A Year in Central America- Part 2, by G.P.

A Preview of a Local or National Slide Into Poverty

We are taking a look at Central American countries, primarily Honduras, for a preview of some of what our own experience might be following a local or national slide into poverty. What might the United States look like? How do ordinary people cope with this situation? We are looking for lessons. However, some readers may also be looking at another country suitable for establishing self sufficiency and simple living. We’ll continue to take a look at Honduras with these two objectives in mind.

More Stories of Crime

A retired American living in a small Honduran village told of the hamlet’s problems with a young robber. The robber and a confederate had tried to rob his wife one evening and fired after her truck when she wouldn’t stop. The tailgate still had several bullet strikes. Eventually, the villain beat up a teenage boy and stole his cell phone.

The boy and his older brother came to the robber’s house. His brother told the man’s parents to stay out of it, walked back to the room where the thief was sitting in a hammock, and confronted him. “This is the guy that hit you?” “Yes.” “This is your phone?” “Yes.” At the second answer, the older brother drew a pistol and shot the robber. Then, he turned and left the house. Nothing came of it; everyone knew what had happened and knew that the bandit had to be dealt with.


Many men and some women carry machetes as a matter of course, in the hand or through a belt. The Brazilian Tramontina brand is the most prized. Sharpening is done with files; the idea of using a stone seems completely unknown. Fancy carved sheaths are carried as a matter of pride by even very poor men.

Security Lessons

The security lessons are that firepower and reliability matter a lot if you expect to fight across a sidewalk or a room; always being armed and alert is key; making trespass difficult is a necessary investment with strangers around; and that you need to be mentally prepared to fight, or to risk losing it all. Security is about awareness, procedures, defenses, and lastly about weapons.

People Move to the Cities Rather Than Be Subsistence Farmers

This is a tropical country with year round agriculture and coasts on both the Atlantic and Pacific. The land is well-settled and developed, first by the Native American civilizations and then by the European colonists. This is the area where maize was developed originally. Miles of terraced ridges have been farmed for centuries here with its plentiful rain and rich soil. If there were ever a place that people could make it as subsistence farmers, this would seem to be it.

Yet people still move from the country to the cities, a pattern seen everywhere in the developing world. A third of the country lives in the capital, Tegucigalpa. The crime rate there is extraordinary; many people are extorted by neighborhood gangs to be allowed to continue living in their own houses. Poverty is pervasive, so are delinquency and drug addiction. Still, this bowl-shaped valley attracts a steady inflow of migrants.

The lesson is that subsistence farming is a difficult and unattractive way to live, no matter where. Don’t underestimate the difficulty of self-support or the value of specialization and barter.

Supplements To Income

With that said, almost every home with a yard has some fruit trees and chickens. Along the coasts one can see long stretches of tidal fish traps. These are simple stone fences in the shallow flats, filled at high tide, leaving the fish trapped in shallow pools when the tide runs back out. Subsistence? No. Supplements to income? Yes. This is worth thinking about if our economy slides downhill. A fruit tree or two, a couple of grapevines, a few rows of green beans, some chickens or a pig– all are good ways to lower the overall burden of supporting a household. Firewood is an ongoing need.

Home Construction

Home construction for most families is of compact, one-story houses. The walls are built of cement block or adobe brick, then parged with a sand/mortar mix. Floors are cement or tile.

The adobe is made by mixing clay, straw, and water with a digging hoe, then plopping it into molds to cure. The molds are lifted and the blocks are stacked.

Stone seems mostly to be used in foundations. Many old stone livestock fences were built before the advent of barbed wire and are still in service. One man said that in times past there was a method of construction by using stones bedded in courses with heavy clay and then plastered over. This innately flexible work was a means of earthquake protection.

The roofs are usually of sheet metal with clay tiles overlaid on them. Termites destroy the framing of the roof, but the tiles and sheet metal are saved, and the whole thing is rebuilt. Whoever introduces an effective pressure treated wood product to the region will do well.

Sinks and Communal Water Systems

Sinks are usually large concrete affairs outside the homes. Communal water systems are preferred, with one well serving everyone. Often there is a spout for common use, placed where the system drains at the lowest elevation of the service area. Indoor plumbing and outhouses are common; I never was in an area where sanitation was a problem.

