What Is Honduras - Known For
Honduras, in the north-central part of Central America, is one of the poorest and least industrialized countries in the Western Hemisphere. With coastlines on both the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean, (lacking any large ports) and Honduras is also a scenic country. Although it has had a stormy political history and gave the phrase "banana republic" to the English language, the government has been fairly stable for a quarter-century. Its major exports are coffee, bananas and other agricultural products.
What Is Honduras - Vital Statistics
Population of about 6.7 million as of mid-2003 and growing at about 2.3 percent/yr. The median age is 18, and the life expectancy at birth is 65 years for boys, 68 years for girls. About 53% of the population is living in poverty; the per capital gross domestic product is $2,600. The top 10 percent of the population receives about 43 percent of the income. The literacy rate is 76 percent.
What Is Honduras - Linguistic Highlights
Spanish is the official language spoken throughout Honduras and taught in schools. About 100,000 people, mostly along the Caribbean coast, speak Garifuna, a creole that has elements of French, Spanish and English; English is understood along much of the coast. Only a few thousand people routinely speak indigenous languages, the most important of them being Mískito, which is spoken more commonly in Nicaragua.
What Is Honduras - History
Honduras, Central America was home to the Mayans until around the beginning of the 9th century, and several other pre-Columbian cultures were dominant in the parts of the region. Mayan archaeological ruins can still be found in Copan, near the border with Guatemala.
Honduras saw the arrival of Europeans to what is now Honduras in 1502, when Christopher Columbus landed at what is now Trujillo. Explorations during the next two decades had little impact, but by 1824 Spanish conquistadors were fighting indigenous people as well as each other for control. Within the next 10 years, much of the indigenous population died due to disease and exportation as slaves. It is for this reason that Honduras has much less visible indigenous influence today than does neighboring Guatemala.
Despite conquest, a diminished indigenous population and the development of mining in Honduras, native populations maintained their resistance. Today, the Honduran lempira, is named after one of the resistance leaders, Lempira. Spaniards assassinated Lempira in 1538, bringing an end to most of the active resistance. By 1541, there were only about 8,000 indigenous people remaining.
Honduras stayed under Spanish rule (administered out of Guatemala) for nearly three centuries. Honduras gained independence in 1821 and joined the United Provinces of Central America. That federation collapsed in 1839.
For more than a century, Honduras remained unstable. Military rulers, supported by the United States and American banana companies, brought some stability but also oppression. Worker resistance helped bring down military rule, and Hondurasalternated for a while between military and civilian leadership. Honduras has been under civilian rule since 1980. During part of the 1980s Honduras was a staging ground for U.S. covert operations in Nicaragua.