Children of Honduras: Then and Now

As a Peace Corps volunteer in Honduras (1967-1970) I witnessed first hand the struggles as well as some of the good times of Honduran children. Indeed, those were the "good times" as those years predated the years of war, upheaval, and heart-wrenching violence that was primarily political during the 1970's and 1980's. Gradually, the political violence morphed into the more insidious and complex violence driven by group and gang rivalries with roots in American cities. Return migration from the U.S. seemed to fuel a new set of domestic Honduran problems compounded by the long-standing, entrenched poverty. Poverty and population trends, despite common assumptions, are not inextricably related. However, when I left Honduras in 1970 to study demography at Cornell, the population of Honduras was about 2.7 million on a path to doubling in 20 years. A declining birth rate pushed that out to 25 years. The population was 5.6 million in 1995. Now the population is on a growth path (due to even lower births rates) to double every 30 years reaching 8.4 million in 2015. Still, there are more than three times as many Hondurans in Honduras as there were in 1970. The 200,000+ legally resident U.S. citizens of Honduran decent evidence more of the many ties of Americans to Honduras. The current crisis of children from Central America arriving at U.S. southern borders has its roots not only in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala but also in the U.S. and the historical ties -- economic, political, and cultural -- that bind our countries. This map from the New York Times further illustrates the magnitude of the issue.