As a young woman, Estella played guitar in her father’s Latin pop band. Now 83 and wearing her long, silver hair in a messy bun, she dances around her kitchen in Puerto Cortės, singing lyrics from back in those days. “I am happy again,” she says.
Estella has had many good times during her eight decades. She also has had her share of very difficult stretches. Most recently, she and her 23-year-old grandson, Manuel, had been living near the Caribbean coast, in a shack made of scrap materials. Their home had electricity but no bathroom.
During the heavy rains common to this area, Estella and Manuel hurried around as the structure flooded, hoisting food and beds on cinder blocks to keep them from getting soaked. Sometimes, the wind picked up and flipped the flimsy roof inside out, and everything got ruined.
Estella now welcomes the storms. She and her grandson live inland, in a new Habitat house. Although the time it took to build the two-bedroom house was relatively quick, the life-changing development represents years of advocacy efforts and collaboration between Habitat for Humanity Honduras, other community stakeholders and city officials.
Estella is now in a stable home, protected from the weather. She no longer has to worry whether or not her personal belongings will be destroyed the next time a storm comes.
Land in Honduras is very hard to come by, as many municipalities do not have land to give for new homes. Women are not considered beneficiaries of family-inherited land, so Estella would have no place to live. More than half of the country’s 298 municipalities have passed housing laws in the past decade, giving access to women and their families. With new laws, single mothers are given first priority for affordable housing.
Estella says, “I am so tranquil here.”
Puerto Cortés was founded in 1524, and has a current population of 126,000 with a population density of 830 people per square mile. Concerning land rights, women legally have equal right to land but only 24% of Honduran women are listed as landowners.