lives of Liberal Party members in danger, many of the immigrants were male political exiles. A small but significant number of women also immigrated to work in the service industries. When Hurricane Mitch devastated Honduras in 1998, tens of thousands of Honduran immigrants entered the United States under the temporary protection status policy. In November 2011 the policy was extended until July 5, 2013.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2010 there were 633,401 people of Honduran descent living in the United States, making Honduran Americans the eighth largest Hispanic group in the country. Six in ten Hondurans live in the South, mostly in Florida and Texas. California, New York, and the city of New Orleans also have significant Honduran populations.
HISTORY OF THE PEOPLE
Early History It is not known when the area that is now Honduras was originally settled by humans, but archaeologists have found evidence of a complex society that is at least 3,000 years old. Over the millennia, city-states gradually developed in the vast geographical area that includes large parts of present-day southern Mexico, Guatemala, western El Salvador, and western Honduras. These city-states had many shared cultural characteristics, including a common spoken and written language, and they are collectively referred to as the Maya civilization.
Long before Columbus arrived in 1502 and named the country after the deep water off the Caribbean coast, Honduras was populated by a mixture of indigenous peoples representing various cultures and linguistic groups. The best known and most advanced of these groups, the Maya, developed Copán, a city near what is now the town of Danta Rosa de Copán. The city was a major ceremonial center of the Mayan culture. Scholars believe it was likely of particular importance as a center for astronomical studies and art. Mayan civilization was at its height in the ninth century when the priests and rulers abandoned Copán and the city fell into ruin. Descendants of the Maya remained in western Honduras, calling themselves the Chorti Maya, or simply Chorti, and speaking a language descended from the one that appears on the ancient glyphs in Copán. Other indigenous groups included the Lencas in western-central Honduras; the Tol on the central north coast; the Pech (or Paya), who originally occupied the Bay Island of Roatan; and the Miskito on the Mosquito Coast in northeastern Honduras.
In 1524 Hernan Cortés, conquistador (conqueror) of the Mexican Aztecs, sent Cristóbal de Olid to conquer and rule Honduras in the name of the Spanish crown. When Olid arrived in the region, he seized power for himself and declared independence from Spain. Cortés sent an army to take it back, but Olid was assassinated by rivals before the army arrived. Page 346 | Top of ArticleIn the meantime Cortés decided to go to Honduras himself with another army. He consolidated Spanish power over Honduras before returning to Mexico. Shortly thereafter Spain appointed Diego López de Salcedo as the first royal governor of Honduras.
In the eighteenth century, gold and other mineral deposits were found in the central mountains and near the Caribbean coast, and the Spanish colonists employed nearby indigenous people in the mines. As mining expanded, larger numbers of workers had to be found to work in them. Forced labor, forced migration, and severe working conditions resulted in the deaths of large numbers of these indigenous workers. Revolts by these groups then led to massacres at the hands of the armies of the Spanish colonists. Mistreatment and violence against the indigenous peoples remain a problem in Honduras today.
During the seventeenth century Spanish control of Honduras was limited by attacks from pirates, mostly British along with some Dutch and French, who attacked Spanish fleets and in 1643 destroyed the city of Trujillo, then the main shipping port of Honduras. The British found allies in the Miskitu people, to whom they supplied arms to challenge the Spanish. According to some accounts, the Miskito gained their name from the muskets given to them by the British. In 1786 Britain recognized Spanish sovereignty over the Caribbean coast of Honduras, but just over fifty years later, Britain reasserted control over the Bay Islands, an authority Britain retained until 1859.
In the eighteenth century most colonists settled in cities in the highlands near the Pacific coast, including Tegucigalpa and Comayagua. The Caribbean coast was inhabited by the Miskito and Black Carib (and later by banana plantation workers, managers, and owners as well). The Bay Islands were also settled by the Black Caribs, a people created by the mixing of indigenous people with descendants of African runaway or emancipated slaves. Two slave ships wrecked off the island of St. Vincent in 1635. Survivors found sanctuary with the island's Carib Indians, who were themselves immigrants from Guyana, Surinam, and Venezuela. The two groups intermarried. In 1797, after the British colonizers defeated a revolt on St. Vincent, they loaded several thousand slaves onto ships and sent them to Roatan, one of the Bay Islands. More than a thousand slaves died on the journey, but those who survived mixed with the indigenous tribe on the island and became the Garifuna, or Black Caribs of Honduras. A second Afro-Honduran group migrated to the Bay Islands in the 1840s, mostly English-speaking Afro-Caribbean Creoles, with later additions by other Creoles from Jamaica.
In 1823 the Central American provinces of Mexico broke away to form the United Provinces of Central America. Then, after years of interstate tension, squabbling, rewriting of the constitution, and moving of the capital, the Central American states decided to form independent, sovereign nations. Honduras declared independence on October 26, 1838, and adopted a constitution as the Republic of Honduras in January 1839. The constitution of 1839 provided a single legislative body, a president elected by a majority of the registered male population, and a supreme court whose justices are appointed by the president. It was a constitution inspired in part by the U.S. model.
