The Honduran Psyche

December 1st, 2007
by Thomas Tomczyk

[private] v5-12-My VoiceI recently argued with my Honduran friend about why he has had such bad experiences with Honduran employees. While he praised Salvadorans and Guatemalans with whom he had been doing business, he sounded almost despairing about his Honduran compatriots. Almost by default, I found myself explaining and defending his countrymen’s work ethics.

Lonely Planet’s Honduras guidebook writes about the country’s national psyche: “a prevailing go-with-the flow attitude.” The publication sees a nexus of two tendencies which make up the Honduran ego: mellow and accepting on one hand, committed to justice and collective action on the other.

The reality is that Hondurans are no different from others. But while they want the same things for their children–education, health, wealth, security, status–they just want them in a different order than their equivalents in the US, Vietnam or El Salvador. Hondurans, in general, value influence, wealth and status above education and rule of law.

Honduras is a small country with barely 150 years to forge its identity. While the five Central American republics began to forge their identity at the same time, even the newcomers, Belize and Panama, have developed a more defined sense of who they are than Honduras. For Panamanians, it was gaining independence from Columbia, construction of the Panama Canal and the removal of US troops. For Belize it was gaining independence and the struggle against Guatemalan land claims. For Nicaragua, the Sandinista revolution and for El Salvador it was the civil war. Honduras, unlike all its neighbors, had no revolution, no civil war. Hondurans know who they are not, but they do not yet know who they are.

Honduras does not have Panama’s trans-isthmus canal, Costa Rica’s eco-tourism, Nicaragua’s poets and revolutionaries, nor Guatemala’s deep Mayan roots. Sadly, what Honduras is known for is its failures: national railroad scandal, submission to US banana companies and ridiculous yet tragic “football war.” In brief, Honduras’ claim to fame is its long and sad history of selling out to US interests.

Even in the last several years Honduras has come into US and international spotlight only after sad news: Hurricane Felix approaching, the killing of a presidential body guard, deadly La Ceiba prison riots and fire, executions of 24 bus passengers, the kidnapping and murder of a president’s son.

Honduran history books record few people to aspire to: no poets, revolutionaries, discoverers, engineers, nor inventors. The people most Hondurans aspire to emulate are politicians and military men. Too often they see political leadership not as an opportunity for public service, but as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get rich. The average Honduran esteems people who have things–cars, power, houses and influence. Education, intellectual accomplishment and rule of law are way down the list.

Much more than their neighbors, Hondurans have been brainwashed into thinking that they are one big, happy family. The reality is that Hondurans are the most economically, ethnically and religiously divided nation in Central America. Top Honduran leaders, however, have always been and remain to be all white, male and often related and in business with one another. [/private]

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