Honduras: travel books to read before you go

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This excerpt from Lonely Planet’s Honduras & the Bay Islands guide provides a selection of travel literature to get you in the mood for your trip.

While topics such as Copán archaeological site, the banana industry and the Contra War have been well studied and written about, others, such as non-Maya indigenous communities and environmental issues, have not. Gangs are a hot topic and have received extensive newspaper and magazine coverage; full-length books are still rare, though several are in the works.

Working Hard, Drinking Hard: On Violence and Survival in Honduras (2008), by Adrienne Pine, is a sociological study that uses violence and the export manufacturing (maquiladora) industry as a backdrop.

Enrique’s Journey (2007), by Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter Sonia Nazario, chronicles a 17-year-old Honduran boy’s attempt to reunite with his mother, who left the family when the boy was just five to find work in the US.

The United States, Honduras, and the Crisis in Central America (1994), by Donald E Schultz and Deborah Sundloff Schulz, discusses the role of the US in Central America during the region’s tumultuous civil wars.

Don’t be Afraid, Gringo (1987) is the intriguing firsthand story of peasant Elvia Alvarado’s reluctant rise as a labor leader, and of the Honduran labor movement, flaws and all.

Bitter Fruit, by Stephen C Schlesinger, is mostly about the United Fruit Company in Guatemala, but provides insight into the banana giant’s impact on Honduras as well.

The Banana Men: American Mercenaries and Entrepreneurs in Central America, 1880-1930 (1995) and The Banana Wars: United States Intervention in the Caribbean, 1898-1934 (2002), both by Lester D Langley, are incisive accounts of the banana companies’ political and economic influence in Central America and the Caribbean.

Alison Acker’s Honduras: The Making of a Banana Republic (1989) lacks the detail and analysis of more recent studies, but is a worthy read. Copán is one of the most extensively studied archaeological sites in the Maya world; many studies are highly technical but several have been written with a more general readership in mind.

Copán: The History of an Ancient Kingdom (2005), by William L Fash and E Wyllys Andrews, is an excellent overview, while Scribes, Warriors and Kings (2001), also by Fash, is a fine on-site companion and is often sold at the Copán ruins’ bookstore.

Los Barcos (The Ships; 1992), El Humano y La Diosa (The Human and the Goddess; 1996) and The Big Banana (1999) are all by Roberto Quesada, one of Honduras’ best-known living novelists.

Gringos in Honduras: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1995) and Velasquez: The Man and His Art are two of many books by Guillermo Yuscarán, aka William Lewis, an American writer and painter living in Honduras.

More travel literature reading lists for other destinations can be found here.