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37 2 HoNduRaN immigRatioN LegisLatioN aNd tHe Rise of aNti–West iNdiaN seNtimeNt f or much of the modern history of Honduras, the government viewed immigration as a means by which Honduras would obtain the human and economic capital essential for modern development and entrance into the world economy. Many Honduran intellectuals shared the racial determinism of the era—the belief that the historical realities of individuals, nations, and peoples were determined by their racial ancestry.1 Although U.S. corporations encouraged West Indian immigration to Honduras, Honduran liberals did not. At no particular point in the debate on immigration did intellectuals and politicians ever envision that the majority of immigrants to Honduras would come from non-European origins. The assumption was that, like its neighbors in North America and South America, Honduras would attract primarily European immigrants. However, such conjectures were not borne out by reality. This chapter assesses Honduran efforts to entice European immigration into the country and demonstrates how immigration policies were designed to exclude certain sectors of the world population, specifically West Indians of African descent. The analysis emphasizes the antiblack component of Honduran immigration policies in order to highlight how Hondurans were unprepared for and unwilling to accept the growing West Indian presence on the North Coast. For a brief period in the 1880s, white North Americans, as well as English , German, French, Italian, and Spanish immigrants, moved to Honduras . However, their numbers remained insignificant compared to other groups. According to Jorge Amaya, other Central Americans, primarily Guatemalans and Salvadorans, represented the largest percentage of im- 38 RACe, nAtIon, AnD West InDIAn IMMIGRAtIon to HonDURAs migrants to Honduras prior to 1910.2 For instance, in the year 1887 only 390 North American and European immigrants were registered as opposed to 4,060 Guatemalans and Salvadorans. The number of English immigrants was listed as 1,033; but it is impossible to determine the number of those from the British Isles within this group because this figure also included those persons with British passports from the British West Indies and other colonial possessions of the British within their massive global empire.3 In subsequent decades, Arabs, Palestinians, Chinese, and black West Indians contributed to the growing numbers of nonEuropean immigrants to Honduras. Their numbers increased to the level that, at varying times throughout Honduran history, laws were passed that excluded all of these groups from entering the country. The increased presence of these nonwhite populations was thought by many to be a threat to the racial composition and moral fabric of the nation. The oldest law of immigration in Honduras dates back to 1866 and was promulgated in the time of President José M. Medina.4 The consensus of scholars is that it did very little to promote immigration, and the government revamped it in later decades. The constitution of 1865 specified that foreigners were not obligated to accept Honduran citizenship. Also, there were no government mechanisms in place to support massive immigration .5 According to Marvin Barahona, in the years following passage of the immigration law of 1866, immigration sparked recurring legislative debates during four different periods: the liberal reform period of Marco Aurelio Soto and Ramón Rosa (1876–1883), the constitution of 1894, the legislative reforms of 1906, and the new immigration laws initiated from 1926 to 1934.6 The liberal reform period is the first in which the government systematically created an agenda to attract European immigrants. Leaders and intellectuals such as Ramón Rosa articulated the desire for European immigration by maintaining that Honduras needed large currents of immigration to bring the spirit of business and liberty like that sustained in the United States of America.7 In fact, the Honduran constitution of 1873 was one of the most liberal in terms of allowing immigrants to acquire Honduran citizenship. In order to be naturalized, immigrants needed only to do one of five things: Obtain from the legislative body of the country a letter of naturalization, acquire real estate in the country valued at 1,000 pesos and reside on it for one year, contract marriage with a Honduran or someone who had resided in the country for one year, open a com- HonDURAn IMMIGRAtIon leGIslAtIon 39 mercial establishment in the country and reside there for one year, or simply reside in the country for two years.8 With such an open naturalization policy, the government believed that white immigrants would be attracted to Honduras and enter the country at a rapid rate...


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MARC Record
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