According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, there were nearly 7,200 homicides in Honduras in 2012. That is the highest murder rate per capita in the world for the tiny nation of about 7.9 million. Still, tourists regularly and comfortably visit countries with far more yearly casualties than Honduras.
Case in point: The nation with the highest number of homicides is currently hosting 3.6 million gleeful soccer aficionados and raking in a whopping $3.04 billion in tourism money. This despite Brazil’s 50,000-plus homicides in 2012—the highest of any single nation, and double the count of Mexico, which gets a huge amount of press for its violence problems. Similarly, in 2012, there were about 43,000 homicides in India, 16,000 in Venezuela, 13,400 in China, and 14,200 in the United States. Our own backyard experienced double the number of homicides that “the murder capital of the world,” Honduras, experienced.
But those are only numbers. I’ve safely visited Honduras twice, the last time less than two months ago, the first time with my then-12-year-old daughter on a cross-country road trip. During the coup d’etat of 2009.
Could my daughter and I have been two more of Honduras’ casualties? Sure, anything’s possible. What is certain, however, is that the only time my life has been in immediate physical danger was when I was held at gunpoint in one of my hometown Boston’s most crowded, innocuous tourist hot spots, Faneuil Hall Marketplace.
Honduras’ violence, like in most places in the world, is generally directed at locals, and most victims know their perpetrators. Still, the U.S. State Department has instated a travel warning for U.S. citizens visiting Honduras, and as its website puts it, “Tens of thousands of U.S. citizens visit Honduras each year for study, tourism, business, and volunteer work without incident. However, crime and violence are serious problems throughout the country, and the government of Honduras lacks the resources to address these issues.”
In my opinion as a traveler (and often a solo female traveler at that), what embattled destinations like Honduras need most is tourism money, so they can invest in conservation, social development, and an even stronger tourism infrastructure. Either that or to host a World Cup.
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