Dealings With Officials

Like everywhere else, people do live normal lives there and have a great time. It’s not usually a combat zone. My dealings with officials were always scrupulous.

Store Overcharging and Prices

I was never shortchanged in stores or cheated on exchange. Be very aware of overcharging though! This is fair game. Not just a “special price for you” kind of thing but as much as triple prices! Clothing and housewares are usually as expensive as in the States. Used clothing stores are common, reselling merchandise from the U.S. mostly.

Places To Live in Honduras

The coast might make a good place to live, if the heat and humidity aren’t too much for you. There is a pirate atmosphere with the smuggling and drug trafficking that is the major source of business there.

Boat, Coastal Cities

A boat might make sense for someone with a nautical background. The coastal cities are rife with crime; La Ceiba is the only one I would consider. Research San Pedro Sula for yourself. If you want the experiences that W. E. Fairbairn developed in 1930s Shanghai, that might be the place to go.

The Hills

The higher you go in the hills, the cooler and healthier. This works out for some foreigners, who establish coffee plantations or other projects at the level where they’re comfortable, usually around 3000’-4000’.

Bay Islands, Roatan

The Bay Islands have a large foreign population. Tourism is a huge draw for Roatan, constantly testing the upper limits of the island’s utilities. Utila is smaller, flatter, even more Anglo, and reputedly the least expensive place on Earth to learn scuba. These islands are beautiful, though crowded. The fishing is great and other amusements are available.

It’s steadily becoming more modernized, and retirement properties are increasingly common. The major U.S. realtors are represented, so you can easily research online and phone an agent if you like. Local people can direct you to lower cost property in their market; security cautions apply to local neighborhoods though. There is a sizable airport on Roatan’s south shore with connections to Tegucigalpa, La Ceiba, or San Pedro Sula. There are regular ferries from La Ceiba to Roatan, about 38 miles. I never tried it but heard that it’s a rough ride.

Pacific Coast

Another special place to consider is the Pacific coast, from Choluteca south. It’s a comparatively tranquil, prosperous area with El Salvador to the near north and Nicaragua to the south. The Gulf of Fonseca is spectacularly beautiful, with green volcanic islands and shallow blue waters sweeping out to the Pacific deeps. Tiger Island housed a famous U.S. special operations/CIA base for many years.

Copan Ruinas

In the far western corner of the country is Copan Ruinas, the site of a large Mayan ruin. The town has a pretty layout of stone streets, markets and restaurants, and a variety of attractions. The Guatamalan border is just a few miles west, and El Salvador and Belize are nearby. A friend in the personnel recovery field remarked that this would be a good place for an international fugitive to hang out.

Join Missions/Humanitarian Trip To Check Country Out

If you’d like to check the country out, consider joining a missions trip or humanitarian project. Fully half the traffic through the Tegucigalpa airport is from groups traveling back and forth on these kinds of missions. It’s only 2½ hours by air from Atlanta, Houston, or Miami.

Living and Fitting In

Property is reasonable, the countryside is gorgeous, and if you can figure out your security and medical needs, you might love it. That said, my expatriate friends recommended Costa Rica and the Chiriqui area of Panama as better places to settle in this part of the world. Their concerns were those noted through this article– poverty and security. Many of them had been in Central America for 20 years or more, and most were married to Hondurans or to Panamanians. That’s probably the level of involvement that it takes to succeed in really living there and fitting in.

See Also:

SurvivalBlog Writing Contest

This has been part two of a two part entry for Round 80 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The nearly $11,000 worth of prizes for this round include:

First Prize:

  1. A $3000 gift certificate towards a Sol-Ark Solar Generator from Veteran owned Portable Solar LLC. The only EMP Hardened Solar Generator System available to the public.
  2. A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate. This can be used for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,095 value),
  3. A course certificate from onPoint Tactical for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses, excluding those restricted for military or government teams. Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
  4. DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 NATO QD Billet upper. These have hammer forged, chrome-lined barrels and a hard case, to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR-type rifle to have a quick change barrel. This can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools. It also provides a compact carry capability in a hard case or in 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
  5. Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
  6. A $250 gift certificate good for any product from Sunflower Ammo,
  7. American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses.

