Honduras — Misconceptions About So-called “Third World” Countries — The North Star Project Reports, sponsored by The Middle Ground Journal. By Sofia Pineda
When people think about Third World countries, all they can imagine is poverty, violence, and any negative connotation you can associate with a location. But who can blame them? It seems as if Third World countries do not interest the rest of the world unless there are revolts or violent activities going on. Mass media will let the world know all about how dangerous these countries are, but fails to tell how beautiful and full of potential they are. Growing up in Honduras, I have experienced this phenomenon all my life.
Studying abroad last year reinforced this thought. I left home to live the “American dream.” Education is not a good as it should be in Honduras, so my parents and I decided it was best for me to study in the United States. Because English is my second language I have an accent when I speak, allowing people to know I am a foreigner. People here were surprised by “how good I speak English.” But they were even more surprised when I told them where I was from. It seemed as if all they knew about Honduras was the revolt we had in 2009 or the poverty and crime that exists. Many didn’t even know where Honduras is located and I got asked several times not only if I lived in Mexico, but even worse, if I spoke Mexican. I am completely honest when I tell you that I have been asked if I live in trees.
What a dream to live, right? To live thousands of miles away from home and have people make assumptions of who you are and about your culture just because you come from a certain country. Truth be told, this saddens me. There is more than meets the eye. Just because we come from a country that is not as developed as others, it does not mean we are “uncivilized” individuals living in forests and are unable to speak another language besides our mother tongue. I will not lie and say that my country has no poverty or crime. But let’s be honest, what country has no people who are homeless or who suffer from poverty? What country has people that never commit crimes? What country has a perfect government loved by all its citizens? Last time I checked, there was no such country.
There are so many misconceptions about Third World countries; we are continuously diminished because we have been labeled in a box. Third World countries do not want others’ charity— this is one of the biggest misconceptions that exists. Third World countries want to be seen as equal, because that is what we are if we are given the opportunity. Believe it or not, we, just like all First and Second World countries, have our fortes. While some countries may excel in education, others excel in crop growth or fertile land. Every country has its weaknesses and its strengths.
Third World countries are more than poverty and violence and charity works. Third World countries are beautiful. Honduras, for example, has the second largest coral reef in the world— a fact that is overlooked or ignored due to the negative news that are shared with the world. Not only do we have beautiful nature but most importantly, we have beautiful people. When I say beautiful people I mean both from the inside and outside. We are honest people fighting to live that “dream.” Only as you grow older do you understand that your dream can be achieved anywhere. You don’t need to study abroad or work for a foreign company or live somewhere else because, at the end of the day, you may belong to a Third World country but no one is superior or inferior to you. Misconceptions will always exist and it is your duty to inform others how beautiful and full of potential your country truly is.
Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to contribute to The North Star Reports — HLIANG@CSS.EDU
For all of the North Star Reports, see http://NorthStarReports.org
The North Star Reports: The Middle Ground Journal’s collaborative outreach program with K-12 classes around the world. We acknowledge North Star Academy of Duluth, Minnesota as our inaugural partner school, and the flagship of our K-12 outreach program. We also welcome Duluth East High School, Duluth Denfeld High School, Dodge Middle School and other schools around the world to the North Star Reports. The North Star Reportshas flourished since 2012. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:
The Middle Ground Journal will share brief dispatches from our North Star Reports student interns, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. Student interns have reported from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing presentations on theatrical representations of historical trauma, historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and different perceptions of current events from around the world. We will post their dispatches here, and report on their interactions with the North Star Reports students and teachers.
Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA
(c) 2013-present The Middle Ground Journal. See Submission Guidelines page for the journal’s not-for-profit educational open-access policy.
31 responses to “Honduras — Misconceptions About So-called “Third World” Countries — The North Star Project Reports, sponsored by The Middle Ground Journal. By Sofia Pineda”
I agree that the misconceptions many Americans have about life in other countries, especially third world countries, may often be influenced by images we see on TV and in movies. When I see a celebrity in designer Khakis and full make up on TV passing out food to hungry children who are bombarded by flies and are dressed in hand me down clothes I am inclined to think less of the celebrity for even appearing in the clip and I do not believe that what I am seeing is a true representation of a whole country. But I guess I never realized how offensive it is to people coming from other countries when we ask questions out of ignorance. But then, the more I read these articles the more I am reminded of how offended I have been to hear that people in other countries (France for example) can often be rude and mean spirited to Americans because they think we are all representative of what they perceive as a rude and elitist culture. I think having an attitude of respect, thinking before we speak and being willing, as you said, to teach others about the wonders of our homelands is a good start to better understanding for all of us.
