My journey to visit all of the departments where the Adelante Foundation operates brought me to the department of Cortes. This coastal department is home to the economic hub of Honduras, the sprawling city of San Pedro Sula. The bulk of the country’s Gross Domestic Product is generated in San Pedro Sula and the surrounding area. San Pedro Sula’s growth began in the early 20th century with the arrival of the banana companies, especially following the development of a rail line that linked nearby ports to the emergent city. Today, industry rather than agriculture has materialized as the most salient feature of San Pedro Sula, aided by its close proximity to Puerto Cortes, the principal port of not only Honduras but also Central America.
The branch office in El Progreso, located in the department of Yoro, serves the Adelante Foundation clients around Choloma, Cortes. Choloma is a large municipality that has grown and become more urbanized due to its location only 30 minutes by bus from San Pedro Sula. Traveling between San Pedro Sula and Choloma, as I did when I recently visited the area, one hardly notices where San Pedro Sula ends and where Choloma begins. Nonetheless, as I leave the centre of Choloma to visit the communities on the periphery, the urban landscape fades. As I pass livestock and corn fields on the back of a motorcycle, it’s hard to believe I am traveling in the shadow of a metropolis.
Meeting clients of the Adelante Foundation around Choloma is illustrative of the challenges women in Cortes face in spite of residing in the country’s most prosperous department. In the community of San Jose de Boqueron, I spoke with Marina Cruz Rivera who discussed candidly the tough economic situation she is confronting with her family. Marina has four children ages 15 to 25, and her eldest is the single mother of four young children. Recently, Marina’s husband fell ill and has not been able to work, so Marina and her two eldest children are responsible for supporting the entire household. Thankfully, Marina is on her seventh loan cycle with the Adelante Foundation, and has a well-established micro enterprise selling clothes, shoes and various other products. In addition to earning income in order to support the basic needs of her family, Marina’s 15 year old daughter wants to go to secondary school and attain a diploma in tourism. Marina is planning to work hard in order to make this impressive goal a reality for her daughter. If she succeeds, Marina’s daughter will be the first of her children to complete secondary school.
In the community of Brisas de la Bueso, which is near Choloma, Cortes, I talked with another woman who also spoke openly about the challenges of sending her children to secondary school. Santos Ramirez is on her fifth loan cycle with the Adelante Foundation, and has a micro business selling undergarments and sandals. Santos admits that she has encountered many obstacles in her life, including educating her children. Each of her children have attended primary school, but at this point only one of her children has received a secondary school certificate. The cost of transportation, food, and school supplies was too much for her to afford in the past. Santos’ children are grown and live away from home, except for her two youngest, ages 8 and 15 years old. She explains that even though she was unable to give the opportunity of education to her older children, she hopes to send her two youngest to secondary school with income earned from her micro enterprise.
Despite the region’s economic prowess, the department of Cortes is not excluded from the poverty that permeates daily life for many Hondurans. The Adelante Foundation alleviates poverty by providing non-collateralized loans to women in rural areas so that they can invest in small businesses, and in turn earn more income. Visiting communities in Cortes, I witnessed how microfinance is enhancing the opportunities available to women and their families. I look forward to returning to Cortes in order to learn more about how the clients of the Adelante Foundation are overcoming adversity and improving their lives through hard work and discipline.