Pag. 23 Map from the document Panorama de la Migración Internacional en México y Centroamérica, 2015 – CEPAL, OIM. Note – Numbers have changed up to 2020

Understanding the Migrant Caravans

by EntreMundos Staff


Over the last few years there has been a social phenomenon occurring in Central America:  the massive caravans of Honduran migrants.  And Salvadoran, Guatemalan and even Mexican migrants have joined in.  What are the reasons for these caravans?  A Honduran, using the alias,  ” the curly-haired traveler” explains the situation in a simple summary on his YouTube channel.  This article is based on his video.

There have been various hypotheses offered about why massive numbers of Hondurans migrate including conspiracy theories about some leftist foreigner who has financed their departures.  Yet there’s been no convincing information found which prove such theories.  The migration out of Honduras beginning since 1990 reached about 66,000 individuals annually.  Then Hurricane Mitch hit and after that, major migration in huge numbers started to become a common occurrence because of damage and economic crisis resulting from the storm.  To such a degree that counts arrived at as many as 140,000 annually.

One of the differences between the earlier years and now is that migrants would hire a coyote or other contacts who could take them to the US border so they would cross.  Why is it, then, that the caravans appeared?  Basically, people have created them for economic reasons and for security.  Many do not have the money to pay someone who will direct them to the US and so they began to organize themselves into groups to leave, helping and guiding one another along the way.  In 2018 the first caravan left Honduras on its way to Guatemala.

Something important to note is that migration is not exclusively from Honduras.  It is a phenomenon which has been seen in all of Central America, even almost all of Latin America.  But the migration from Honduras became more noticeable because of the recent caravans.  In 2019 more than 200,000 individuals migrated annually, among them are many who not only go to the US, but to other parts of the world as well, including the neighboring Central American countries.  The countries to which most migrate are Spain, Mexico and Canada.

But what are actual causes of Honduran migration?

  1. Natural disasters and climate change:  As previously mentioned, when Hurricane Mitch hit in 1998, it caused serious damage to infrastructure and the Honduran economy.  Then in 2020 the Eta and Iota storms unleashed the same problems causing even more precarious living conditions.  Besides that Hondurans suffer from drought and torrential rains which flood the territory.
  2. Poverty:  More than 48% of the Honduran population live in conditions of poverty.  One in five lives in extreme poverty subsisting on less than $ 2 per day.  Add to this the problems of inequality.  The difference between the rich and poor is remarkable, to an even greater degree in San Pedro Sula.
  3. Security:  Until the 1980’s the country was peaceful.  Even its independence was achieved without a need for war.  Statistics exist which show that previously the homicide rates were ten in every 100,000 inhabitants.  After a coup d’etat the statistics were at 80 homicides per 100,000.  This was when Honduras began to have the most violent cities in the world–San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa.  The current situation is somewhat improved, but insecurity lurks just beneath the surface.
  4. Unemployment:  About 2 million people make their living from the informal economy and their situation has become complicated  by the pandemic.  More than 3 million are unemployed and have difficulty earning enough just to survive.  Many professionals work in unskilled jobs.  Opportunities for work are scarce.

The gross national product was growing before 2020, but with the pandemic it was paralyzed. If one takes into account that the Honduran population is mostly young and that Honduras has an advantageous location with its access to two oceans, one might conclude that it has great potential.  Unfortunately, especially regarding tourism and commerce, there is no capitalizing on this potential because foreign investors do not have confidence in the Honduran authorities.

The video can be accessed at this link: