Spiga

Living in the Most Dangerous Country in the World

Every day I wake up, shivering with fear, hoping I’ll make it to see the light of another day here in Honduras. I live behind doors enforced with triple bolt locks and I barely dare to go out on the street. I trust no one, I never go out at night, instead I lock myself up, turning up the volume of my TV to drown out the sound of gunshots.
If that’s what you want to hear, there you have it.
But the truth is quite different.
I don’t deny there is a serious problem with violence in Honduras. A huge problem. A problem so big, it is hard to imagine there is a solution to it, and even if the situation would better, it will take generations to get over the trauma of it.
The problem with the violence in Honduras, as in many other countries, is that there is not just one cause for it. Violence is deeply rooted in Honduran society, caused by corruption, lawlessness, lack of justice, lack of education for that matter, poverty, narco traffic, gangs, hopelessness, all of which lead to a vicious circle of more resentfulness, hate, vengeance, frustration and loss of morals. And the fact that Honduras is constantly in the news as being the most violent country in the world doesn’t help at all. Quite the contrary.
The Artisans' Street - Copan Ruinas, Honduras
I live in Copán Ruinas, a quiet town in the west of Honduras that heavily depends on tourism. Since a year or so, we’ve all seen a gigantic drop in the number of visitors and when you ask tour operators or tourists, the answer is that Honduras is considered too dangerous to visit. The fact that nearby Antigua Guatemala and even neighbouring countries as Nicaragua and El Salvador are doing blooming business, proves it. But is Honduras really that dangerous for tourists?
I say it’s not.
Church of El Calvario - Copan Ruinas, Honduras

First of all, let’s look at the numbers. It is now common knowledge that Honduras has the highest murder rate per capita in the world. But, just as in Mexico, that number is closely connected to gang activity, drug trafficking and mostly takes place in certain areas in the big cities. Places that tourists never visit. If you’d discount the number of deaths in certain neighbourhoods, the national average would be much lower.

I won’t deny that there haven’t been incidents in the past, but overall, the violence is not directed to tourists and the main tourist destinations are considered to be pretty quiet and safe. I can’t find any data on it, but if I hear from tourists that they were assaulted in their hotel or on the street, pick-pocketed or molested, it usually happened in Guatemala.
I can’t guarantee a tourist a risk free trip through Honduras, but I think that the dangers are highly overrated. You know a dangerous city for tourists??? Amsterdam! I recently visited my hometown, and talk out dangers! Not so much violent assaults, but deathly incidents nonetheless. Every year an astounding number of tourists die because they ride a bicycle (often for the first time in their lives) in the centre of town without understanding the unwritten rules of survival. They take the silent but oh so big and hard trams for granted while crossing the street without looking left or right. Each year, about thirty people drown in the famous canals, many of them (drunken) tourists who fall in when urinating, unable to climb back up the steep walls. And not to mention the number of people (I think it was three last year) of tourists who underestimate the power of Dutch marihuana and think they can fly out of a window, just like that. But those victims never show up in lists with numbers that show how dangerous Amsterdam can be.
The “Honduras = dangerous” slogan has become a bit of a hype and is being repeated time after time for no apparent reason, and without any effort on behalf of the Honduran ministry of tourism to prove the opposite.

West Bay Beach, Roatan Honduras
And that’s a pity, because Honduras is a country of an incredible natural beauty with great archaeological sites and terrific tropical islands, just to name a few attractions. Yes, Honduras has its problems, but so do other countries in Central America, as well as the rest of the world. The world we live in is not becoming a safer place, and Honduras is no exception.
Easter Week (Semana Santa) carpets, Copan Ruinas
To wrap things up, what I mean to say is that numbers are relative and that you shouldn't believe everything you hear. My roommate is from Chicago and says she hears more gun shots outside her apartment there, than in Copán. I can tell you from personal experience that Copán is a great place to live or to visit and, relatively safe. Relatively, because a lot depends on your own behaviour.
And just to speak for this beloved town I’m luckily enough to live in: please come and visit Copán Ruinas!
The Ball Court, Copan Archaeological Park - Copan Ruinas, Honduras
And not just because we need you! The archaeological site is breathtaking, the town itself is charming and fun and there’s tons to do: hiking, horseback riding, visiting the bird park or coffee farms. And yes, I do feel completely safe here. I go out at night, I hike through the mountains, I do whatever I like. Heck, with this heat I even sleep with my windows and doors wide open. But that’s something I maybe shouldn’t share on the internet.
Copan Coffee Tour - Copan Ruinas, Honduras
Bottom line, come and visit Honduras. It’s worth it!
Keel-billed Toucan - Macaw Mountain Bird Park - Copan Ruinas, Honduras

Punta Izopo National Park - Tela, Honduras

23 comments:

  Anonymous

Nov 8, 2013, 8:37:00 AM

Thanks Karin! I agree with you…..I live in Honduras and I can't be happier…surrounded with friends, enjoying the nature, making art and practicing YOGA. I love this country!!