Second Prize:

  1. A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
  2. A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
  3. A gift certificate for any two or three-day class from Max Velocity Tactical (a $600 value),
  4. A Three-Day Deluxe Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $190 value),
  5. Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (a $240 value).
  6. An assortment of products along with a one hour consultation on health and wellness from Pruitt’s Tree Resin (a $265 value).

Third Prize:

  1. A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
  2. A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
  3. Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
  4. Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
  5. Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances.

Round 80 ends on January 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.


  1. It never ceases to amaze me how, in countries that don’t have a 2nd Ammendment, access to firearms seems unbridled.

    With the DEMONcRATS agenda to slowly disarm American citizens, all they will really be doing is creating a black market mentality and create millions of “criminals” who will continue to have access to firearms.

    1. There are only 3 things that cause the rise of the black market, in anything. Excessive regulations that make black market items easier and/or cheaper to get. Excessive taxation that do the same as excessive regulations. Then there is prohibition. Prohibit something, anything and a black market will rise, with all the crime and corruption that goes along with it.

      If the Dimms (along with all to many Republicrats) decide to make firearms ownership illegal, the black market will take care of the problem. The Russians, the Chinese, likely the Brits, and even many wealthy Americans will fill the void, make their obscene profits, and OK quality firearms will be made available. Even the USG will likely participate (Fast and Furious anyone).

      It does not matter what you prohibit, it could be anything from bar soap to clean underwear. It it is taxed too much, regulated too much, or simply prohibited, the black market will rise and fill the void. History supports this viewpoint. It happens every time it’s tried. It happened with the war on alcohol in the 20s, it has happened with the 100+ years long war on drugs, it will happen with the ongoing war on firearms. The psychological warfare being waged against us is designed to make the American people demand “something must be done”.

  2. Sounds like the best deal is to relocate into a community of like-minded expatriates if you plan on succeeding. Reminds me of the Jewish migration to Israel in the 40s and 50s, and the establishment of Kabbalah communes in the rural areas. Not only a practical means of individual survival, but it helped stabilize and protect the homeland in general. Basically little forts on the frontier, but en masse. Come to think of it, that’s how most of the indigenous survived in Iraq after the war. Makes sense. Marrying into the locals may not be the wisest choice in a poverty region, as some of my expatriate friends discovered moving to rural Thailand. Pretty soon you are considered the benefactor of the village, and you end up paying for everyone’s welfare that you are now “related to”.

  3. We spent quite a bit of time anchored off Roatan Island and sailing to the other islands. The writer has written an accurate account of the people and places there. We looked into buying land on Roatan before tourism moved in, but stopped ourselves knowing the land we would purchase would never be ours. In other words the government could and would take it from you because the buyer never owns the land, the government does. Perhaps things have changed since our time there, but if one seriously wants to look into purchasing to live, must read the fine print of their papers as we did and chose not to.

    1. Unless you make yourself indispensable, Dr.,Dentist,Vet, pharmacist, best mechanic,metal worker/welder/machinist,you make yourself valuable and well liked you should be fairly safe.

  4. Deja Vu…
    18 years ago I worked in Honduras, office in San Pedro Sula and traveled to Olancho province. At that time it was much as described . A few of my experiences:

    Corruption and theft is a way of life. I was robbed at gun point on the way out of the San Pedro Sula airport. The police did not respond. Also, later on I had a policeman try to shake me down. I played dumb and ignorant of the language until he gave up.

    Roads were in bad shape. One lane on some of the curves in the mountains and no guard rails. Often no blacktop.

    Medical care on Roatan was lacking. We helped one resident get back to San Pedro Sula to fly back to Houston with a bout of severe kidney stones. I also remember an ex-pat being murdered because he had an altercation with his contractor.

    In some of the remote areas I saw wattle and daub houses with palm frond roofs. Cook sheds with small clay ovens. Doors were covered with a piece of cloth. Pigs and chickens roamed around, and one of the huts had a door sill about 12 inches high to keep them out. Smoke from a small fire inside, if needed, just worked it’s way through the roofing. Bathing, clothes washing and drinking water was a community get-to-gather of women and kids in the local river.