I think this article does an excellent job clearing up many misconceptions people have about Honduras and other third world countries. I’m saddened to hear that people have made these such comments and assumptions to you in the past. I think it is human nature to compartmentalize groups of people or countries into simple stereotypes because it is the easy way out. Instead we should strive to learn in depth about others and their backgrounds.
I agree with this article. I remember reading an article about Colombia recently on here and they were saying the same thing about all the misconceptions of their country. And I see similarities in this article. Very good article.
This article was wonderful at showing an inside perspective on what a third world country is really like. I was heartbroken to hear of the comments you had to receive– sadly misconceptions about third world countries are quite common, but people who share their stories like you can help educate people on what they are really like. Honduras sounds absolutely beautiful and I am thankful I had the opportunity to read your article and learn more about what Honduras– and other third world countries– are actually like.
This was such an eye opening article. It is so astounding that people cannot understand the idea that labels aren’t always the only thing that exists. As a third world country it seems that many simply write it off as poor and possibly violent. Most do not take the time to see that this exists everywhere which I thought was a strong point to make in this article.
“Third countries want to be seen as equals”, I completely agree with this statement! What’s also important, I believe, is the critical eye in which citizens from developing nations are able look at their home country, especially when abroad. In addition to the extremely important task of informing and educating others by eliminating misconceptions, only by being critical and looking at the state of our countries in the most realistic way, will we be truly able to achieve equality by transforming from within, the socioeconomic, political, and in some regions even, the counterproductive national psyche that has for so long plagued us.
This article does a great job of clearing up misconceptions of third world countries. It is really sad to see that only the bad things about the country is what it is known for and it is awful that you have personal been misunderstood coming from a third world country and that you have been asked if you live in trees, saddens me also. Honduras seems like a beautiful country and it would be awesome to the coral reef!
This was such a wonderful article, great to get the story and perspective from an insider rather than someone looking in on a third world country. It is important to share stories like yours to get the truth out and stop the spread of false information and misconceptions.
Such a wonderful article, great to get a story and experiences from an inside source. It is important to share stories like yours to stop the spread of false information and misconceptions. Great job focusing on differences as well as similarities which unite us all as humans.
Thank you for sharing your story on here, as I found it very interesting and a great read. I believe that third world countries are too often overlooked and agree that all countries have poverty and crime. The United States for example is in a tremendous amount of debt and has a high population of homeless/poverty stricken people. Another point you made in your article was about third world countries being seen as uncivilized. No one has the power to judge how civil a culture is because of all the different cultural traditions, ways, and philosophies. Each culture is unique and I agree with you that people need to look at countries as a whole and not just the negative aspects portrayed in news articles.
“there is more than meets the eye” Great quote that fits perfectly in this article. I feel ashamed of being from a country that a large amount of people hold these misconceptions that you described. A good point that I saw is that how the media portrays third world countries in an unfair way, which makes me think of the question, how do we change that trend?
I think this article does a great job of clearing up the way America doesn’t want other countries to think of us. People always see the US as such a rich country but in reality that isn’t really true. It’s interesting to learn about all the different cultures and it’s important to remember that the stereotypes we see on TV or anywhere else aren’t always true whether it’s about our country or someone else’s. Thank you for sharing!
This topic seems to be a common theme that foreign students notice while in the United States and it’s really upsetting. I think it goes to show how wrapped up in our world because we are seen as a “power house” country. We think that everyone wants to be like us and that everyone should be like us, but it’s students like you who are able to open our eyes to the real realities of other countries around the world. We are so lucky to have such a diverse student body because it helps not only the foreign students, such as yourself, reflect on your own home country but it helps us citizens become better educated. So thanks for sharing your story.
