From the days of the Maya to modern times, Honduras has always adapted and dealt with adversity. Join us as we discover its sometimes-contentious history and vibrant culture.
Want to learn more about Honduras?
- Capital (and Largest City: Tegucigalpa
- Population (2017): 8,866,351 (95th)
- Total Area: 112,492 km² (102nd)
- Official Language: Spanish
- Currency: Honduran lempira (HNL)
History of Honduras
Before the arrival of Europeans, Honduras was one of the cornerstones of Mesoamerican culture – especially when it came to the Maya. While other groups also lived within the country’s borders, it is the Maya who are largely remembered through histories and archaeological remnants.
In 1502, Christopher Columbus arrived on the shores of Honduras. While European explorers had further run-ins with the Maya, it wasn’t until about two decades later that the conquistadors (including the famous Hernán Cortés) began the conquest of the land. The chieftain Lempira fought bravely against the Spaniards, however eventually the majority of the region fell under the umbrella of New Spain (though some areas in the north resisted for a time).
As a part of the Kingdom of Guatemala, Honduras was important to the Spanish in part due to the proliferation of silver mining. Furthermore, the industry became reliant on slaves throughout the 17th century. During the colonial era, the Miskito Kingdom in the northeast remained largely independent in part thanks to European privateers who were eager to work against the Spanish.
In 1821, Honduras achieved independence from Spain but just two years later it became a part of the Mexican Empire. Another decade and a half later, the country was a newly independent republic with regular elections.
There were efforts throughout the 19th century to unify Central American countries into a union, however they were largely unsuccessful. During this time a new railroad helped Honduras’ industry flourish (despite it not reaching its intended destination). Despite this, regime changes, rebellions, and small-scale revolts began to occur with alarming regularity beginning in 1821.
The 20th Century
Large periods of the 20th century were characterized by American government and corporate involvement in Honduras (particularly when it came to fruit companies). Making matters worse, the country was destabilized by both internal strife, coups, and regional conflicts. The 1969 ‘Football War’ with El Salvador was an especially damaging one – despite only lasting a week.
While military rule would take the reigns at times, Honduras always returned back to civilian government. Moving forward to the 1980’s, the US began upping their military presence in the country (in part due to its support of El Salvador and the Contras in Nicaragua). Honduras was able to avoid some of the major civil conflicts its neighbours suffered through, however some military campaigns against leftist groups did take place. The country has also had to contend with multiple hurricanes which have devastated areas of the country throughout the years.
International observers fiercely condemned a 2009 coup, though some in the US declared it legal. With continued uncertainty in government, and a very high crime rate, there are major issues facing Honduras as it looks to the future. Despite this, efforts have been taken to combat these problems – it just remains to be seen how much of an effect they will have.
The majority of the Honduran population are mestizo – meaning they are mixed European and indigenous. This shared heritage is displayed in public events, festivals, dress, art, and faith. The Christian faith is the dominant form of religion in the country – with multiple denominations enjoying large groups of worshippers.
The flag of Honduras was adopted in 1866. It consists of a white horizontal stripe between two blue stripes. In the centre are five blue stars that represent the five Central American countries (with Honduras in the middle). The blue stripes denote the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean, while the white represents the land between them (other meanings such as peace, prosperity, and purity, as well as sky and brotherhood for blue exist too).
Food in Honduras mixes indigenous traditions with Spanish, African, and Caribbean flavours. Coconut, fish, meats, corn, tamales, and beans are all staples of the Honduran diet. Baleada is one of the most popular local dishes – consisting of a tortilla with beans, cheese, sour cream, and sometimes meat or eggs.
Soccer is the most popular sport in Honduras. The national team has competed in three World Cups and is generally considered a contender in the North American federation. While not making it out of the group stage as of yet, they did qualify for both 2010 and 2014.
Geography of Honduras
The landscape of Honduras is dominated mostly by mountains, though the coastal regions feature large plains. There is a lowland jungle region (known as La Mosquitia) in the northeast of the country. The temperature is largely tropical or temperate depending on your elevation. Honduras is notable for its biodiversity.
Cities and Towns
The capital and largest city in Honduras is Tegucigalpa, home to over 1.1 million people. San Pedro Sula is the second largest city in the country. It grew in the 19th century largely thanks to a railroad connection to the Caribbean coast.
Did you know?
- You can see intact Maya hieroglyphics at Copan
- Descendants of British pirates still live in the country
- Honduras was the original Banana Republic
- It occasionally rains fish in Yoro
- Turning 15 is a major milestone
- The offshore coral reef is the world’s second largest
While economic and other issues still hamper Honduras’ growth, the country looks to move forward into the next era.
Continental’s Countries is your global ticket! If you want to stay put, check out our Honduras Travel Guide and Currency Spotlight.
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