Honduras is a country formed by different types of cultures, both indigenous and city cultures. Even though this is the case, this small Central American country is affected by the same social problems as a whole. In order to understand Honduras’ present, it is important to know some history of the country that have influenced how Honduran society is today. Honduras was part of Spain’s empire during colonialism, causing the country to lose most of its riches in gold and the indigenous population. In 1821, Honduras gained its independence from Spain and entered a period of political uncertainty.
The 1900’s were the age of military rule, until the first elected civilian came to power in 1982. The country was then shattered by Hurricane Mitch in 1998, killing around 5,600 people and causing $2 billion in damage. Since then the economy has not developed as fast as it could (CIA: The World Factbook: Honduras 292). In addition, a coup d’etat occurred on June 2009 to overthrow communist President Manuel Zelaya Rosales, and the international community sanctioned Honduras economically for around 6 months. Evidently, Honduras has a difficult past, hence a very difficult present.
The major problems in Honduran society start within families, and then transmit to the economy, which affects work and created poverty. Consequently public education and health is really bad, causing crime rates to skyrocket. These problems are very closely related and it is essential to understand how they affect Honduran economy. The problems aforementioned can be viewed and analyzed through the different perspectives learned in class, especially the conflict perspective because it involves conflict between groups and interests, class-consciousness, and the power elite and class identity.
Further on these social problems will be identified and explained in Honduran society and will be linked to the different perspectives learned in class. Family is considered to be the most vital social construct in Honduras. People are highly socially and economically dependent on their families. Family loyalty is fundamental for Honduran society. As a child one is taught which relatives can be trusted and those outside the family are strangers.
As the functionalist perspective on family explains, family confers social status and class and defines who we are and how we find our place in society. This applies directly to Honduran society because, as the country studies from the Library of Congress explains, “the extend to which families [in Honduras] interact… depends on their degree of prosperity. Families with relatively equal resources share and cooperate” (Merrill: Family). In depth, it is evident that if family relationships fail, the bases of a Honduran’s life disappear, making it difficult for these cases to do well in life.
To support this claim, the functionalist perspective can once again be applied, as it states that “Family provides for the essential needs of the child: affection, socialization, and protection” (Leon-Guerrero 170). When these needs are not fulfilled, a child might find if hard to be successful in life. With that said, it is important to know that families in Honduras today are mostly broken. The major reason for this failure is the old patriarchal views and traditions still accepted in Honduran society.
This old view on gender allows men to have several children with different wives, play dominant roles and superiority over women, violate women rights, and have power over family economics and decisions (Merrill: Family). Men are virtually allowed to be unfaithful to their wives, beat them, and do with them as they please. This is obviously not the case in more developed parts of Honduras, but applies to most rural and countryside locations. Marriage might be a solution or an aggravator to this problem.
The three accepted forms of marriages in re civil, religious, and free unions. Although civil marriages and free unions are relationships easy to dissolve, religious marriages are not. The strict religious traditions and beliefs in Honduras make it very difficult to divorce through the Roman Catholic Church because annulments are very difficult to obtain. When a couple marries through religion, it is most common that they will remain together despite their problems. A problem with this is that class also plays a role in marriage.
As the Country Studies explain, “religious marriage is favored by middle and upper class groups; thus, it signifies higher socioeconomic status” (Merrill: Family). To put it all together, family is a very important social element in Honduran society, and when it fails more social problems are created. Honduras’ economy has not been very successful over the past years. The CIA World Fact book considers Honduras as “the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere” after Haiti (294). The main reason for this is the extreme unequal distribution of wealth and the high underemployment.
According to the textbook, underemployment is “the number of employed individuals who are working in a job that underpays them, is not equal to their skill level, or involves fewer working hours” (Leon-Guerrero 239). This applies to the work force of Honduras because of many reasons. To begin with, it is hard to find a good-salary job because the minimum wage is very low. This wage is 6,500 lempiras a month, which is equal to $325. Evidently, this is not sufficient to meet a family’s need. Also, good jobs in Honduras are not normally gained through merit base, but by social class and connections.
The conflict perspective on work and the economy can be applied to the situation Honduras faces today. As the theory explains through the words of Karl Marx, “power is determined by one’s relationship to the means of production. ” This theory further explains that “capitalist and corporate leaders maintain their power and economic advantage at the expense of their workers and the general public” (Leon-Guerrero 233-234). Power in Honduras stays in the hands of the rich, which own the means of production, and therefore prevent social mobility.
On a macroeconomic level, Honduras has depended economically on its coffee and banana exports, although it has spread to other exports like clothing and automobile wire harnessing. Analyzing this one might realize that the economy in Honduras is really bad because it depends on these exports which do not provide much space for economic growth. On top of this, Honduras is highly dependent on foreign countries, especially the United States. Half of the economy in Honduras is directly tied to the United States, with “exports accounting for 30% of the GDP and remittances for another 20%” (CIA World Factbook 294).
Clearly this is not good for Honduras because it limits the amount of economic growth it can have. Being a country rich in natural resources, Honduras can attract investors from all over the world, but “physical and political insecurity, as well as crime and perceptions of corruption may deter potential investors. ” Around 70% of foreign direct investment is also from the United States, making both countries’ relations very important. Clearly these economic problems only aggravate the situation in Honduras and make economic growth scarce to improve the lives of 60% of the population, which are poor (CIA World Factbook 294).
Harsh economic conditions in Honduras have caused high rates of poverty and they don’t seem to get better. The International Fund for Agricultural Development have declared that “approximately 65% of the population is rural, and it s estimated that 75% of the rural populations lives below the poverty line, unable to meet basic needs” (IFAD: Honduras). Economic inequality in Honduras is the major factor affecting growth, and the conflict theory relates to it simply, “you either own the means of production or you don’t”. (Leon-Guerrero 234).
