MAC: Mines and Communities

San Juancito: From Mining Emporium to Ghost Town

Published by MAC on 2006-02-26

San Juancito: From Mining Emporium to Ghost Town

byy Glenda Perdomo [], Honduras

26th February 2006

Tegucigalpa, Honduras. The noise of the trains and the constant come and go of foreigners appeared to indicate that progress and civilazation had arrived. The people of this poor village couldn't get over their shock the first time they touched the famous "green bills" which they were offered as pay for digging rocks. In less than a month, the life of San Juancito had changed radically: from a little lost village in the mountains of Honduras, it became a spot upon which the world was gazing, owing to its rich deposits of gold and silver.

It was in 1880 when permission for mining exploration was first awarded to the New York and Honduras Rosario Mining Company. The "age of gold" had arrived in the community and "silver fever" attracted hundreds of persons arriving in search of work that would permit them to rise above poverty. The "fever" also attracted business ventures from many parts of the world, and San Juan city was soon seat of operations of the first hydroelectric plant in Central America, as well as the first refreshments' bottling plant and the first embassy of the United States in Honduras.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Rosario already employed thousands of workers, had produced gold and silver valued at more than six million dollars and was already one of the ten top producing mines in the world.

However, behind the attraction of the gold and silver there was hidden a severe environmental destruction which had terrible repercussions to the natural environment: entire forests were being sacrificed to satisfy the enormous and growing need for fuel and supports for the underground structures.

A great part of what is now the La Tigra National Park was destroyed to construct houses and buildings, and roads for wagons and carts containing minerals were cut through the forests. Finally, seventy four years after their arrival, the mining company decided that the scant amount of mineral remaining in the mountain was no longer profitable, and abandoned the mountains of San Juancito.


With the departure of the Rosario Mining Company, the town also lost its attraction, employment and population shrank almost to almost nothing, and San Juancito turned into a ghost town. Legally protected since 1952, the zone began a long process of recuperation, and in 1980, became the first National Park in the history of the country.

Now, although San Juancito is a location often-visited by tourists, it has fallen apart, and much of its infrastructure was finished off by hurricane Mitch in 1998. The few residents have opted to dedicate themselves to agriculture and the only recreation is to go to the football field, or perhaps "shake their bones" when someone organizes a dance party. "We have been forgotten even by the government, I think that we don't even appear on the map any more," says sixty five year resident José Gustavo Zepeda, with a trace of bitterness.

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