Lauren's Reviews > A Lady's Ride Across Spanish Honduras

A Lady's Ride Across Spanish Honduras by Maria Soltera
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Jul 02, 12

bookshelves: latin-america-caribbean
Read from June 19 to 30, 2012

This book underscored just how technology has revolutionized communications. In the early 1880s a British woman, Maria Soltera, intrepid and courageous traveler fluent in Spanish, decides to travel to Central America after a single off-handed comment about a job opening in San Pedro Sula, Honduras as a school teacher. This book is her travel diary. The story begins when she is in San Francisco (having traveled already across the Atlantic and then across the US by train) as she prepares for a steamer trip to the Pacific port of Honduras at Amapala.

Soltera was brave. She was single woman traveling alone with modest funds and little idea of what to expect in this region. When she arrives in Honduras, she organizes her plans to travel across the country with two hired hands, one a native assistant/guide, and the other a "mule trainer".

Honduras in 1880s was akin to the Wild West (but a tropical environment) - most likely even less development and infrastructure. A traveler had to innately trust the people around them. You traveled until you saw a house, and then you stopped and it was expected that these strangers would provide food and boarding for you and your animals. This concept is pretty foreign to the modern mind.

I was hoping for more descriptions of the land and the people through her journal. While she provided some small details, she writes more of her conversations with people along the way. These offered some interesting topics of life in Honduras at that time - of particular note was the hope that the transnational railway (funded and promised by the British) would be completed. (And unfortunately, it never was - a great "fleecing" of the Honduran government by both Europe and America with promise after promise of funding development...)

In the end, when Soltera finally arrives in San Pedro Sula, she realizes that there is no school, therefore no need for a teacher... she has been the victim of a con - an especially drawn out long con that involved thousands of miles of travel. Which brings me back to my original point: while Soltera was brave, courageous and headstrong, she was also incredibly naive and gullible. She had no way of checking references and seeing if this man (who advertised the job) was even real - she just set out and made this huge journey. She was too trusting - unsavory con-men surely existed in the 19th century, and she fell for it.
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