Modern Era During the early twentieth century Honduras's Caribbean coast developed into a vast network of giant plantations owned by U.S. companies. La Ceiba, Trujillo, and Puerto Cortez became huge ports where the fruit was, and still is, loaded onto ships bound for the United States and other countries around the world. Honduras charges American companies very low taxes for the export of fruit and charges no taxes at all on profits from sales.
The fruit companies built schools, hospitals, and housing for their workers and connected cities in the region to a railroad network. The Caribbean coast has been the region with the country's best infrastructure and standard of living, even for the peasants. However, not all of the fruit companies' activities have been so benevolent. When the companies began to return some of the land to the government in the 1960s, they continued to market the bananas grown by small farmers or peasant cooperatives on the returned land. The new arrangement allowed the companies to avoid the political problems of land ownership, and, at the same time, placed all the risk of crop failure on the small growers while keeping disproportionate profits for the companies. They also introduced environmental destruction due to monocropping (growing a single crop year after year), deforestation, draining swamps, and pesticide use.
In 1956 the problems with political instability that Honduras had had since its foundation came to a head. The 1954 presidential election was inconclusive; no candidate won a majority of votes. The Honduran congress, the arbiter of such dilemmas, was not able to reach a decision on any of the candidates. Lozano Díaz, the vice president, assumed power after the president had a heart attack and was flown to Miami. Díaz unconstitutionally proclaimed himself president and arrested the leaders of principal parties, labor unions, and farmers' unions. As the political situation became more and more repressive in Honduras under Díaz, the military seized power in a bloodless coup and replaced him with a junta, a governing council of military officers. The next forty years would see a revolving-door leadership between the military and civilian-elected governments. The last half of the twentieth century was a period of political turmoil as a series of military and civilian leaders displaced one another.
The succession of military leaders plunged Honduras into a period of largely ineffective government and widespread corruption that included Page 347 | Top of Articlecharges of bribery, drug trafficking, and murder. Although Honduras was more stable than the rest of the region, it was not unaffected by the civil unrest that rocked neighboring countries. When Sandinista rebels in Nicaragua overthrew the Somoza dictatorship in 1979, many members of the Nicaraguan military fled to Honduras. At the same time refugees from the war raging in El Salvador were entering Honduras in large numbers. United States military aid, which was $3.3 million in 1980, jumped to $31.3 million in 1982, and the country became one of the top ten recipients of U.S. military and economic aid. Nicaraguan refugee camps in the Honduras served as bases for the U.S.-sponsored Contra War, an undeclared, covert operation against the Sandinista government. The United States was also training Salvadoran military forces in Salvadoran refugee camps inside Honduras. (These were banned in 1984.)
When thousands of Hondurans protested, hundreds of opposition and student leaders were kidnapped and killed. It was not until 1988, two years after it was revealed that the Reagan administration in the United States had covertly and illegally used money from the sale of arms to Iraq to support the Contras, that the Honduran government refused to sign a new military agreement with the United States and promised the Contras would leave Honduras. During the 1990s Honduras made a gradual transition to true democracy. The Central American civil wars ended, the United States became a critic of the military, and civilian politicians more boldly addressed the issue of military privileges. The military lost much of its political influence, and three consecutive free elections (1989, 1993, and 1997) resulted in transition between competing parties without interference.
Panamanian-born Ricardo Manduro Joest, who was inaugurated president in of Honduras in 2001, concentrated on the country's massive crime and gang problem. His successor, Jose Manuel “Mel” Zelaya Rosales, who won the 2005 presidential election with the smallest margin in Honduran electoral history (less than 4 percent), was removed from office in a military coup on June 28, 2009. Soldiers arrested Zelaya and flew him, still in his pajamas, into exile in Costa Rica. The military insisted they were acting under the orders of the Supreme Court of Honduras, who viewed as illegal a constitutional referendum proposed by Zelaya that could have allowed him to extend his presidency. Despite condemnation of the coup from many countries, including the United States and Venezuela, Roberto Micheletti, with the backing of the Honduran Congress, courts, and army, became president.
By the time Porfirio Lobo won the November 2009 election, Honduras had endured months of political turmoil, had been isolated by the international community, and had been stripped of aid and investment. Honduras was excluded from the Organization of American States after the coup and not readmitted
until June 2011. The readmission did not end internal problems in Honduras, which in 2012 had the highest homicide rate in the world. It was also considered one of the world's most dangerous countries for members of the media. Twenty-two journalists were murdered between 2009 and 2012, and human rights activists routinely have been threatened and harassed by gangs and local political groups. Poverty and crime pushed thousands of Hondurans into emigration. According to some counts, in 2012 a Honduran left the country every five minutes.
