Slums of Central America

central american gangs honduras slums guatemala slums el salvador slums central america poverty

Slums of Central America

Central America Poverty / Central American Gangs

The three Central American countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras all have a similar story of poverty, crime, corruption, and much turmoil.

The history of Central America dates back to the Mayan Empire that was overtaken by the Spanish during the 1500s who introduced their language and culture into the region.

After most of the Central American countries gained their independence from Spain during the early 1800s, many would begin to suffer from decades of issues that included foreign exploitation, civil wars, and government corruption and instability.


Foreign exploitation by the United States led to the “Banana Republic”, which was created after the two countries of Guatemala and Honduras helped the UFCO, a United States company, to exploit their country’s resources.

In exchange for assistance and aid to Guatemala and Honduras, affiliates of the United States would gain political power in the region while profiting off of their main exports, bananas and other citrus fruits.

guatemala slums central america poverty

Guatemala Slums: A market in Guatemala with people selling fruits and vegetables. Courtesy of Jeanne Menjoulet / Flickr.

With the political power being in foreign hands, many of the decisions were mostly only good for the controlling powers and rarely benefit the actual citizens.

During the days of the “Banana Republic”, which lasted for a few decades, there was much conflict with internal fighting and human rights issues that mostly resulted from a number of civil wars.

From the La Matnaza mass killings of Honduras to the Soccer War, a border dispute between El Salvador and Honduras, this region of the world has had its share of conflict and turmoil.

Guatemala Slums: The Central America poverty rate in the Guatemala slums is around 60%. Courtesy of Jeanne Menjoulet / Flickr.

Conflict and turmoil has continued into the present day of Central America with the massive amounts of poverty, violence, and civil unrest.

The slowly growing economy of Central America is based mostly on the exports of coffee, bananas, clothing material and sugar while many are underemployed with earnings being unequally distributed.

The inequality of pay comes from the ownership of farmland and other large businesses are mostly controlled by the few elite.

Other than poverty and a lack of resources and opportunities, gang activity and crime in this part of Central America has affected the majority of the population.

This region of the world, due to the local gang activity, has the highest homicide rate in the world.

central american gangs el salvador slums

Central American Gangs: The El Salvador slums have produced the world’s highest homicide rate.  Courtesy of Kyle Becker/Flickr.

With this section of Latin America having one of the youngest populations in the world, recruitment for gangs can be easy due to the lack of resources and activities.

Gangs began to become part of Central America’s society after hundreds of people, who were affiliated with the streets of place like Los Angeles, were being deported from the United States and back into their native country.

With the deportation of thousands the gang culture of the United States easily spreaded into the El Salvador slums, Honduras slums, and the Guatemala slums.


Two rival gangs of MS-13 and 18th Street (Calle 18 or Barrio 18) have become the dominant affiliations of the El Salvador slums, Honduras slums, and the Guatemala slums.

From the 1990s to the 2010s, Central America’s gang activities have constantly escalated and increase to having a larger number of members and committing more violent crimes.

Honduras slums central america poverty

Overlook of Honduras slums as the Central America poverty rate  in the Honduras slums is at 60%.  Courtesy Nan Palmero/Flickr.

Most of the Central American gangs earn a living by extorting the local businesses for protection payments, even though the businesses are being protected from the actual gang that is extorting them.

A big misconception about the Central American gangs is drug trafficking, in which members do very little of due to the lack of establishing a good relationship with the large drug organizations.

While the local governments have tried their best to crackdown on the violence of Central American gangs, gang activity still exists in the region and has continued to cause many casualties.

While in every city and every country there troubled communities and a group of citizens that do not abide by the laws, this does not mean the majority of the people in these communities are a threat to society.

el salvador slums central america poverty

El Salvador Slums:  The Central America poverty rate in the El Salvador slums  is around 40% as many are underemployed.  Courtesy Mani.Rai/Flickr.

In these three countries of Central America, providing for your family or just finding food for yourself is a difficult task for many.

From a high percentage of poverty to thousands of workers being underpaid, survival may mean taking a chance to go somewhere else, a place that has more opportunities.

honduras slums central america poverty

Central America poverty can be seen in these Honduras slums. Coutresy Kristin Klein/Flickr.

With so many problems occurring, a large portion of the country has been migrating towards the United States with a hope for a better life.

From the violence that is committed by a small percentage to the wide spread of a lack of resources, surviving in Central America cannot be accomplish by most.


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