Parts of this blog appear in our June 2012 newsletter.
Seven years ago, Bety’s husband left her and their newborn son behind in Honduras in order to immigrate illegally to the United States. Her husband was successful and regularly sends back money to his family. Bety is one of many Adelante clients who have family members working abroad, primarily in the United States. Even though Bety has not seen her husband since he left Honduras, the extra income helps ensure a brighter future for their son, now seven years old.
Each year, thousands of Hondurans risk their lives immigrating to the United States. They are fleeing a country plagued by extreme poverty, inequality, unemployment, and insecurity. In Honduras, 67% of the population lives below the poverty line(1), and nearly a quarter survive on less than $1.25 (PPP) a day(2). Facing a worsening national economy, with staggering levels of underemployment, Hondurans have few options available domestically to improve their lives. Given these facts, it is understandable why so many Hondurans perceive working in the United States as the only solution to their poverty.
Most emigrating Hondurans face an arduous journey and are at risk of being intercepted by drug traffickers, kidnappers, thieves and gangs. Hundreds of migrants have been kidnapped to further enrich criminal networks, often involved in drug crimes, in Mexico and Central America(3). Many of such kidnappings have violent ends; let us not forget the Tamaulipas massacre in Mexico where 72 migrants were found murdered execution style, 30 of which were Hondurans. Despite the evident risk, it is reported that each day 500 Hondurans leave their country behind in search of a better future(4). Even if they evade the most dangerous threats during their expedition and arrive safely to their destination, thousands of Honduran migrants are deported every year. Last year alone, 22,367 Hondurans were deported from the United States(5), and between January and May of this year, already 11,500 have been deported(6).
An Adelante client from Colon, Adelaida, has a story that illustrates why so many Hondurans take the chance. Adelaida worked just five years in the United States. By working abroad, Adelaida achieved her goal to buy a small piece of land and construct a modest house in her village in Honduras. Now that she owns a home, Adelaida is satisfied with her earnings as a small business entrepreneur. She is currently paying off a loan for L 7,000 or $368, and hopes to keep growing her business in order to sustain her standard of living as she grows older. Income earned abroad plays an important role in driving the Honduran economy. In 2011, Remittances to Honduras were estimated at over $2.7 billion(7).
Since Adelante targets poor, rural women, narratives of emigration, remittances, and long distance marriages are not uncommon. An Adelante client from Choluteca, Mirtila, has another familiar story. Twelve years ago, Mirtila’s husband embarked on his trip to the United States, leaving behind Mirtila to care for their three young children. Mirtilia’s husband never sent money back to his family and presumably has started a new life in the United States. A young mother, Mirtila was left to raise her children with the help of her extended family. Thankfully, Mirtila never intended to depend solely on remittances, she had already invested in a small business venture.
Mirtila is what Adelante calls an AA client, which means she has an excellent repayment record, invests in her small business diligently and attends assembly meetings consistently. She is currently paying off L 25,000 or $1,316 in loans from Adelante, including a group loan, an individual loan and a home improvement loan. She explains, ¨What I like most about Adelante is that they offer their best clients excellent opportunities, for example, there are no other institutions that will give their clients three loans at the same time.¨ Microfinance has allowed Mirtila to seek out a livelihood in Honduras that ensures an income to support her family.
Even though Adelante has many clients who receive income from abroad, these hard-working entrepreneurs are not dependent on their remittances. Bety, who is fortunate to have a husband who frequently sends money back, contends that her micro business has helped her to achieve an improved quality of life. Before becoming a client, Bety worked on a banana plantation spraying chemicals. Today, Bety has a micro enterprise selling merchandise outside of a textile factory, she asserts, ¨Now my work is better, I earn more with my small business and I do not have to work so hard.¨ Whether or not they receive the added boost of remittances, Adelante clients, like Bety, Adelaida, and Mirtila, are using the opportunity afforded by microloans in order to invest in small businesses and improve their overall standard of living.
(1) Source: ECLAC, Social Panorama of Latin America 2011.
(2) Source: UNDP, Human Development Report 2011.
(3) Centro de Derrechos Humanos Miguel Austin Pro Juarez A.C. Cuaderno sobre Secuestro de Migrantes. December 2011.