The rise of gang violence in Honduras has been attributed to U.S. policy. Many of the Salvadorans and Guatemalans who fled to the United States in the wake of civil warfare in their own countries in the 1980s settled as illegal immigrants in poor neighborhoods of Los Angeles where gang activity was rampant; in reaction, they formed their own gangs. In the 1990s the United States began focusing on mass deportations of these gang members (as well as illegal immigrants with even minor criminal records). Back in El Salvador and Guatemala, the gangs took hold and spread to Honduras. In the four-year period between 2000 and 2004 alone, the United States deported more than 20,000 felons to Central America. The increase in gang violence in Honduras has been accompanied by new drug routes through Central American countries, including Honduras, into Mexico. The violence in combination with the high rate of poverty have in turn increased the number of Hondurans entering the United States, many of them illegally.
SETTLEMENT IN THE UNITED STATES
The United States Census Bureau did not count immigrants from individual Central American countries before 1930, so little is known about early Honduran immigration to the United States. The employees of the banana companies accounted for Page 348 | Top of Articlethe first influx of Honduran immigrants. Most of them settled in New Orleans, their port of entry, where many of their descendants still live. Between 1930 and 1939, only 679 Hondurans entered the United States legally. There was no significant increase in that number until the 1960s. During that decade more than 15,000 Hondurans were granted legal permanent resident status. By 1999 the number had increased to 7,100 each year. The first decade of the twenty-first century saw an 81 percent increase in the number of Hondurans entering the United states - the largest increase of any immigrant group. An estimated one million Hondurans were living in the United States in 2008, but up to 70 percent of that number was thought to be illegal immigrants. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the Honduran American population increased 180 percent between 2000 and 2010.
The majority of Honduran Americans who have entered the United States since 1960 have done so to seek better economic opportunities and to escape political turmoil or oppression in Honduras. During the 1980s Hondurans migrated in substantial numbers, but their entry into the United States frequently was obscured by the larger number of Guatemalans and Salvadorans who fled their war-torn nations during the same time. As many as 80,000 Hondurans entered the United States under temporary protected status in 1998 after Hurricane Mitch left 20 percent of the population homeless and destroyed much of the country's infrastructure and 70 percent of its crops. Many multinational fruit companies, the country's major employers, left Honduras. Significant numbers of Hondurans are dependent upon remittances sent by relatives who work in the United States. According to the Honduran foreign ministry, in 2007 remittances totaling $2.8 billion were sent to Honduras by workers in the United States. This money allows many of the receiving families to live above the poverty level and to keep children in school. Additionally, Honduran residents of the United States who return to their native country for visits account for 40 percent of all tourism revenue in Honduras.
Central American immigrants traditionally have settled in the Southwestern states and Illinois, but since 1990, substantial communities of Central American immigrants have been established in seventeen states. It is estimated that 65 percent of Hondurans have settled in five states; more than half of these have settled in Texas (19 percent) and Florida (18 percent), while 13 percent have settled in California, 9 percent in New York, and 6 percent in North Carolina. Before the 1990s most Honduran immigrants were agricultural workers, but the range of occupations has widened to include building maintenance, construction, food service, manufacturing, and transportation. For men, construction, extraction, transportation, and service occupations accounted for more than 60 percent of those employed in 2008. During the same period, 54 percent of female Honduran immigrants were employed, most in the service industry.
The proliferation of young, low-skilled immigrants with limited proficiency in English has contributed to anti-immigrant sentiments, particularly in states unaccustomed to substantial immigrant populations. During difficult economic times, such as the economic recession of the late 2000s, immigrants are often a target for fiscal and employment concerns. Such concerns are intensified when a high proportion of immigration is illegal. Although Honduran Americans are rarely targeted as a specific group, anti-immigration sentiment makes little distinction among immigrant groups from Latin American nations, including Honduras.
Honduran Americans are a diverse group that includes people of Spanish, indigenous, Garifuna, African, Palestinian, and Chinese ancestry, among many others. They have made important improvements in their own standards of living, major educational and professional achievements, and important cultural contributions to American society.
Besides English, the almost universally spoken language of Honduran Americans is Spanish. Most Honduran indigenous peoples also speak it. In addition, most Maya speak Chorti, and the Black Caribs speak Garifuna. More than 90 percent of Hondurans in the United States speak Spanish as their household language. Because Honduran Garifuna immigrants are so easily assimilated into African American communities, the Garifuna language is a primary means of maintaining cultural identity. Since the late 1990s there has been a concentrated effort to revitalize the language, and some Garifuna parents in the United States send their children to relatives in Honduras during school breaks to reinforce language and other cultural ties.
According to a Pew Research Center study conducted in 2007, fewer than four in ten Honduran immigrants speak English proficiently. A year later a report from the Migration Policy Institute confirmed the Pew study, finding that 72 percent of Hondurans in the United States reported limited English proficiency, a rate considerably higher than the average of 52 percent for all foreign-born persons. (“Limited English proficiency” means that the individuals self-identified as speaking English less than “very well.”) The significant decrease in high school dropout rates for Honduran Americans—from almost 40 percent among first-generation immigrants to 6 percent for the second generation—suggests a comparable increase in English proficiency.
The following are some Garifuna expressions (with pronunciations): Jin! (hing)—“Hey, you!”; Buiti binafi illawuritei (booitey binaffy illawoorittay)—“Good morning, Uncle.” Abau isilledu eiguini, fulesei (abbow eeseelaydoo aiguiny, foolasay)—“A plate of food, please.”
