With a bustling tourist economy, Honduras is a small beautiful country located in Central America. The country is bordered by Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Honduras, and the Gulf of Fonseca. Spanning over 43,433 square miles, Honduras is home to more than 8 million inhabitants. The country is rich in natural resources such as sugar cane, coffee, minerals, and tropical fruits. Honduras also serves as the international market for its growing textile industry.
Discovery and Etymology
Honduras was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1502 during his last voyage to the New World. Therefore, the term Honduras is derived from the Spanish language meaning "depths". The name could either be due to an alleged quote by Columbus "Thank God we have departed from those depths," or a reference to the bay of Trujillo as an anchorage, which is known as a fondura in Spanish's Leonese dialect.
Language and Religion
Spanish is the official language used in Honduras and Roman Catholicism is considered the main religion, with about 51.4% of the population identifying themselves as Catholic. Before the Spanish invasion of Honduras in the 16th century, the country was home to many Mesoamerican cultures, including the Mayas. The Spanish introduced both the Spanish language and Roman Catholicism, together with a plethora of traditions that were integrated with the indigenous cultures.
Poverty and Murder Rates Have Been High Since Independence
Honduras has been a republic since 1821 when the country gained its independence. However, due to its political instability and social conflicts, it is among the poorest nations of the Western Hemisphere. It is believed that more than 50% of the country's population lives below the poverty level. The country also records the highest murder rate in the world. Following Haiti, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Guatemala, and Guyana, Honduras is the 6th least developed Latin American country according to the Human Development Index.
Honduras Was the Original Banana Republic
The term ‘Banana Republic’ was first applied to the country by American writer O. Henry in 1904, due to the influence that the US banana companies had in the region. During the late 19th century, infrastructure and fruit companies based in the US were given substantial land concessions by Honduras. In return, these companies were to develop the northern regions of the country. As a result, thousands of workers flooded the north coast in search of work in banana plantations. Banana exporting companies dominated the region until 1930.
On September 18th and 19th 1974, Hurricane Fifi swept the northern coast of Honduras, causing significant damage and destroying infrastructure. In 1998, the country was devastated by Hurricane Mitch, leading to massive destruction with losses estimated at $3 million. About 5,000 people were killed and the number of injuries reached 12,000. An estimated 70% to 80% of the country's transportation infrastructure, together with 70% of crops, were destroyed. About 33,000 homes were destroyed in the hurricane, and another 50,000 were damaged. Hurricane Mitch set the country back 50 years in terms of development and progress.
The lempira, which is the official Honduran currency, is named after an Indian chief who died trying to protect his property from Spanish invaders. Even though the picture on the actual bill looks like an indigenous man, it is a Native American Indian from North America. The Honduran flag features five stars, each representing the five countries of Central America. The star in the middle represents Honduras.