    When driving in town or traffic, whenever you stop, always leave enough room between you and the vehicle in front to pull out of the line. Watch for some one approaching you to stick a gun in your window to rob you.

    Do not carry all of you money, I.D. and credit cards in one wallet. Make copies of I.D. and other info and leave in a secure place. A money belt worn under loose fitting clothes worked for me.

    Machete’s are the one tool for everything. I call it my Centro American Tool Kit. I brought some back to share with family and friends.

    I got back broke, unpaid, but alive, with some machetes.

    Thank you for a great post G.P.

  5. The book My Amish Childhood (Eicher is the author) gives a longer and more in-depth look at the culture in Honduras. He was raised there, in an Amish community, and he talks about everything reported by this writer, with more detail. Interestingly, the book recalls Honduras 30 years ago or more, and apparently little has changed. I would recommend it for anyone considering living there (or any place where you are going to be the outsider trying to live in a like-minded community).

  6. “With that said, almost every home with a yard has some fruit trees and chickens.”

    My experience is that home gardens and fruit trees are limited largely to the coastal areas. The dry season inland makes growing without water sources difficult.

  7. I see no reason t leave good ole America and move anywhere, especially Honduras. I’ll stay here and if things go south I’ll do my part to make things right. The two part article was very interesting though.

  8. The lady with the cell phone brought back fond memories. DW and I were driving through Baja to San Diego from La Paz. We had stopped for lunch at a little roadside truck stop. As we were eating an older Mexican man walked by the restaurant. It was classic. On his feet were his sandals. He was wearing white pantaloons. Headgear was a sombrero. He was leading a burrow loaded with small sticks which I presume were for firewood. He stopped on the side of the road, reached under his poncho and pulled out his cell phone.

  9. Interesting article, but not really practical for most of us. Frankly, it amazes me how green the grass looks on the other side, in this case, living in Honduras. Well, I lived in Mexico for several years, and I can tell you that ANY American in a third-world country in a time of economic crisis will be a big fat target for robbery, kidnapping and/or extortion. Guns are ILLEGAL in Mexico and just about all of Latin America, so you don’t even have the means to protect yourself. To a dirt-poor person in those countries, Americans, with their nice retirement check deposited into their account, their nice homes and cars, and eating out frequently at nice restaurants, are considered “los ricos,” the so-called “rich people.” For them, our middle class is considered “rich.” And that’s how some people justify robbery and other crimes. Then there are the corrupt police. I know a guy who had a nice sports car which was TOWED AWAY to a police towing yard, just because one of the police head honchos saw it parked on the street and said, “I want that car.” Then when my friend went to the police station to report the robbery, HE was jailed for two days and still lost his car. I have heard of Americans who “bought” their beachside condos on the “lease” program, and then losing their property and getting evicted, just because of some legal dispute over the rightful owner of the title of the property. I could go on and on. Americans have NO rights in foreign countries, especially Latin America. In a grid down situation, you will be considered a big, fat “Rico,” and guess where the poor, hungry people will go first, looking for their next meal?

  10. I have referenced Maj General Smedley Butler here before. When we wonder about the poverty and instability of Central American countries, we can look to the general for a simple answer.

    Do you think the deep state oligarchs are a recent phenomenon? They raped most of the Spanish-speaking world outside Europe at the turn of the twentieth century.

    Just today, our government made some amends. See below.

    Three church bells have been returned to an Eastern Samar church in the Philippines after U.S. troops took them 117 years ago.

    The bronze treasures were seized during the 1901 Philippine-American War in retaliation after Filipinos killed 48 out of 74 US troops. In revenge, American forces led the Balangiga Massacre, in which about 2,500 Filipinos were killed. The bells were taken as a winning war profit.

    Got that? 2,500. That means all your family and friends times ten.

    Carry on.

    1. Very good point. At the risk of offending a few please remember that the Christian religions (includes Catholics) are required to honor the 10 commandments. Except for the Catholic church which taught thou shalt not steal unless it is from heathens with lots of gold. They get a mulligan on that one.

  11. Thank you for the article. Always interesting reading about life in foreign lands and what their lives are like. Gives one perspective on what can happen here and why we need to protect it.

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