An overwhelming majority of Hondurans are Roman Catholic. The church exerts less influence than in the past but remains central in the lives of many Honduran Americans who are active in their church communities. Women take major responsibility for church affairs, such as attending Sunday church suppers and helping to organize parish charity drives. Rituals such as baptism, confirmation, and funeral prayers continue to be observed. The religious celebration most identified with Honduran Catholics is the February 3 the Feast and Mass of Our Lady of Suyapa, who was declared the patron saint of Honduras by Pope Pius XI in 1925. This feast day is celebrated at most churches in the United States that serve congregations of Honduran immigrants.
A wave of evangelical conversions, mostly Pentecostal, swept Honduras in the 1960s, and a second wave followed in the 1990s. Not only have some immigrants brought their Protestant evangelical identity with them, but also, more and more Honduran Americans are exploring Protestant religions, with a sizeable number converting. Evangelical denominations actively proselytize among Hispanic groups, offering services in Spanish and classes in English as a second language.
In an unusual reversal, many Garifuna immigrants, most of whom live in New York City, identify with their religion more strongly in the United States than they did in Honduras. The Garifuna religion they practice is not a syncretism but an innovation that reshapes the traditions and rituals of their native religion within the context of the African diaspora. This religion is strongly influenced by Cuban Santería and West African Yoruba symbols.
CULTURE AND ASSIMILATION
Foreign-born Hondurans in the United States identify themselves as Hondurans. Hondurans born in the United States commonly identify themselves as Honduran Americans. The dominant American culture demonstrates little awareness of Hondurans as a separate ethnic group, categorizing them more often as Central Americans or even more broadly as Hispanics, which in many sections of the country is assumed to be synonymous with Mexican. The Garifuna self-identify as Garifuna from Honduras rather than Hondurans. There appears to be almost no interaction between Garifuna and the larger mestizo Honduran immigrant populations.
Cuisine Serving traditional foods provides a way for Honduran Americans to maintain a connection to their heritage. Unlike some other Latin American foods, Honduran food does not customarily use hot
spices. Cumin, curry, allspice, coriander, oregano, and lime juice are the most commonly used seasonings. Honduran dishes also use more coconut than other Central American cuisines. Beans, rice, tortillas, cheese, mantequilla (Honduran sour cream), eggs, and fried plantains are the typical cena (dinner plate). Anafres, a refried black bean and cheese fondue served in a clay pot accompanied by tortilla chips, is the favorite appetizer in the country. Like tacos in Mexico or pupusas in El Salvador, the baleada—a folded wheat flour tortilla filled with beans, crumbled cheese, sour cream, and sometimes beef, chicken, or pork—is a popular snack food.
Social events that involve drinks and dancing call for more elaborate dishes. The preparation and cooking of carne asada (also called carneada) is a tradition that is passed on from one generation to another. Large cuts of beef are marinated in sour orange juice, salt, pepper, and other spices and then grilled. The carneada is usually accompanied with chimol sauce (chopped tomatoes, onion, and cilantro with lemon and spices), roasted plantains, chorizo (sausage), cheese, tortillas, guacamole, and beans. Food is also connected with religious observances. Sopa de pescado, a very rich fish soup, is served on Good Friday. Garifuna celebrations often include ereba, a tortilla-like bread made from pounded cassava root, and sopa de caracol, or conch soup cooked in coconut milk and the conch's broth and served with machuca, or pounded plantain. Coconut bread is also a Garifuna favorite.
Dances and Songs The blend of Spanish colonial, African, and Native American history in Honduras is reflected in its music and dance styles and in the country's most common musical instruments. The siqueis, a typical folk dance, is similar to the jota, a dance common throughout Spain, and to the waltz. Although local differences can be observed in the steps of the siqueis, it is danced in unison by couples who separate at intervals to carry out individual steps and clap hands. Many traditional dances are tied to agricultural or religious traditions. One dance depicts a machete fight between the male dancers in which the women intercede.
The punta, the best-known Honduran dance outside the country, emerged from the Garifuna community. The Garifuna term for the dance portion of the punta is banguity, meaning “new life,” although it was originally danced by older people and was the only type of music played at Garifuna wakes. The complicated dance moves use only the lower part of the body, from the waist down, as well as the feet. Traditional moves of the funeral dance have been adapted to a seductive courtship dance. Punta can be sung at the end of mourning ceremonies, known as fin de novenario. Men play traditional instruments that include first and second drums, maracas, a conch shell, and sometimes claves—two hardwood sticks that are beat together. Women sing in Garifuna with a soloist and chorus similar to African music or gospel call-and-response singing. Although the sounds are joyous, the lyrics are often somber, focusing on loss and the ephemeral quality of life. The improvisations of the musicians are similar to those characteristic of jazz.