  Anonymous

Nov 8, 2013, 9:12:00 AM

I have been in and out of Honduras for over 20 years on a yearly basis, sometimes three or four times a year, and I have never felt threatened in any way, in fact I have never felt animosity of any sort. The people are by far some of the kindest I have come across, I read the news all the time, and crime is everywhere why does the media treat Honduras the way it does, my conclusion is they are investing in Honduras and once they land bank enough the media will once again be kind.. Honduras is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. My suggestion is visit it..

  Dennis Orellana

Nov 8, 2013, 10:19:00 AM

Gracias Carin por tus buenos y acertados comentarios sobre la realidad de nuestro pais.- Lo que se transmite a la opinion publica es parte de la inoperancia del propio Gobierno que lo permite.- La Secretaria de Turismo deberia tener programas mas agresivos para promover lugares como Copan Ruinas, que resulta ser para mi persona el lugar mas apropiado en el pais para descansar.- Es ironico que siendo Honduras el "dueño" de Copan Ruinas y todo su esplendor, sea quien menos se beneficie de eso, pues como todos lo sabemos, le sacan mas provecho a esto nuestros hermanos Guatemaltecos que venden el tour como si fuera de ellos, lo cual se agradece tambien pues no quisiera imaginar que seria de Copan Ruinas sin el esfuerzo de los empresarios y el gobierno de Guatemala.-
Saludos,

  Anonymous

Nov 9, 2013, 7:49:00 AM

I have had a place in Honduras almost 20 years. I have traveled everywhere and have never had a problem. I have only found warm and friendly people. I feel safer there than I do at times in the US traveling. Stay away from drugs, other mens women, and wandering around drunk at 2:00 am in the city and you will be fine.
Common sense when traveling is always a good idea wherever you travel outside your home country.
The place is so beautiful to not go because of the media hype is a big mistake.

  Anonymous

Nov 9, 2013, 12:10:00 PM

You can't say that Amsterdam is a dangerous city because of drunken tourists falling in canals, being hit by trams or riding a bicycle for the first time in their lives. Those things can be avoided by tourists who are careful; they are controllable. Suffering violence in Honduras or Guatemala by gangs or drug violence is not something a careful tourist can control!

  Anonymous

Nov 9, 2013, 4:35:00 PM

Thanks for the post, Carin! It's also worth nothing that the homicide statistic excludes virtually all of the Middle East, chunks of Africa, and additional regions that are either closed-off or considered "conflict" zones -- as if a battle against drug cartels or gangs is not also a "conflict." It is often called the "War on Drugs," after all! This ranking is based on one set of data and one application of methodology. As a consequence of all the places that are excluded, as well as of the location (Mexico) of the group that presents this ranking, the study has a huge regional skew: 45 of the 50 most violent cities according to this oft-cited study are in the Americas, and 40 are in Latin America.

Clearly, every homicide is one too many, and hyper-localized violence in Honduras and throughout the region is a problem that very much needs to be addressed. But the media absolutely has a responsibility to do a better job of providing this context, rather than reveling in a simplistic, sensational narrative that brands a single city, country or region as exceptionally dangerous, when the reality is obviously much more nuanced, and there is likely no such thing as an absolute most dangerous place in the world.

  Anonymous

Nov 9, 2013, 10:59:00 PM

Muchas Gracias por esta publicación. Confiamos en Dios que Honduras volverá a ser el país turistico que siempre habia sido. Agradecemos que ustedes nos visiten y comprueben que mucho de lo que se dice de este hermoso país es solo contramercadeo.

Bienvenidos sean todos.

  Anonymous

Nov 10, 2013, 12:56:00 AM

Thanks for helping Honduras!!! Is a great country!!

  Anonymous

Nov 10, 2013, 5:27:00 AM

That is so true. I ve been in Honduras to visit a friend and Yes, Honduras is Wonderfull!!! Copan, Roatan beaches... so great!!
A fan from France

  Ed Orem

Nov 10, 2013, 7:03:00 AM

Great article Carin! I travel to Honduras about twice each year for the past 5 years and am amazed when people ask me "Aren't you afraid when you go down there?"

My response is always the same "No, I'm more afraid if I have to go into Los Angeles"

The people of Honduras are some of the most hospitable and friendliest people on the planet. Especially in the coffee communities that I visit. Here is a quick peak at my last trip

I travel to some of the poorest communities and have received the exact opposite of what the outside world would expect. When I enter these communities I feel welcomed and at home. The people who have very little, are always trying to feed me.

I have fallen in love with Honduras so much, that I started a fundraising coffee company BlendedGiving.com to help support Honduras coffee farming communities. My goal is to connect the coffee drinkers of the U.S. with the coffee farmers in Honduras. My hope is to create awareness about how wonderful Honduras is and to get the coffee drinkers to actually come down to Honduras on trips to see for themselves, how beautiful your country is and how amazing are the people of Honduras!

Carin, I would love to meet you on one of my trips. Maybe give me a small tour of Copán Ruinas?

My email is Goodness@BlendedGiving.com

I will be sharing your article with all my friends.

Thank you.

Ed

  Anonymous

Nov 10, 2013, 9:05:00 AM

Honduras is by far the MOST beautiful country in Central America, the bad governments and narco traffic has given this country a bad reputation, but if you take precautions nothing wilp happen to you, blend in with the natives, enjoy yourself, great food and wonderful people, gorgeous coastal towns and islands, yes, Honduras is paradise and I love this country with all my heart!

