The area I lived in can’t really even be called a village, at least not in the sense that it was anything we would generally recognize as a village. It is a community made up of many small houses with large families living more or less close together. From the road (more about that in a future post) you would have no idea so many people lived there. Part of this is because of the dense foliage made up of leafy subtropical trees, coffee bushes, and other plants, part because of the topography (mountainous), and partly because while some people live next to the road, many people live off footpaths that aren’t obvious until you come upon them and which wind up into the mountains. Where I lived is roughly 1000 meters (3280 feet) above sea level, though people live even higher up the mountain.
There is a primary school, a soccer field next to the school, a non-denominational cemetary, a Catholic church, a Christian church, and a tiny Christian church scattered throughout the area. There are currently three established pulperias, which are basically the equivalent of tiny corner stores or bodegas operating as part of someone’s home, and where most people regularly buy their morning bread, rice, beans, flour for tortillas, and other essentials.
This community is largely made up of one large extended family. It was settled by my partner’s grandfather, grandfather’s brothers, and grandfather’s in-laws, though over time others have either married into the family or in a few cases come from elsewhere and stayed. Nearly everyone I meet there is some kind of cousin. Estimates of how many people live there range from 300 to 1,000 people, and since births are not always registered, it would be hard for even the government to have an accurate count of the population.
Before Hurricane Mitch devastated Honduras in 1998, many people in the area lived further away from the main road, but Mitch cut many people off from all access to the rest of the world for some time and following this my partner’s family, like many others, moved closer to the main road to avoid the same predicament in the future, though others now live in their old homes up the mountain.
The community has remained fairly isolated since its founding due to a lack of infrastructure: roads, electricity, postal service, telephones. The roads, such as they are, are relatively new, and electricity and cell phone service only came to the area in the last few years. Electricity is still confined only to houses relatively close to the main road, and those living only slightly further away have no access to electrical lines, charging their cell phones, flashlights, and lightbulbs at homes nearer the road during the day for use at night. Cell phone signal frequently drops and is often inaccessible indoors, and internet connection via cell phone is painfully slow, if available at all. There are no telephone lines, and before cell phone service came to the area to make or receive a phone call residents had to travel an hour to the nearest hotel. The nearest real village is still an hour away by bus on a good day, and the nearest post office is a couple hours away by bus. Most households don’t have vehicles. A few people have satellite TV, but it isn’t common. WiFi does not exist. A point of pride for the community, in addition to electrical lines, is that many people have running water, which is not a given in many parts of rural Honduras.
Although Honduras does have some manufacturing in larger cities, this infamous banana republic still has an agriculture-based economy. Where I was the main crop is coffee, but ginger, beans, and corn are also grown there. A few people have cattle or pigs. Almost everyone has chickens. However, most households would not survive if not for the remittances that family members in the US send them. More about the economy in future posts.
This is only a very brief introduction to the community where I was, and if you follow my blog you will continue to get to know it better. Thanks for reading.