Honduras - Encyclopedia Information
Official name Republic of Honduras
Formation 1838 / 1838
Population 7.6 million / 176 people per sq mile (68 people per sq km)
Total area 43,278 sq. miles (112,090 sq. km)
Languages Spanish*, Garífuna (Carib), English Creole
Religions Roman Catholic 97%, Protestant 3%
Ethnic mix Mestizo 90%, Black African 5%, Amerindian 4%, White 1%
Government Presidential system
Currency Lempira = 100 centavos
Literacy rate 84%
Calorie consumption 2601 kilocalories
Present-day Honduras was once part of the Mesoamerican civilization. Western Honduras was part of the Mayan Empire that flourished from the fifth century to the early ninth century C.E., but earlier sites date back to at least the second century.
Copбn was the site of a major Mayan kingdom of the Classic Era named Xukpi (“Corner-Bundle”). The magnificent ruins of Copбn remain, and the last dated hieroglyph goes back to 800 C.E. Other pre-Columbian sites, at La Travecia and the Ulua Valley for example, have provided evidence of other pre-Columbian civilizations.
After the Maya other indigenous people arrived in Honduras— tribes related to the Toltec people of Mexico, and the Lencas, Chibcha, Sumu, and Jicaque from Colombia—and the descendants of these indigenous peoples remain. The most prominent groups claim Lencas and Garifuna ancestry, but the majority of the population is Mestizo, of mixed European- Amerindian ancestry.
Christopher Columbus (1451–1506) landed on mainland Honduras (near modern Trujillo) in 1502 and called it Honduras (which means “depths”) referring to the deep coastal waters. Spanish colonization of the highland areas of the country began in 1524. Some local tribes resisted the Spanish colonizers well into the late 1530s. One of the native leaders who stood proud and was successful in resisting the Spaniards was Lempira (? 1499–1537). He was a member of the Lenca nation and is still celebrated as a national hero.
Spanish settlements proliferated along the coast, and Honduras came under the control of the Captaincy General of Guatemala. Under Spanish rule Honduras was a major mining center for gold and silver. In the 16th century slaves were brought in. In the 17th century, because gold and silver deposits were dwindling, the Spanish largely abandoned Honduras.
In 1821 Honduras, along with other Central American territories, gained independence from Spain. After being briefly annexed by Mexico, it joined the newly formed United Provinces of Central America in 1823. Honduran-born General Francisco Morazбn (1792–1842) was the last president of the Central American federation and its most ardent defender. Despite his efforts to maintain Central American unity, however, Honduras broke away to declare itself a sovereign nation in 1838. Morazбn is considered a national hero in Honduras, and a day for honoring him is celebrated throughout the country.
Since then upheavals, foreign interventions, and short-lived governments have caused chronic instability.
There have been 300 internal rebellions, civil wars, and changes of government in Honduras, more than half of which occurred during the 20th century.
GEOGRAPHY AND CLIMATE
A Caribbean nation bordered by Guatemala, Nicaragua, and El Salvador, Honduras is a mountainous country with narrow coastal plains. The climate ranges from temperate in the mountains to subtropical in the lowlands. Honduras is home to the largest tropical rain forest in the Western Hemisphere, with three different zones: Rнo Plбtano Biosphere Reserve, Tawahka Anthropological Reserve, and Patuca National Park, the largest structurally intact forest in Mesoamerica.
From the late 19th until the mid-20th century, foreign capital, plantation life, and conservative politics dominated Honduras. The power of the banana plantation owners gave rise to the term “banana republic.” During the 1980s Honduras, surrounded by political turbulence in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala, depended on strong U.S. influence, aid, and military assistance to maintain stability relative to its neighbors.
Honduras has been designated one of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries eligible for debt relief by both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Honduras is one of the poorest countries in the Americas. Although the economy somewhat improved under President Ricardo Maduro (b. 1946), the distribution of wealth continues to be extremely polarized, and the average wages of the population are still very low. Many people live below the poverty line.
CULTURE AND LIFESTYLE
Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion of the country. The indigenous tribes practice their own religions, often combining Christian elements with African and Amerindian traditions. Catholic saints are important in the life of Hondurans, and Catholic homes always have pictures or statues of saints. Not only do individuals and families pray to saints for help with problems, but whole towns and villages celebrate the feast days of their patron saints.
The blend of traditional customs with Roman Catholicism is best exemplified by the Guancaco ceremony, a peace ceremony that includes folk dances and is celebrated between neighboring towns or villages on the days of the patron saints.
Latin Americans love soccer, and Hondurans are no exception. The Honduran soccer team is exceptional, and outstanding players are national heroes. However soccer remains a male-dominated sport in Honduras.
The conch is very much a part of life here: The conch shell has been a popular musical instrument since pre-Columbian days, and modern musicians often play the conch accompanied by a guitar or accordion.
Conchs figure prominently in the cooking of Honduras, and conch soup (made of the gastropod that lives in the shell) is a favorite dish. Other popular foods include fried plantains, tacos, tortillas, and tamales—all featured dishes throughout Central America. A typical Honduran meal consists of at least two of the above, served with rice and beans.
In small villages parents select a local girl for their son after he turns 20. Next they seek the blessing of a priest and ask for an auspicious day for the marriage ceremony. The groom’s family offers the bride’s parents gifts in order to secure their consent.
The marriage ceremony includes a gala feast. The new husband then moves to his father-in-law’s house to work for him for seven years, after which time the young couple is allowed to move to their own home.
Funerals are held 24 hours after someone dies. Relatives and friends of the deceased get together to offer condolences to the family. The traditional wake is usually held before the Catholic Mass and burial.
It is customary to have a large drum party a year and a day after the death of a family member. The family of the deceased saves money throughout the year for this party and may seek financial help from relatives living in other parts of the country and abroad. The house is cleaned and decorated, and vast quantities of food are prepared days in advance of the party. Drummers are hired, and family members arrive from far and wide. The drumming continues as long as the food, drink, and money last.