On the outskirts of San Pedro Sula, Honduras’s second-largest city and business capital, lies Bellos Horizontes—a name replete with ironic optimism—a hamlet where the country’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens live in ramshackle shanties. Perhaps named for the lush bucolic valley in which it’s situated, or, more likely, as a vision not of its current state, but of its residents’ hopes and aspirations. 

While there are similar shantytowns all over the country, as well as throughout Central America, Bellos Horizontes embodies the essence of such communities: whether a “bordo” on a river’s edge, a barrio in the inner city, or a dilapidated village on sparsely populated coast. For residents of these places, the struggle is a constant: they wage the monotonous battle to attain basic amenities like potable water, electricity, or even just a roof over their heads. Before, during, and presumably after the pandemic, these people receive little-to-no assistance from their government.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, 50 percent of Hondurans were living in poverty—20 percent in extreme poverty, earning less than two dollars a day. Because of the global economic standstill, the World Bank predicts that poverty levels will rise for the first time since 1998. In the face of this crisis, the misfortune that existed in the poorest communities never left, and seemingly never will.

In Honduras, where corruption is rampant—most recently millions of dollars in aid money meant to build hospitals was embezzled, the price of protective masks was exaggerated to gain profit, and a new penal code threatens to criminalize protestors while extending impunity for government-linked drug traffickers—it’s unlikely the most impoverished citizens will ever receive the assistance they need. In Bellos Horizontes, people are left to fend for themselves, navigating the outskirts of a system that ignores them. Despite the destitution, these communities show empathy for each other and unwavering resilience that deserves both respect and recognition.

 

 

Bellos Horizontes is a community where the country's poorest and most vulnerable live on municipally owned land on the outskirts of San Pedro Sula—seen in the distance, wedged against the valley’s ridge. If residents can prove permanent occupancy for a period of 10 years, the plot of land becomes theirs. This is usually ignored by local governments, especially if there is a private interest involved.
 
Bellos Horizontes is a community where the country's poorest and most vulnerable live on municipally owned land on the outskirts of San Pedro Sula—seen in the distance, wedged against the valley’s ridge. If residents can prove permanent occupancy for a period of 10 years, the plot of land becomes theirs. This is usually ignored by local governments, especially if there is a private interest involved.

 

Hector’s mud home, the only mud house in the community.
 
Hector’s mud home, the only mud house in the community. "It was cheaper to build my house with the soil from the ground," he said. A majority of homes are built with sheets of corrugated aluminum and tarpaulin, which is a fire hazard.

 

One of Hector's six children watching television inside the mud home. Hector is a single father, who works odd jobs in the community—gathering firewood, building homes, installing fences, etc.—to make money for his family.
 
One of Hector's six children watching television inside the mud home. Hector is a single father, who works odd jobs in the community—gathering firewood, building homes, installing fences, etc.—to make money for his family.

 

From the hill adjacent to Bellos Horizontes, Hector heads back down the steep trail after collecting firewood for cooking. He will either sell this wood or use it himself. The men who live in the community act as stewards of the surrounding forest, ensuring people only cut dead, dry trees while letting the younger saplings grow. They have also been responsible for putting out natural brush fires.
 
From the hill adjacent to Bellos Horizontes, Hector heads back down the steep trail after collecting firewood for cooking. He will either sell this wood or use it himself. The men who live in the community act as stewards of the surrounding forest, ensuring people only cut dead, dry trees while letting the younger saplings grow. They have also been responsible for putting out natural brush fires.

 

The Viera family inside their home. Oscar Viera collects and sells scrap metal to support his family. The Vieras also have a homemade mud stove outside their home which they allow neighbors to use.
 
The Viera family inside their home. Oscar Viera collects and sells scrap metal to support his family. The Vieras also have a homemade mud stove outside their home which they allow neighbors to use.

 

Jose Portillo builds the roof of his home. While constructing his house he had to sleep under sheets of aluminum in order to stay dry. It rained almost every night for a week before he finished his roof.
 
Jose Portillo builds the roof of his home. While constructing his house he had to sleep under sheets of aluminum in order to stay dry. It rained almost every night for a week before he finished his roof.

 

Clean water is not available in Bellos Horizontes. The water company recently cut the line which goes to the community, because it wasn't being paid. Rainwater is collected in used refrigerators or barrels. Every few weeks a fire truck arrives to deliver water to people in need. Lack of access to clean water causes serious sanitary issues—a nightmare during the Covid-19 crisis.
 
Clean water is not available in Bellos Horizontes. The water company recently cut the line which goes to the community, because it wasn't being paid. Rainwater is collected in used refrigerators or barrels. Every few weeks a fire truck arrives to deliver water to people in need. Lack of access to clean water causes serious sanitary issues—a nightmare during the Covid-19 crisis.

 

Children play on a tire swing tied to a ceiba tree overlooking the community.
 
Children play on a tire swing tied to a ceiba tree overlooking the community.

 

A gas stove is a luxury item in Bellos Horizontes. Most people prefer fire stoves because gas costs too much.
 
A gas stove is a luxury item in Bellos Horizontes. Most people prefer fire stoves because gas costs too much.

 

A rusty 55-gallon drum being used to catch rainwater from the gutter. Recently the water company shut off all water to the community, forcing them to hope for rain.
 
A rusty 55-gallon drum being used to catch rainwater from the gutter. Recently the water company shut off all water to the community, forcing them to hope for rain.

 

A young boy stands outside of a bodega with gambling machines inside.
 
A young boy stands outside of a bodega with gambling machines inside.

 

A man stands on his small plot of land after his wife hung the laundry.
 
A man stands on his small plot of land after his wife hung the laundry.

 

Seth Berry is an award-winning photographer focused on documenting threats to the human condition in Central America and beyond. You can follow his work here.