Social Sectors - Background
Although the class structure in Honduras is similar to that in other Latin American countries, the manner in which these classes interact presents less conflict than is exhibited by Honduras's immediate neighbors. The relative lack of tension in class relations raises the possibility that Honduras might avoid the social and political violence that has plagued Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. Political dynamics peculiar to Honduras tend to lessen social pressures, although it is still possible that class tensions, growing poverty among the majority of the population, and increased concentration of wealth in a minority could result in violence in the future.
The low level of social tension in Honduras has its origins in the country's colonial and early republican history. During the colonial period, the province that later became Honduras was a backwater in the territories held by Spain. Because much of the indigenous population either had been exterminated or had died of disease, the province was sparsely populated. Ethnically, this meant that Honduras had a more homogeneous mestizo culture than most other Spanish colonies. The area was isolated because the majority of Honduras's population settled in the central and western highlands, far from the main transportation route that linked the southern and northern regions of the Spanish Empire. Furthermore, the area lacked any significant mineral deposits or other easily exploitable wealth. Consequently, the colonial elite in Honduras came to be defined by their control of the province's political system rather than by their accumulation of wealth. In later centuries, the absence of coffee exporting concerns in Honduras became another factor differentiating it from its neighbors. In most of Central America, large coffee plantations resulted in a wealthy elite. The accumulation of large fortunes by a land-owning minority took place much later in Honduras--during the twentieth century, when much of the wealth from the new banana businesses went to foreign investors who owned the banana companies.
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