Garifuna music is the Honduran music that has become best-known in the United States. Geoffrey Himes described this music in the Washington Post: “Legend has it that the Garifuna culture sprang from the survivors of a shipwrecked slave vessel who swam ashore on St. Vincent Island in the sixteenth century. There they intermarried with the local Carib and Arawak Indians and created a music that blended West African drumming and Caribbean Indian group singing. The culture then spread to Belize and Honduras.” Punta is described as an astonishingly melodic and intricate music. The beat is usually carried by two to four large tuba (or hollow log) drums. The tercera drum provides the booming bass notes that establish the foundation rhythm. The primera drum supplies the melodic lead pattern, and the segunda drum shadows the primera with a counter rhythm. These three main patterns are amplified by turtle shells, claves, timbales, bongos, congas, maracas, and tambourines. Himes noted: “Because each drum has its own pitch and timbre and because the vocals are woven inextricably into the drumming, the music has a richness you'd never expect from just percussion and voice.”
Health Care Issues and Practices Honduran immigrants have limited access to health care in the United States. A large percentage of Honduran immigrants (as many as seven in ten) are undocumented. Historically, undocumented immigrants have been denied access to government-funded health care. Legal immigrants' access to health care was also limited with the passage of two Congressional acts in 1996, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Page 351 | Top of ArticleAct. Under this legislation, legal immigrants arriving in the United States after August 1996 were denied access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for the first five years they were in the country. In addition, many documented Honduran immigrants work at low-paying jobs that do not provide health insurance. Often those who qualify for Medicaid and other programs are too suspicious of the system to participate. American-born children of the undocumented (nationally estimated at three out of every four children in immigrant families) are eligible for benefits, but participation is low because parents fear that using the services for their children will expose their illegal status. Slightly more than half (52 percent) of Hondurans legally in the United States have no health insurance, compared to 31 percent of all Hispanics and 15 percent of the general U.S. population. Language differences can also present barriers to health services. All of these factors combine to place Hondurans among the immigrant groups who delay seeking health care, mental health services, and dental care as long as possible, most often until emergency situations arise.
Research suggests that despite the limited health services available, most Honduran immigrants are likely to use conventional sources of health care more often than folk sources. When folk sources are used, they typically begin with a home remedy such as tea made from various herbs, spices, or fruits and prepared in a specific and prescribed manner. Hondurans may consult a relative or neighbor for advice, and only when these methods fail to bring relief is a yerbero (herbalist) or sobador (massage therapist) consulted. If all these measures fail, an individual may then visit a curandero (lay healer) who uses a combination of physical and spiritual treatment. Sometimes a curandero may be consulted at the same time a patient is receiving attention from a primary care physician. Curanderos are consulted far less frequently in the United States than in Honduras, where conventional health care is in short supply, particularly in isolated communities.
Psychiatry presents another area in which Honduran Americans, particularly new arrivals, have felt alienated. This is due less to neglect than to different cultural attitudes toward psychiatry in Latin America and in the United States. Older, traditional therapy in Honduras for psychological problems has included Santería, a Caribbean-based faith that combines elements of African ritual with Catholicism, and espiritualismo (spiritualism). Both therapies see the psychological problem as a spiritual problem, an imbalance of supernatural forces. Therapy can then take the form of an attempt to reach a transcendent consciousness by using meditation, concentrating on specific personal objects, or consulting a medium. It can also take the form of an
exorcism, in which the treatment is meant to drive out an evil spirit or devil from the victim.
Psychiatrists and clinical psychologists in some urban medical centers around the United States are seeking to break down cultural barriers to clinical therapy and begin addressing the psychological traumas that affect Latin American immigrants in particular. Especially acute is post-traumatic stress disorder, caused by witnessing horrors such as death squads, political assassinations, and massacres of peasants.
Another difference between Hondurans and Americans involves a congenital condition among certain Hondurans that affords them a specific medical immunity. The Garifuna, whose ancestors include black Africans and Caribbean Indians, have an African-component sickle-cell genetic adaptation that makes them immune to malaria.
FAMILY AND COMMUNITY LIFE
Family structure in Honduras has been affected by increasing numbers of women entering the work force, but the greatest change in the twenty-first century has been the prevalence of the transnational family, with one or two family members working in the United States and sending a portion of their income Page 352 | Top of Articleto family members who remain in Honduras. In 2010 Hondurans remitted a total of $2.67 billion, or 19 percent of the gross domestic product of Honduras, an amount substantially greater than development aid and foreign investment combined. The transnational family is a survival strategy and a mobility strategy.
The typical Honduran migration narrative has focused on men who leave their homes during tough economic times in order to support their families or to save money to build a home in Honduras. The idea is that the man will spend two to five years working in the United States and then return to live with his family. The practice has created communities in Honduras filled with new homes, financed through remittances, whose owners remain in the United States. Although males outnumbered females immigrating to the United States (53 percent to 47 percent in 2010) feminization of migration has increased as women have left their homes not merely as dependents accompanying a spouse but as autonomous workers who leave to provide for their families. Research shows that women tend to remit a higher percentage of their incomes than do men and to remit to a larger number of family members and over a longer period of time, despite making on average 62 percent of what their male counterparts make. Frequently the female immigrant is a woman who has experienced domestic violence, divorce, or abandonment that has left her sole provider for her children.
Separation from family is difficult for men and women, and most participate in weekly telephone calls to maintain contact with their families and to attempt to provide a degree of parental guidance despite the distance. The problems of separation are compounded for migrant mothers who are forced to deal with stigma, guilt, and criticism for the “unnatural” choice of separating from their children, homes, and sometimes husbands. Studies also found that children experience more emotional problems when mothers migrate because of traditional gender norms related to child care. The degree of difficulty experienced by children was related to the quality of care provided by parental substitutes. Children left to care for themselves were three times as likely to experience psychological problems as were those left in the care of another family member.
Some Honduran immigrants do return to Honduras, but others find reintegration into Honduran society difficult and may move back and forth between the two cultures or settle permanently in the United States. Women particularly may become reluctant to surrender the greater freedom and opportunities they have gained. Unlike other immigrant groups, Hondurans rarely dominate a city or even a neighborhood but tend toward a greater dispersion. Family reunification is a goal for many who send for children left in Honduras. Social gatherings, usually associated with birthday parties, weddings, baptisms, confirmations, or wakes, are important to maintaining extended familial, community, and cultural identity. Often such events are videotaped and sent to family members in Honduras. Events of national significance such as Independence Day and the annual mass for the Virgin of Suyapa draw together larger crowds of Hondurans, as do Honduran soccer clubs in cities such as New York and New Orleans.
Education It has been easier for Honduran American girls to stay in school than for Honduran American boys. Especially in working-class families, there is tremendous pressure for boys, once they turn twelve or fourteen, to start working full-time. This pressure is not as strong on the girls. The 2010 census educational attainment statistic provides numbers for Central Americans as a group. Fifty percent of males over twenty-five had less than a high school education, but the number dropped to around 47 percent for women. The pattern continues with postsecondary education. Almost 12 percent of Central American women hold a bachelor's degree or higher, whereas only 9.7 percent of males do. Regardless of gender, the younger a child is when entering the United States, the greater the likelihood of secondary and postsecondary education.
As related in The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education, the story of Bonilla, a Honduran American immigrant, is typical of young Hondurans who are proving exceptions to the pattern of their countrymen as the least-educated among the top eight groups of the growing Hispanic population in the United States. Her early education was in her native village in Honduras, but she immigrated with thirteen family members and graduated from an American high school in 2002. Her dream of attending college was frustrated by the rejections she received because she lacked proper documentation. Eventually she was admitted to a community college near her home, and in 2012 she earned her associate's degree with a 4.0 grade point average. She sometimes worked as many as three jobs to pay tuition, but she is the first member of her family to hold a postsecondary degree. She plans to continue her education at a four-year school and go on to law school. Because community colleges offer more affordable tuition, a stronger support system, and an open admissions policy that includes accepting undocumented immigrants, Hispanics generally have favored these institutions, making up 16 percent of the 7.4 million students enrolled. Significantly, 52 percent of Hispanics who pursue higher education begin at a community college.
EMPLOYMENT AND ECONOMIC CONDITIONS
While new arrivals have traditionally entered fields involving basic labor, established Honduran American immigrants have shown impressive success in moving into more lucrative professions. Of the 34,220 Honduran Americans who immigrated to the United Page 353 | Top of ArticleStates between 1980 and 1990, according to the U.S. Census, 33.7 percent described themselves as being in service occupations, which include working as waiters, other restaurant work, janitorial work, and work in laundries and retail stores. Only 24.2 percent of the immigrants who arrived before 1980 are in that industry. Of those who immigrated during the 1980s, 27.3 percent were operators, fabricators, and laborers; for those who arrived before, only 18.7 percent fit into that category. Those who immigrated before 1980 are more heavily represented in managerial and professional specialty occupations: 14.6 percent as opposed to 5.6 percent for the newer arrivals. The contrast in public administration is similar, with a ratio of 3 percent for established Honduran Americans to 1 percent for newer arrivals; the same is true of educational services, the ratio being 4.9 percent to 2.4 percent. These figures demonstrate the trend toward self-improvement as Honduran Americans establish themselves in the United States.
Honduran Americans have high workforce participation. According to the 2009 and 2010 Current Population Survey compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 81 percent of Honduran men ages sixteen to sixty-four were employed in the civilian labor force, mostly in low-skilled jobs including construction, extraction, transportation, and service occupations. The employment rate is much lower for second-generation males: 67 percent compared to 91.4 percent of first-generation males. The rate of employment for both generations of women is about 60 percent. Unemployed males are in school, disabled, or seeking employment. Most unemployed women take care of households or family members. The generational gap can be explained in large part by the reverse gap in school attendance. Less than 30 percent of first-generation Hondurans ages sixteen to twenty-four are enrolled in school, but more than 73 percent of the same age group of second generation are in school.
