Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

Trains Rumble in Honduras

Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

Trains Rumble in Honduras

Article excerpt

THE CASH-STRAPPED Honduran communities of Salado Barra and Boca Cerrada, long dependent on fishing, are now literally training for tourism.

The communities are located a stone's throw from the Caribbean coast of Honduras on a former coconut plantation that is now a wildlife refuge. Since there is no access by road to the rest of Honduras, residents who want to visit the nearby town of La Union either have to walk or ride a old two-car train, which dates back to 1908 and was used to carry plantation workers to coconut groves.

The plantation was run for decades by the Standard Fruit Company, a division of Dole, and was one of a number of large plantations that caused Honduras to be known as a Banana Republic. But then a blight killed the coconut trees, and the company ended up withdrawing almost completely from the area.

Now the former plantation is part of Cuero y Salado Wildlife Refuge, a watery world of 52 square miles that provides shelter for manatees (whose numbers and range have been greatly reduced in the Americas), howler and white-faced monkeys, jaguars, bats, crocodiles, a host of bird species, and other creatures. Surveys indicate the refuge has 800 monkeys and 60 manatees.

Visitors can explore the refuge in small boats piloted by community residents. Cenaida Moncada of the foundation overseeing the refuge says the 300-some residents of the area are poor but hopeful that tourism will provide them with "a better life." The refuge now employs a small number of locals, and plans are being made for local students to learn the foreign languages that will help them guide tourists who don't speak Spanish. …

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