For much of its history, Honduras has endured considerable social, political and economic instability. The Spanish first invaded Central America in the sixteenth century. Before then, the region had been home to several Mesoamerican peoples, including the Maya, but the indigenous descendants of those first nations have been largely marginalized. In 1821, Hondurans gained their independence from Spain and in 1838 the Republic of Honduras was born.
Today Honduras is one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, and it has the world’s highest murder rate. Despite abundant natural resources, much of the country’s wealth goes to a small privileged class and to major transnational corporations. The term “banana republic” was coined early in the 20th century in reference to Honduras.
In 2009, President Manuel Zelaya was deposed in a coup and replaced by Speaker of Congress Roberto Micheletti. Along with the already severe social, economic and political crises, this introduced an institutional crisis as well; and things have not improved since Juan Orlando Hernandez became president in 2014. There is a striking lack of policies responding to the needs of the people. Communities are overwhelmed by poverty and unemployment, and suffer from high forced migration rates. The dynamics of the country’s neoliberal economy has kept an elite in power and at the same time exacerbated inequality and environmental degradation.
Jesuits in Honduras have initiated programs that advocate social change and support civil society engagement and quality of life improvements. The programs operate in a context of rampant crime, impunity for human rights abuses, and the targeting of activists. Canadian Jesuits International currently supports a project of Radio Progreso for civil society engagement.