Street Children/Resistol Abuse. San Pedro Sula, Honduras 1991

I visited San Pedro Sula for the first time in Jan/Feb 1991. The purpose was to broaden my portfolio of social documentary photography abroad and visit my sister who was working as a doctor at the San José Hospice, funded by Jospice, a Liverpool, UK based Catholic charity on the outskirts of San Pedro Sula.

On arrival in San Pedro Sula I was immediately struck by the large numbers of boys and young men sleeping rough in the ‘Parque Central’ (central park) and areas surrounding St Peter The Apostle, Cathedral. These children clearly spend all their time living on the streets, having no home, education or parental contact. They live by scavenging for food at the daily market or begging at the cathedral entrance. Some work at the markets assisting stall holders and shoe shining, others live by stealing, selling stolen goods and small scale drug dealing.

After talking to these children, most had migrated from rural areas to the city to escape desperate situations at home such as physical abuse, death of a parent and poverty. Some had the idea that they would eventually migrate to America and would be able to support their families they had left in Honduras.

The children form groups which help give them a sense of identity, stability, friendship and the protection a group provides. The greatest threats to these children are from other gangs who will attack and rob them. The police ignore their plight, regarding them as criminals, they frequently harass them encouraging them to move to other cities.

The prevalent drug used by street children in San Pedro Sula in 1991 was Resistol, a toluene based sweet smelling adhesive used in the manufacture and repair of shoes and leather goods, manufactured by H. B. Fuller in the USA. The ‘high’ induced by inhaling or sniffing the toluene vapour from the glue gives a short term fix, helping them cope with hunger, loneliness, fear and despair from living on the streets. However, toluene is a neurotoxin which leads to irreversible nerve damage, loss of brain function, dysfunctional kidneys and liver and the ability to see and hear.

In 1995 under pressure from activists and the threat of lawsuits, H. B. Fuller discontinued selling Resistol in over the counter in small jars and partly changed the formula introducing mustard oil to make the glue less palatable to children inhaling it, however it still produces a ‘high’ and is widely available throughout Central America.

It would seem that corporate responsibility for the devastating effects US multinational companies such as H. B. Fuller knowingly inflict on the children of developing countries, putting profits before social responsibility still has a long way to go.

This work was supported by Panos Pictures and The World Heath Organisation.

All images are Strictly Copyright © Bill Stephenson All Rights Reserved

Street Children Honduras 1992

[SC 01] Boy gets ‘high’ inhaling Resistol, a toluene based shoe adhesive from a plastic bag. Children addicted to Resistol are known as ‘Resistoleros’.

Street Children Honduras 1992

[SC 02] Boys inhale Resistol from a plastic bag and juice carton. One of the boys has had his clothes ripped fighting with other boys who attempted to steal from him. #1

Street Children Honduras 1992

[SC 03] #2

Street Children Honduras 1992

[SC 04] #4

Street Children Honduras 1992

[SC 05] Young men in a euphoric state from inhaling Resistol.

Street Children Honduras 1992

[SC 06] Young man collapses and passes out after inhaling Resistol.

Street Children Honduras 1992

[SC 07] Street boys gather in the central park after dark.

Street Children Honduras 1992

[SC 08] Boy smokes and keeps watch while his friends sleep off the effects of Resistol.

Street Children Honduras 1992

[SC 09] Happy boy under a tree in the central park with a kitten he looks after.

Street Children Honduras 1992

[SC 10] Hungry boy on his way to the food market to look for work, beg or scavenge for food.

Street Children Honduras 1992

[SC 11] Boy peels and slices green plantains, he will then fry them in hot oil on an open fire. Plantain is the staple, most affordable food for street children, they are similar to bananas but are less sweet. They are called ‘tajada’ in Honduras, the boys eat them with cheese or chilli sauce.

Street Children Honduras 1992

[SC 12] Young man scavenges the back streets looking for anything of value.

Street Children Honduras 1992

[SC 13] Boys beneath an advertising hoarding outside St Peter The Apostle Cathedral. ‘VENGAN A MI’ means ‘Come To Me’.

Street Children Honduras 1992

[SC 14] Boy outside the main entrance to St Peter The Apostle Cathedral.

All images are Strictly Copyright © Bill Stephenson. All Rights Reserved.

Street Children Honduras 1992

[SC 01] Boy gets ‘high’ inhaling Resistol, a toluene based shoe adhesive from a plastic bag. Children addicted to Resistol are known as ‘Resistoleros’.

Street Children Honduras 1992

[SC 02] Boys inhale Resistol from a plastic bag and juice carton. One of the boys has had his clothes ripped fighting with other boys who attempted to steal from him. #1

Street Children Honduras 1992

[SC 03] #2

Street Children Honduras 1992

[SC 04] #4

Street Children Honduras 1992

[SC 05] Young men in a euphoric state from inhaling Resistol.

Street Children Honduras 1992

[SC 06] Young man collapses and passes out after inhaling Resistol.

Street Children Honduras 1992

[SC 07] Street boys gather in the central park after dark.

Street Children Honduras 1992

[SC 08] Boy smokes and keeps watch while his friends sleep off the effects of Resistol.

Street Children Honduras 1992

[SC 09] Happy boy under a tree in the central park with a kitten he looks after.

Street Children Honduras 1992

[SC 10] Hungry boy on his way to the food market to look for work, beg or scavenge for food.

Street Children Honduras 1992

[SC 11 Boy] peels and slices green plantains, he will then fry them in hot oil on an open fire. Plantain is the staple, most affordable food for street children, they are similar to bananas but are less sweet. They are called ‘tajada’ in Honduras, the boys eat them with cheese or chilli sauce.

Street Children Honduras 1992

[SC 12] Young man scavenges the back streets looking for anything of value.

Street Children Honduras 1992

[SC 13] Boys beneath an advertising hoarding outside St Peter The Apostle Cathedral. ‘VENGAN A MI’ means ‘Come To Me’.

Street Children Honduras 1992

[SC 14] Boy outside the main entrance to St Peter The Apostle Cathedral.

All images are Strictly Copyright © Bill Stephenson. All Rights Reserved.