Even within low-wage sectors, Hondurans, along with Mexicans and other immigrants from Central America, are employed in the lowest-paying jobs. The median annual personal earnings for Hondurans ages sixteen and older was $18,000 in 2010; the median earnings for all U.S. Hispanics was $20,000. About a quarter of Hondurans live below the poverty line, more than other foreign-born groups and a significantly higher proportion than the 14.3 percent of the general U.S. population. Rates fall among second-generation Hondurans, who meet the national median.
The youth of Honduran workers, whose average age is twenty-seven, along with their low levels of education and recent entry into the workforce, has made them vulnerable to the recession of the 2000s. They also tend to be concentrated in construction, manufacturing, hospitality, and other industries that have been heavily affected by the economic downturn. Undocumented immigrants and recent arrivals also lack access to social services that provide a safety net for other population groups and thus are more likely to experience abject poverty in case of long-term unemployment. Between the end of 2007 and the end of 2008, the percentage of working-age Hispanics with jobs fell at almost twice the rate for the overall population. The loss of employment has a ripple effect since it also results in a reduction in remittances sent to family in Honduras. One 2009 study reported that as many as 74 percent of Hondurans receiving remittances had experienced a decrease over the prior year. Job loss of a relative living in the United States was the most frequent reason.
POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT
Being a relatively new immigrant group from a country that has seen its share of political turmoil, Honduran Americans have not been conspicuous in American politics or unions, nor has there been much overt action on the part of Honduran Americans to influence politics in the mother country. Only about one in five Hondurans is a U.S. citizen. Despite a steady increase in population, Honduran participation in U.S. politics is not significant. Several factors contribute to this low political profile. Ethnic and class differences that exist in Honduras carry over into the immigrant population in the United States. Thus, Hondurans lack a sense of themselves as a single, coherent group with common needs and purposes. The residential dispersal has made organization at local levels rarer. Since many Honduran immigrants view their stay in the United States as temporary, their focus tends to be on their home communities in Honduras. Finally, the large number of Hondurans who entered the United States illegally makes the group reluctant to attract the attention of authorities.
Politically active groups within the Honduran community have been regional and focused. To address problems of the undocumented alien community, a group of Honduran American and other Central American undocumented aliens formed the Aliens for Better Immigration Laws in February 1994. At that time the group filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court to allow undocumented aliens to work while they are on a decade-long waiting list for green cards. This grassroots lobbying organization has fought to bring the issues of undocumented immigrants to the forefront, not only in the courts but also in the consciousness of the American public. Unidad Hondurena in Miami has protested fee hikes for temporary work permits and citizenship applications. Hondurans have also been active in the Central American Resource Center in Washington, D.C.
Honduran Americans have taken an active role in defending the United States. Of all the native (U.S.) Honduran American males sixteen years old and over, 13.7 percent are military veterans. More than 700 Honduran American male noncitizens are veterans. The percentage of naturalized Honduran American Page 354 | Top of Articlemale civilians sixteen years old and over who have served in the armed forces is 13.2 percent. For those who arrived in the United States before 1980, this number jumps to 18.4 percent, almost one-fifth.
Art American artist Andres Serrano (1950–), whose father was from Honduras, is known for his controversial photographs of bodily fluids and corpses. His most notorious work is Immersion (Piss Christ), a 1987 photograph of a crucifix submerged in the artist's urine; it sparked debates worldwide about issues of censorship.
Julian Albert Touceda is a New Orleans artist and supporter of Latin art who was born and lived the first years of his life in Honduras. Born in the early 1940s, Touceda has been instrumental in preserving Latin American culture and exposing the community to Latin artists. Touceda's main influences are the Spanish painters Francisco Goya and Diego Balasca, Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, and Mexican painter Rufino Tamayo. Since 1976 Touceda has had exhibits in Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, and New York. Among more than fifty prominent artists, he was the only Hispanic artist selected to exhibit his works at the Louisiana World Exposition in 1984.
Music David Archuleta, born December 28, 1990, was runner-up on the seventh season of the TV show American Idol. The son of Lupe Marie (née Mayorga), a Honduran salsa singer and dancer, and Jeff Archeluta, a jazz trumpet player of Spanish-Basque descent, Archuleta released his first album in 2008. It debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 chart. He has also appeared on television shows iCarly and Hannah Montana. He released his fifth album, Begin, in 2012, the same year he took a two-year break from his career to serve as a missionary in Chile for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Publishing Motivational speaker Julio Melara, a second-generation Honduran American, grew up in Louisiana. He was only twenty-eight years old when he became the top sales executive at WWL radio in New Orleans and the only million-dollar producer in the radio industry in Louisiana. Two years later he became the publisher of New Orleans Magazine. He is the author of the books Do You Have Time for Success?, It Only Takes Everything You've Got!, and Keys to Performance. President and co-owner of the Baton Rouge Business Report, Melara owns Time for Action, a sales- and skills-building training firm.
Stage and Screen Born the sixth child of Honduran immigrant parents in 1984 and raised in the San Fernando Valley of California by a single mother, America Ferrera made her film debut in Real Women Have Curves, a performance that won her the Jury Award for Best Actress at the Sundance Film Festival. She also starred in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (2005) and its sequel (2008). From 2006 to 2010 she played the title role in Ugly Betty, a television series based on the Colombian telenovela Yo Soy Betty Le Fea, a role that earned her multiple awards, including a Golden Globe, an Emmy, an American Latino Media Arts Award, and praise from Congress as a Latina role model.
