Honduras is seeing revolutionary changes, with its political scene stabilizing and its tourist economy expanding. There has never been a better time to study abroad in Honduras. With tropical nature, historic ruins and the Caribbean vibe counteracting the social issues that still plague the country, Honduras is ripe for an influx of international students, especially those who want to mix learning with service.
Geography & Demographics
Though malnutrition, infant diseases, youth gangs, and poor housing conditions are rampant, the country is experiencing revolutionary changes in its political scene and tourist economy. Studying abroad in Honduras means witnessing the changes that will mark an important milestone in the country’s history. It also means opportunities to work with low-income populations as part of a study course.
Honduras has a youthful population, with 50 percent below the age of 19. Unfortunately, virulent poverty and endemic drug trafficking have wasted away a good number of the youth in the country, with many of them succumbing to the force of the maras (youth gangs). The maras control the poorer areas in both cities and towns with threats and violence.
British pirates came to the Honduras more than 500 years ago and left descendants. Do not be surprised to find blue-eyed and blond-haired Hondurans. Though, Honduras used to be called the Spanish Honduras, setting it apart from the British Honduras (the former name of Belize). People in Central America refer to Hondurans as the Catrachos/Catrachas. The Nicaraguans first coined the term in reference to the Honduran general, Florencio Xatruch. The term is considered a compliment.
In Honduras, it is not only the season but also the location that determines what temperature to expect. The greater part of Central Honduras (with elevations at 2000 to 6000 feet) is called the temperate land and generally has warm days and cool nights. The coastal lowlands experience more humid and hot conditions. The rainy season runs from September to January on the Bay Islands and from May to November in the mountainous interior regions.
Traveling in Honduras is generally more pleasant during the dry season and is especially ideal for those interested in scuba diving and excursions to La Mosquitia, the underdeveloped region of tropical rainforest in the northeastern part of Honduras. The Bay Islands rest on the second largest coral reef in the world. Nonetheless, the countryside and the forests look so much lusher during the rainy season. February and March offer an ideal junction where the climate is fairly stable all over the country, and the transportation is easy with dry roads and the forests and the greeneries still lush.
Food & Culture
The official language in Honduras is Spanish, with its own distinct slang and accent. English is the common second language for those who have access to bilingual education. English is more commonly spoken among the Afro-Caribbean population on the Bay Islands, and much less on the mainland. Most, if not all, study abroad programs in Honduras include Spanish language instruction.
Honduran cuisine offers a tasteful combination of Spanish, African and indigenous influences. Much like its Central American neighbors, the Honduran cuisine features a lot of corn, beans, tomatoes, and peppers. The Hondurans borrow some of their favorites from nearby neighbors. They love the Salvadoran pupusas (handmade corn tortilla with ground pork meat, refried beans and cheese). They are also fond of nacatamales (corn dough with lard), a dish popular among their Nicaraguan neighbors in the south. You will find that the Hondurans use more coconut in their dishes than most of their Central American neighbors. Their long Caribbean coasts also give them an abundant supply of fish, a favorite staple in their dishes.
Hondurans typically start their day with a heavy breakfast, which usually consists of tortillas, sweet friend plantains, fried eggs, refried beans, Olancho cheese and mantequilla (salty sour cream). Other common breakfast options are chorizo (spicy sausages) and carne asada (roasted meat). People on the go will not have trouble finding breakfast in Honduras with street vendors selling baleadas (flour tortillas with toppings like meat, eggs and pickled onions).
The pastelito is a common Honduran lunch. A pastelito is a corn or flour tortilla folded in two and filled with chicken or beef fillings, potatoes and spices, then deep-fried. Dinner meals usually consist of rice coupled with French fries or mashed potatoes, with some type of meat (pork, beef or chicken), plus lettuce, tomato and onion on the side.
The Honduran currency, lempira, is named after an Indian chief who died trying to keep the Spaniards off his land.