Ultimately this disparity affects other sectors of the country making it difficult for poor people to sustain good living conditions. Education and health are vital aspect in society. These aspects have been directly stricken by the poor economy in Honduras. Even though the Honduran constitution states, “a free primary education is obligatory for every child between the ages of seven and fourteen,” the reality of the educational system is very different (Merrill: Education). A good education is actually a privilege, not a right in Honduras.
Families who can afford it send their children to schools; even public schools are often paid for. Once again, the conflict perspective can be directly applied to the educations system in Honduras. As it states, “the educational system can also perpetuate racial and economic inequalities” (Leon-Guerrero 200). The people who have economic means get education, and once they have education they can continue to have economic means or make themselves even wealthier. In other words, the same people who had the means to get educated will be the ones who have the means in the future.
This is evident through statistics gathered by the Honduran Ministry of Education, which declare a 40% illiteracy rate, 43% complete primary level in public schools, 30% go to secondary school, and just 8% attend university. This is all due to the lack of schools, understaffed schools, high cost of materials, and the poor quality of education (Merrill: Education). Added to this is the failure of a good health system. In Honduras, the quality of and access to health care are directly tied to income levels. Similar to education, sufficient health care is only available for those who can pay for it.
Health services are not readily accessible to a majority of the population. Statistics from the CIA World Fact Book state that: the infant mortality rate is 20. 44 for every 1,000 born, 39,000 HIV/AIDS infected, and a high risk of infectious diseases like dengue fever, malaria, leptospirosis, and gastroenteritis (293). In the isolated regions of Honduras, there are almost no physicians. Government clinics often have empty shells lacking adequate personnel, equipment, and medicines. Applying the conflict perspective on health care, it is evident that social inequality directly affects health also in Honduras.
As conflict theorists explain, the health care systems “are based on systematic inequalities… Instead of defining health care as a right, in our capitalist system, health care is a valuable commodity dispensed to the highest bidder” (Leon-Guerrero 260). This is exactly what happens in Honduras, as the rich are able to pay for health care and the poor are not. All of these conflicting problems relate to one another, and ultimately end up causing more social problems like crime, which worsen the current situation and creates a vicious cycle.
Today, Honduras is one of the most dangerous countries in the world. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Honduras has the highest rate of intentional homicide in the world, with 6,239 homicides for every 100,000 people since 2010 (United Nations Office on Drugs & Crime: 2011 Global Study on Homicide – Trends, Context, Data 93). This is predominantly related to the family, economic, education, and health problems mentioned before. People who don’t have the means to sustain a living turn to crimes like theft, and also turn to organized crime.
In other words, organized crime is an organization that turns to illicit activities for monetary profit. James Bosworth, a writer for the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, wrote a paper on Honduras and its organized crime. In it he states, “well-funded transnational criminal organizations combined with local gangs are destabilizing the country’s democratic institutions” (Bosworth 3). Honduras is an important center for drug trafficking from South America to the United States because of its strategic location and poor counter-trafficking system.
The combination of the well-funded crime organizations and the poorly educated local gang member is lethal. As Bosworth explains, “Youth gangs in Honduras provide the traffickers with organizations that can intimidate and murder for cheap” (3). Murder and kidnapping are very common in Honduras and are strictly related to the poor living conditions created by weak social structures. Applying this reality to class material, it is evident that crime in Honduras is related to the sociological theories on crime, which state that “the social and economic environment influence crime
rates and their variance in rural and urban areas” (Leon-Guerrero 348). The social factors like family structure and poverty directly affect crime statistics. This leaves in evidence that social problems are related to each other and are worsen as they progress. Honduras has distinct social problems and is a good case to apply the conflict perspective. This theory focuses on social class and the problems that it causes, making it perfect to understand social issues in Honduras. Most of this country’s problems come from social inequality and wealth distribution.
Family structure is weakened because of patriarchal views and traditions, and family is the base of Honduran society. From here, other problems begin like economical issues. If a child is not provided for, they will have a poor economic future. Wealth is held by the upper class and social mobility is very hard because of this. Economic inequality causes extreme poverty, with over 70% of the population living below the poverty life. From this, education and health systems will obviously be affected.
Honduran education and health are one of the poorest in the world. Social problems prevent poor people to get a good education and health care, keeping them in poverty. Added to these problems, crime is used as a gateway for the poor people to gain some money. This whole situation makes Honduras perfect for drug trafficking and problems get even worse. A vicious cycle is formed, where every social problem is affected by each other, leaving very few options for development in Honduras. References Bosworth, James. (2010).
Honduras: Oganized Crime Gaining Amid Political Crisis. Woodrow Wilson International Center For Scholars. Retrieved November 9, 2012. CIA: The World Factbook: Honduras. (2011). CIA World Fact Book, 292-295. Tim Merrill, ed. Honduras: A Country Study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1995. Honduras. IFAD. Retrieved November 9, 2012 from http://www. ifad. org/media/success/honduras_2. htm Leon-Guerrero, Anna. Social Problems: Community, Policy, and Social Action. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge, 2011. Print.
Tim Merrill, ed. Honduras: A Country Study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1995. from http://countrystudies. us/honduras/ United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (2011), 2011 Global Study on Homicide – Trends, Context, Data, Vienna, Austria: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, p. 93, Table 8. 1, retrieved 30 March 2012 (2012). 2012 INCSR: Country Reports – Honduras through Mexico. U. S. Department of State. Retrieved November 9, 2012 from http://www. state. gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/2012/vol1/18 4100. htm