Recently, I visited several Central American nations. Of those places, I have never seen crushing poverty like I saw in Belize and Honduras. Juxtaposed between beautiful beaches and the manicured lawns of resorts catering to Americans, Canadians, and Europeans were hovels and shacks. In the areas where tourists congregated there was a heavy security presence, and warnings about leaving certain areas. At one restaurant, away from the tourist areas, there were bars on the inside and outside of the windows. The doors were locked while we were dining, and only unlocked when we were leaving.Sign as you exit the tourist area in Mahogany Bay, Roatan, Honduras.
Is it any wonder that people living under these conditions are leaving to come to America? My all-too-brief visits to both of these places and discussions with other travelers left me feeling disgusted with my fellow countrymen. It left me wondering if we deserve the America we proclaim to love. So many of my fellow citizens seem to despise the very things than make our nation strong, like diversity and mix of cultures.
Some of my fellow travelers refused to leave the safety of the resort areas. One family we shared a vehicle with seemed clueless about what they were seeing, showing more sympathy for the stray dogs they were seeing instead of the children being forced to stand in the middle of the road to stop traffic so that the adults could then try and sell their wares to the tourists attempting to pass by.
Then there were the conversations we shared over meals. We heard subtle but recognizable racism, and allusions to how the people living in the third-world countries we were visiting were lesser beings than we Americans. Never once did these American tourists seem to think about how the people they were meeting have the same hopes and dreams that they do.