  Anonymous

Nov 10, 2013, 9:56:00 AM

Honduras is great !!!!

  Patricia

Nov 10, 2013, 12:20:00 PM

When I first started reading the article I was appalled, this shifted quite rapidly though.

Thank you for your kind words and truth. There are too many people trying to shut down the doors on this beautiful country, sometimes its one of our own people as just the other day, I drop off some of my friends at the airport who went on a student exchange program from UPI to MIT, and I hear this man as I'm walking away greeting his family members from with a made-up song. He sang:
"Welcome to this trash country, welcome, welcome, a country full of corruption and poorness, welcome to this trash country"

Sometimes ignorance doesn't mean lack of education, its plain stupidity. The saddest thing of all is that there were kids laughing at the song and 'enjoying' this form of greeting, or making-fun-of. Those kids will or might grow with the same mentality of that family member. Their mouths will speak hopeless words and talk about Honduras like an abyss, the un-ableness of getting out and being successful.

Many Hondurans lack identity. I invite anyone and everyone to always speak positive about Honduras, because it has truly so much potential, one that some lack to see. Honduras will only grow with its own people and we have to be as courageous as possible, we have to be able to transmit this love and energy to the rest of the people in the world. The big countries in this world are very patriotic, and in my opinion that plays a big part on how the country moves forward.

Best regards,
-A Honduran girl.

  Humberto Galeano

Nov 11, 2013, 10:21:00 AM

Thank you <3
Y que Dios todopoderoso te bendiga est hermoso dia en tierra Catracho :-)

  Anonymous

Nov 11, 2013, 11:12:00 AM

To the author-- You don't feel Honduras is dangerous because you live in one of the nicest towns in the country. It's a tourist trap next to beautiful Mayan ruins. Try San Pedro Sula. I lived there for a few years and it is extremely dangerous, for locals and gringos alike. These things should not be sugarcoated. And yes, it's a beautiful country and has great people.

  Anonymous

Nov 11, 2013, 11:29:00 AM

But it isn't that nuanced. It is indeed the country with the most recorded homicides in the world currently, and has been since 2011 according to the UN. Would that change if we included, for example, Syria? Sure, but what exactly would be the point. The reality is that Honduras is exceedingly violent by any metric. And speaking of journalists doing a better job, please consider that Honduras is one of the more dangerous countries in the world for journalists. Several were killed the years I lived there. Having the western narrative change will of course be difficult when the local narrative is such a dangerous one to report.

Readers here should really do their homework if they plan to visit. This page of comments gives the impression that violence is overrated in Honduras, which it is not. Lots of irresponsibility here, and probably from people living in the few tourist hamlets in the country.

  Chris C

Nov 11, 2013, 12:07:00 PM

Thank you very much for this great article!! I loved reading it. Honduras is many more things than just corruption and danger as the international media may say, most of us the locals are warm hearted and greet with open arms anyone who is willing to come and enjoy the beauties HONDURAS has to offer. Im proud to say Im honduran and Im glad to read such nice words towards my country. THANK YOU VERY MUCH Carin !!!

  Abraham Ocón

Nov 11, 2013, 12:42:00 PM

Great post Karin...

I would although quote in " " the first paragraph, as if I see a Facebook post of the blog, that is the first you see, and of course the post wants to show quite the opposite.

Just by adding the quotes it will change the first impression.

"Every day I wake up, shivering with fear, hoping I’ll make it to see the light of another day here in Honduras. I live behind doors enforced with triple bolt locks and I barely dare to go out on the street. I trust no one, I never go out at night, instead I lock myself up, turning up the volume of my TV to drown out the sound of gunshots"

If that’s what you want to hear, there you have it.

But the truth is quite different
...

Cheers!!
Abraham

  Anonymous

Nov 12, 2013, 4:50:00 AM

The author above has obviously not been to South Africa...

  Frank Teuben

Dec 28, 2013, 3:30:00 AM

Honduras is a beautifull country and I completely agree that it's crime is overrated. But i stop reading when you started spitting bullshit about Amsterdam. comparing the fact of people being stupid and getting themselves killed because of their own fault to the probability of innocent people getting murdered? Do you know even the probably of tourist dying of a tram that doesnt even go that fast? and people jumping of buildings because of mahuana? You must be talking about shrooms and that happened like 5 years ago with one girl. I wonder how many people die in central america because theyve been given poor quality or laced drugs? I'm both from Honduras en Holland and I do agree with certain points but you came off as a stereotypical person while trying to defend the stereotype image honduras has. Too bad, otherwise this wouldve been an interesting article.

  Anonymous

Dec 30, 2013, 1:39:00 AM

Abraham, what about if you fill out another petition? :-D

  Adalberto H. Vega

Jan 2, 2014, 1:39:00 PM

Check this out on the same subject: Travelling in Central America Safe or Dangerous

  Anonymous

Jan 5, 2014, 8:48:00 PM

Honduras !Fun in the Sun, Fabulous people .The brightest spot in central America.