Anthoni Lopez was born in Choluteca, Honduras, in August 2007. He lived with his mother, father, one brother, and two sisters until he was seven years old when his parents divorced. Anthoni’s father kept his brother and one of his sisters, but his mother took him and his sister, Paola, to faraway Choloma, the industrial hub of Honduras, where she got a job in a textile factory. They lived in the dangerous neighborhood of San Miguel, and 14-year-old Paola cared for him while their mother worked.
One day, Paola had to call the police, but they didn’t come because they considered it too dangerous. A gang member heard Paola make the call and told the family they had 24 hours to leave their home or be killed.
Anthoni’s mother found an apartment in downtown Choloma, but the family had to move to a cheaper apartment in less than a year. Near the end of 2016, Paola got pregnant and wanted to abort the baby. Her mother was furious and insisted they had to raise the child.
Anthoni’s niece, Britani, was born on June 21, 2017, when Anthoni was still nine years old. The baby’s father had abandoned Paola, and she and her mother cared for the baby. Anthoni felt ignored because they didn’t have time for him anymore.
Anthoni’s mother started a relationship with an evil man who lived with them for about two months. When he beat Anthoni, his mom tried to protect her little boy, but the violent man beat her. She called the police, who arrested and held him for 24 hours. When the man was released, he returned, and they had to call the police again. He left before the police arrived, and she got a restraining order that stopped him from returning.
Paola met a new man and left with the baby, leaving Anthoni alone while his mom worked. His mother’s attitude changed, and she started treating Anthoni poorly, perhaps because she had also met a new man. She started sleeping away from home, only coming home to change clothes.
One day, Anthoni discovered that she had taken most of her clothes away. She didn’t come home, and he was left hungry with nobody to cook for him. He had to ask a neighbor for help. Soon after, Anthoni’s mother stopped buying food and paying rent. At age 10, he had to look for work to support himself.
Little Anthoni found work selling coconut water in the crowded old buses that whizzed around Choloma. The work was hazardous because he had to jump on and off the moving buses, but fortunately, he never fell.
He turned 11 years old in August 2018. In December, after working for six months on the buses, Anthoni met Frander Mayes, who had opened a restaurant near his apartment. When Anthoni asked for a job, Frander took pity and gave him work peeling green bananas.
Paola returned to the apartment with Britani. When Anthoni’s mother came to the apartment one day and saw Paola, they argued, and both ended up leaving. At 11 years old, Anthoni not only had to pay the bills, but he had to take care of the baby by himself.
When Anthoni ran out of money and couldn’t buy milk, Frander’s wife Iris, who happened to be nursing her third child, gave him some of her milk for the baby. It was a month and a half before Paola took Britani and returned to her boyfriend.
Frander adopted a 13-year-old boy off the street, but the boy decided to leave and tried to take Frander’s young son Anderson with him. Anthoni saved Anderson by convincing him to stay. Frander was so happy that he adopted Anthoni.
Anthoni lived with Frander, Iris, and their three children until June 2022, when the couple separated. Frander took Anthoni to live in Ciudad Morazán and operate the pulperia he opened there.
Unfortunately, Frander soon lost interest in the minimarket and stopped reinvesting the revenues in inventory. Anthoni lost both his job and his place to live.
However, Ciudad Morazán came to the rescue. He had become such a valued community member that neighbors took him in as he found ways to help. For example, a pregnant woman needed help during the final weeks of her pregnancy. He stayed with her and helped her with housework before the baby’s birth. After the birth, he helped take care of the baby.
When she had recovered enough that she didn’t need his help, Anthoni needed another place to live. Carlos Fortin, the Technical Secretary of the ZEDE, helped track down his mother and got her permission for Anthoni to live in Ciudad Morazán since he was too young to sign a contract himself. Since June 2023, Anthoni has been working in a Choloma minimart and going to school.
An American entrepreneur who lives in Ciudad Morazán had rented an extra house in a good location to use as a gym and community center but hadn’t started the business yet. He sub-rented the $120 per month house to Anthoni for less than $50 a month to care for it and help run the gym in the future.
In the meantime, the young man has been finding many small ways to be of value to the community. At a recent event hosted by the proprietor of the new minimarket, he helped bring people together and handed out prizes to lucky attendees.
Anthoni giving a prize to Angel
He even helps onboard new residents to the crypto ecosystem by teaching them how to use the stablecoin eLPS, based on the Honduran lempira, to shop at the local businesses. This indirectly helps his entrepreneur benefactor, who designed the stablecoin to solve the banking problem of the Honduran residents and businesses.
As unfortunate as Anthoni’s life had been, he has now found a community where he can have a good life. For the first time, he doesn’t have to worry about criminals being allowed in his neighborhood. The safety and security of Ciudad Morazán are especially welcome to youth like him.
Anthoni has a place among people who share his desire for peace and fun. As the houses fill up with families, he has more children and young people to enjoy. The residents of Ciudad Morazán appreciate the uniqueness of their environment. Perhaps the unfair political opposition to the ZEDEs makes them more friendly and cooperative with their neighbors, or maybe it is just the freedom to live their lives without fear.
When we at the Foundation talk about how Free Cities can offer new ways to help the most unfortunate, it is stories like Anthoni’s we have in mind. May many more Free Cities help many more Anthonis in the future!