Honduras was home to several important indigenous cultures, most notably the Maya. Much of the country was conquered by Spain who introduced its predominant language and many of its customs in the sixteenth century. It became independent in 1821 and has been a republic since the end of Spanish rule.
Its size is just over 112,492 km² with an estimated population of almost eight million. Its capital is Tegucigalpa. It is notable for its production of minerals, tropical fruit, and recently for exportation of clothing for the international market.
The climate varies from tropical in the lowlands to temperate in the mountains. The central and southern regions are relatively hotter and less humid than the northern coast.
The Honduran territory consists mainly of mountains, but there are narrow plains along the coasts, a large undeveloped lowland jungle La Mosquitia region in the northeast, and the heavily populated lowland Sula valley in the northwest. In La Mosquitia, lies the UNESCO world-heritage site Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve, with the Coco River which divides the country from Nicaragua. The Islas de la Bahia (Bay Islands) and the Swan Islands (all off the north coast) are part of Honduras.
Natural resources include timber, gold, silver, copper, lead, zinc, iron ore, antimony, coal, fish, shrimp, and hydropower.
The currency in Honduras is Lempiras. The name Lempiras belongs to a national hero who died during the Spanish garrison in the hands of its enemies. Lempira was a domestic army leader, who fought until the last moment of its life, in order to protect the freedom of its people.
Honduras is divided into 18 departments. The capital city Tegucigalpa is in the Central District of the department of Francisco Morazan. Other departments are : Islas de la Bahía; Colón; Atlántida; Gracias a Dios; Olancho; Francisco Morazán; Choluteca; Valle; Comayagua; La Paz; La Esperanza; Cortes, Yoro; Santa Bárbara; Cópan; Ocotepeque; Intibuca; Lempira.
The flag of Honduras is composed of 3 equal horizontal stripes, with the upper and lower ones being blue and representing the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea. The central stripe is white. It contains five blue stars representing the five states of the Central American Union. The middle star represents Honduras, located in the center of the Central American Union.
The Coat of Arms was established in 1945. It is an equilateral triangle, at the base is a volcano between three castles, over which is a rainbow and the sun shining. The triangle is placed on an area that symbolizes being bathed by both seas. Around all of this an oval containing in golden lettering: "Republic of Honduras, Free, Sovereign and Independent".
The National Tree of Honduras is the Honduras Pine. Also the use of the tree was regulated, "to avoid the unnecessary destructions caused by choppings or fires of forest."
The National Mammal is the White-tailed Deer, which was adopted as a measure to avoid excessive depredation. It is one of two species of deer that live in Honduras.
The National Bird of Honduras is the Scarlet Macaw. This bird was much valued by the pre-Columbian civilizations of Honduras.
The region is considered a biodiversity hotspot because of the numerous plant and animal species that can be found there. Like other countries in the region, Honduras contains vast biological resources. The country hosts more than 6,000 species of vascular plants, of which 630 are orchids; around 250 reptiles and amphibians, more than 700 bird species, and 110 mammal species, half of them being bats.Honduras has rain forests, cloud forests (which can rise up to nearly three thousand meters above sea level), mangroves, savannas and mountain ranges with pine and oak trees, and the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. In the Bay Islands there are bottlenose dolphins, manta rays, parrot fish, schools of blue tang and while shark.
History of Honduras
In pre-Columbian times, modern Honduras was part of the Mesoamerican cultural area. In the west, the Maya civilization flourished for hundreds of years. The dominant state within Honduras's borders was based in Copan. Copán fell with the other Lowland centers during the conflagrations of the Terminal Classic, the early 9th century. The Maya of this civilization survive in western Honduras as the Ch'orti', isolated from their Choltian linguistic peers to the west.
On his fourth and the final voyage to the New World in 1502, Christopher Columbus became the first European to visit the Bay Islands on the coast of Honduras. Columbus landed near the modern town of Trujillo, in the vicinity of the Guaimoreto Lagoon.
In 1524 the Spanish arrived on Honduras led by Hernan Cortes, bringing forces down from Mexico. Much of the conquest was done in the following two decades, first by groups loyal to Cristobal de Olid, and then by those loyal of Francisco Montejo but most particularly by those following Alvarado. In addition to Spanish resources, the conquerors relied heavily armed forces from Mexico. Resistance to conquest was led in particularly by Lempira,and many regions in the north never fell to the Spanish, notably the Miskito Kingdom. After the Spanish conquest, Honduras became part of Spain's vast empire in the New World within the Kingdom of Guatemala. Trujillo and Gracias were the first city-capitals. The Spanish ruled the region for approximately three centuries.
Honduras was organized as a province of the "Kingdom of Guatemala" and the capital was fixed, first at Trujillo on the Atlantic coast, and later at Comayagua (until 1880), and finally at Tegucigalpa in the central part of the country.
Silver mining was a key factor in the Spanish conquest and settlement of Honduras. Initially the mines were worked by local people through the encomienda system, but as disease and resistance made this less available, slaves from other parts of Central America were brought in, and following the end of the local slave trading period at the end of the sixteenth century, African slaves, mostly from Angola were obtained. After about 1650, very few slaves or other outside workers arrived in Honduras.
Honduras became independent from Spain in 1821 and was for a time under the Mexican Empire. After 1838 it was an independent republic and held regular elections.Liberal policies favoring international trade and investment began in the 1870s, and soon foreign interests became involved first in shipping, especially tropical fruit (most notably bananas) from the north coast, and then in railway building. In 1888, a projected railroad line from the Caribbean coast to the capital, Tegucigalpa, ran out of money when it reached San Pedro Sula, resulting in its growth into the nation's main industrial center and second largest city.