Honduran Americans can access radio broadcasts and current newspapers directly from their native country through the Internet. Media that is specifically Honduran is rare because the Honduran American community is relatively small and new. Honduran Americans make up part of the audience for general Hispanic media, which is abundant in all formats.
Honduras New York
This one-hour weekly program airs on Cable Channel 69, also known as BronxNet, a New York City public access cable channel. It can also be viewed on the BronxNet website.
David Jenkins, Jr., Public Access Programming
Lehman College Campus
Carman Hall Room C4
Bronx, New York 10468
Phone: (718) 960-1183
Fax: (718) 960-8354
International weekly newspaper in English. Covers news in Honduras as well as items of interest to Hondurans abroad.
Stanley Marrder, Publisher
ORGANIZATIONS AND ASSOCIATIONS
There are no large, national organizations specifically for Honduran Americans, with the exception of Garifuna organizations, which are transnational. Instead Hondurans come together in associations that are connected to a particular town, city, or region in their homeland. The associations provide a means of cultural identification in the new setting, a link to those who remain in Honduras, and assistance to those in need. Some groups have a political purpose as well. In 2009 there were around thirty of these groups within Honduran communities, each consisting of from fifteen to one hundred members that meet on a regular basis. The total number of affiliated volunteers could be substantially larger. Most of these groups raise less than $10,000 a year. Some organizations exist for short periods and disappear.
Garifuna American Heritage Foundation United
Founded to preserve and disseminate Garifuna culture and to foster Garifuna Americans' awareness of their heritage.
Cheryl Noralez, CEO and Founder
2127 Atlantic Avenue
Long Beach, California 90806
Phone: (323) 898-6841
Honduran Organization of Palm Beach
Founded to support the Honduran community in Florida and to organize assistance projects for the community in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.
José Cerrato, President
114 Urquhart Street
Lake Worth, Florida 33461
Phone: (561) 856-0028
La Casa del Hondureno
Supports the Hispanic community generally and promotes Honduran artists, folklore, and cultural events.
Xiomara Fields, President
3580 Wilshire Boulevard #1280
Los Angeles, California 90010
Phone: (213) 389-9295
MUSEUMS AND RESEARCH CENTERS
Florida Museum of Natural History
The Honduras Ceramic Collection—The collection, which includes more than five thousand shards from a wide geographical area, was donated to the museum in 1929 and 1930 by G. W. Van Hyning, the museum's first director, and the N. Geraci Fruit Company, a banana company operating in Honduras in the 1930s.
Douglas S. Jones, Director
1659 Museum Road
University of Florida
Gainesville, Florida 32611
Phone: (352) 392-1721
Fax: (352) 846-0287
Roger Thayer Stone Center for Latin American Studies
The center's Latin American Resource Center (LARC), one of the largest and most comprehensive centers of its kind in the United States, offers specialized services to schools and colleges across the nation to promote the study of all subject matter relating to Latin America at both the K–12 and university levels. LARC provides services such as a lending library that holds more than three thousand videos, slide packets, culture kits, curriculum units, games, and miscellaneous print items; consulting; and professional development for educators. Activities connected to Honduras have included lectures on Honduran politics, soccer tournaments, expeditions to study Honduran architecture, and fundraising to build two health clinics in the mountains of Honduras.
Tom Reese, Executive Director
100 Jones Hall
New Orleans, Louisiana 70118
Phone: (504) 865-5164
SOURCES FOR ADDITIONAL STUDY
Brick, Kate, A. E. Challinor, and Marc R. Rosenblum. Mexican and Central American Immigrants in the United States. Washington, D.C.: Migration Policy Institute, 2011.
England, Sarah. Afro Central Americans in New York City: Garifuna Tales of Transnational Movements in Racialized Space. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2006.
Fash, William L. Warriors and Kings: The City of Copán and the Ancient Maya. London: Thames and Hudson, 1991.
González, Nancie. “Garifuna Settlement in New York: A New Frontier.” International Migration Review 13, no. 2 (1975).
Himes, Geoffrey. “Chatuye: Upholding the Garifuna Beat.” Washington Post, April 2, 1993.
Johnson, Paul C. Diaspora Conversions: Black Carib Religion and the Recovery of Africa. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007.
Nazario, Sonia. Enrique's Journey. New York: Random House, 2007.
Orozco, Manuel, and Eugenia Garcia-Zanello. “Hometown Associations, Philanthropy, and Development.” Brown Journal of World Affairs 15, no. 2 (2009).
River, Elaine. “Erasing a Stigma—Mental Health Center Deals with Latinos' Special Needs.” Newsday, August 24, 1994.
Schmalzbauer, Leah. “Family Divided: The Class Formation of Honduran Transnational Families.” Global Networks 8, no. 3 (2008): 329–46.