I really enjoyed your article and the points made within it. “Mass media will let the world know all about how dangerous these countries are, but fails to tell how beautiful and full of potential they are.” I believe that this line rings true in so many ways. Media plays a large role that can influence the opinions of multitudes of minds by one biased report. Thank you for sharing!
I thought this was a great article! It is very true, and interesting. Ever since I was little, I was able to interact with some other children from Honduras. My elementary teacher and husband often went there on trips, and came back with plenty of stories and pictures! We were able to have multiple pen pals from different areas, and they allowed me to see how alike we were. I like how this article let’s others know how much of a problem this is, and how ignorant some people can be (” I am completely honest when I tell you that I have been asked if I live in trees.”).
I love this article! I can relate to this in so many ways. I am from Ethiopia which is also a third world country. I have heard many ignorant remarks made about Ethiopia, as well as Africa. People have also asked me if I speak African. It sometimes surprises me to think that college students would ask such ignorant questions. I hate the fact that the media chooses to only focus on the terrible things happening in our countries. Like you said, every country has their strengths and weaknesses, so in my opinion it is not fair that they only portray our countries with our weaknesses.
I really liked this article for the points it brings up. I completely agree that people have an idea that third world countries aren’t as up to snuff with the first and second world countries. It’s an ignorant thought and I think people need to be aware of the beauty that every country has to offer. I didn’t know that Honduras has that coral reef, and to be honest, I didn’t know much about Honduras to begin with. The media I think is often a big part of the negative thoughts about other countries as they only seem to cover when something bad happens or the negatives about an area, completely bypassing all the wonderful things they have to offer.
Thank you so much for this article and I hope it opens up more peoples’ eyes to the wonderful differences everywhere and everyone has to offer.
I can say, after reading everyone’s comments, that I thought exactly how you started this article. I thought all third world countries are so violent and so full of crime that I did not even want to read about them. This article is so well written and opened my eyes of what they really are, just like every human, wanting to fit in and be “normal.”
Great article! I loved how you explained third world countries, specifically Honduras, from first hand experience and had a different view than the majority of Americans. I’m sure it is a beautiful place and I would like to see what that country has to offer, especially that huge coral reef!
Sofia, I really enjoyed your take on this article! It is sad to hear about the ignorance and misconceptions that so many people have. I have heard “Third World Countries” sometimes referred to as developing countries. Perhaps this term serves as a more accurate description. After all, we all live in the same “world”.
Wow, this is a really powerful article and I loved it! Every single point you made is completely true and no one has a perfect anything. We shouldn’t judge like this or make misconceptions but until we are educated about it other than the news and TV shows we see that are one-sided, it’s sad to say that people do make unrealistic conceptions that may be hurtful to others. I am sorry you were asked such questions that you said in the article, no one should have to go through that just because they live somewhere different then the United States.
I’m so sorry that people are so one sided in their perceptions of other countries and people, it makes me so sad that this has been you experience. The news is very biased and many people do not bother to look elsewhere or learn about things with an open mind. From the pictures you included Honduras looks absolutely beautiful.
Coming from a third world country, I understand how sometimes being framed in an stereotype can be frustrating for us as international students. In the college years here at the CSS, I think that I have definitely opened my mind and tried to escape from those stereotypes that I had when I was home. I learned to open my mind and to try to know the people around without framing people in stereotypes.
This is such an interesting read. As an international student from a third world country too, I can totally relate with some of the stereotypes you mentioned on here. When I first came to America, I used to get pissed when people said I had an accent and would go on to ask me where I was from. However, having a liberal arts education allowed me to have an open mind and and not live in my own bubble.
This was a great article! I can relate to the things you said. It is sad that people only know and hear about the “bad” things that happen in third world countries, and the many great things that happen in those countries are never mentioned to the world. Many people are so used to stereotypes that they don’t even try to really learn more about the country. Thanks for writing the article I bet many people will benefit tremendously from it.
Honduras is a beautiful country and I agree with the majority of the article.
I am an Englishman who has lived in Honduras off and on for a while now. I am intending to marry my Honduran girlfriend later this year and make a life here.
What saddens me is the misconception of other countries, it is a double edged sword.
