Testing Ground

Start Slideshow View as a List

The town of Amapala, spread across several islands in southern Honduras, is not a rich place. Many of its residents live in mud-walled shacks, with dirt floors. On the town's smaller islands, people lack regular access to fresh water and electricity. "We live poor," fisherman Rodolfo Núñez Pacheco, who lives on the island of Inglesera, told writer Maya Kroth, who paid a visit to Amapala and the surrounding area for her piece in the latest issue of Foreign Policy. "But we live happy."

Kroth's article looks at Honduras's preparations for a radical experiment: the founding of quasi-sovereign municipalities known as "zones for economic development and employment" (ZEDEs), or "charter cities." Built with backing from foreign investors and granted wide-ranging legal and administrative autonomy, these cities, according to supporters, could bring new life to places like Amapala, which is being eyed as a potential site for the first zone. But many Amapala residents are worried that a charter city, once established, would just serve the interests of its corporate sponsors. "We're only fishermen and farmers," one resident said at a town-hall meeting in July. "We won't stand for the invasion of these model cities created for the benefit of the rich!"

Above, a view of San Carlos Island, also known as Garrobo Island, which could be affected by a ZEDE.


A view from a ferry terminal on the island of El Tigre, which forms the bulk of Amapala, in the Gulf of Fonseca.


A member of the Roda family scales fish on the island of Exposición, where they have lived for generations.


A small-business owner sits in her Amapala food store, which sells grains, snacks, and other provisions.


Fisherman Rodolfo Núñez Pacheco (right) says people have attempted to evict his family from Inglesera before.


Amapala residents at a local cafeteria.


Two brothers look at a well in Puerto Grande, Amapala.


Amapala's mayor, Alberto Cruz, addresses constituents gathered for a town-hall meeting about a possible charter city.


Residents at the town-hall meeting.


People gathered for Amapala's town-hall meeting spill into an adjacent lot, where they listen to the debate through metal window screens.


Amapala's main port.


Boys play soccer on El Burro beach, Amapala.


The ferry terminal at El Burro beach, Amapala.

Previous Next Close