So many young Hondurans try to go ‘through the back'(mainly to the USA) every year. So many die or end up living the illegal life. Working for whatever is offered. Having to live in the poorer areas with the drugs/ prostitution and crime. All because of the way other countries are portrayed and the way Honduras is viewed by others.
There should be more advertised, documentaries or films showing what really can happen to illegals. Also more showing the beauty of this country.
These young Hondurans with the tenacity and commitment to trying for a better life, should be shown and given the opportunity to doing it in there own country. Honduras needs young people like this.
What an incredible perspective you have to share with other who simply do not understand the reality of a Third World Country. Regardless of the misfortunes and possible corruptions that can occur within a country, I think it’s important to try and see the positive attributes that a country can have. Growing up in the United States and being somewhat sheltered from the realities of the rest of the world, I feel as though people are misinformed and come to make snap judgements about other countries solely based on what they hear in the news or saw in a textbook once. The stigma and even sometimes pitiful attitude that follow the mention of a Third World country is not what that country should be known for. I think that when it comes to talking about countries that may not be developed or globally known, it’s important for the public to see the good things that country has to offer. Maybe the glass is half full rather than half empty.
“Third World countries do not want others’ charity— this is one of the biggest misconceptions that exists. Third World countries want to be seen as equal, because that is what we are if we are given the opportunity.” This quote reminded me of a documentary I watched on Netflix, Poverty, Inc. This documentary explores how charity from well-intentioned people can be detrimental to a developing economy and create a state of perpetual poverty. Part of this problem is that people donating money or goods may think that people from developing nations are unable to get out of poverty themselves. In addition, they may not understand the causes of poverty in that country, so they do not effectively reduce it. Certainly, charity is beneficial after natural disasters and states of emergency. However, to effectively help people in other countries that are seeking help, you must move beyond stereotypes about that country and research what will be of long-term benefit.
Sofia, thank you for sharing your experience with us! It sounds like you come from a very beautiful country. I agree with you and think that so often we stereotype Third World countries. I have not been to Honduras, but have some friends that have gone there and have absolutely loved it. It must have been extremely hard and frustrating hearing people make assumptions like those about your homeland.
Hello! This was indeed insightful. I am from the US and visited Honduras on a volunteer trip 5 year ago – what a beautiful country! Not once did I feel unsafe. The crafts, the food, the land..all exquisite. I appreciate your country and hope to visit again one day! It’s unfortunate many of us associate the negative we see and hear with your country (among others), but it is merely out of ignorance and stupidity. I think you have a wonderful outlook on it all. And by educating those about the misconceptions, you are helping your country and ours. Thank you!!
Your article was so fascinating and insightful to read. I am from the US and I just want to formally apologize for the people who said those things to you, and let you know that ignorance does not speak for our whole country. I recently traveled to Guatemala on a volunteer service learning trip, and the country was absolutely beautiful. While traveling in Guatemala, I heard good things about Honduras as well, and from your pictures it appears they may be similar. I absolutely loved Guatemala, and the people there were so rich in spirit and so friendly. I also have never seen people who work as hard as they do day to day. I think your choice to educate others on misconceptions they have about your country is a courageous and intuitive thing to do. Recently in my world history course we were reading about settlement, pastoralism, and trade in the book “Worlds Together, Worlds Apart” by Robert Tignor. Your sentence, “While some countries may excel in education, others excel in crop growth or fertile land. Every country has its weaknesses and its strengths.”, really stood out to me and it related to our readings. While the people who settled in early cities along river basins excelled in “making goods for the consumption of others” such as “textiles..ceramics…[and] precious ornaments”, the people of pastoral nomadic communities excelled in “herding animals and cultivating crops” (Tignor, p. 45). I think that this statement also really signifies the importance of this balance that there is in the world. We are all good at different things and have different ways of living, but ultimately we rely on the skills of each other to help us survive and have the goods available that we want and need. I truly found your article a joy to read, and I found myself saying a sassy “mhmmm” in my head along with a head nod in agreement to everything you wrote. Every country and every person deserves recognition and respect.
Thank you for sharing your words, I truly hope the world continues to move in the right direction and that people start to live their lives with an open mind the way that you seem to.