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Honduras History

Located in the center of Central America, linking the north to the south, Honduras has a more than interesting and diverse history.

Evidence of Mayan communities date back to 1,000 BC and are found throughout western Honduras. The most densely populated area was around the city of Copan, which was the most southern outpost of the Mayan world, and leader among all Maya cities in terms of quantity and quality of stone sculpture. But like other Mayan cities, Copan was abandoned mysteriously around 900 AD.

Evidence of other Pre-Columbian communities and societies have been found throughout Honduras. The most famous sites being Los Naranjos near Lake Yojoa, Talgua Caves in Olancho, and Walpa Ulban Sirpe and Walpa Ulban Tara petroglphs in the Rio Platano Biosphere.

Christopher Columbus set foot on the American mainland for the first time at Trujillo on the Honduras north coast in 1502. The Spanish settled Trujillo in 1525, but soon began exploring the cooler central highlands where Comayagua was established as the capital in 1537. It remained the political center until 1880 when Tegucigalpa became the capital.

Indian communities resisted Spanish colonialism, but with time the Spanish did gain control of most of the country. The Lencas of western Honduras lead by their leader, Chief Lempira, would not give in though and finally led 30,000 Indians against the Spanish. As legend goes, looking at a possible defeat, the Spanish lured Lempira to peace talks where he was treacherously murdered in 1538. Less than a year later the Lenca resistance was crushed.

Gold and silver was discovered near Tegucigalpa in 1570 which attracting British and Dutch pirates to the Caribbean Coast. During the 1600’s pirates lead many raids on various towns and ships throughout the Caribbean. Many famous pirates such as Morgan, Coxen, Morris, Sharp and Jackson spent time in Roatan, which was used as a raiding base.

While Spain continued to explore and settle the interior, the British became interested in the Caribbean coast due to the region’s mahogany timber. Slaves where brought from nearby English Caribbean Colonies to harvest the timber. Eventually a British protectorate was declared over the entire Caribbean coastal region from Honduras to Nicaragua, which lasted until 1859, when the British handed the area over to Honduras.

Honduran Independence from Spain was granted in 1821. Honduras briefly became part of Mexico before joining the Central American Federation. Political conflicts led to Honduras declaring independence as a nation in 1838. Since then, power has alternated between two political groups and military regimes.

The country has experienced numerous coups, rebellions and its fair share of political turmoil since independence. One of the most famous coups was lead by North American filibuster William Walker in 1860, who attempted to take over Central America for US interests. He was finally defeated and killed in Trujillo.

At the start of the 19th century, large areas of fertile land on the north coast were purchased by US companies in order to produce bananas for the US market. Three companies eventually owned over 70% of all Honduran banana plantations. In 1913 banana exports accounted for 60% of the countries total exports, hence the familiar term “Honduras the Banana Republic.” The banana industry and its influence, though smaller and less important these days, have shaped the country's politics for the greater part of the last 100 years.

In 1969, the brief war known as the Soccer War between Honduras and El Salvador began. The war took place during a World Cup qualifying soccer match between the two countries and was sparked by the alleged mistreatment of El Salvadoran immigrants in Honduras. Though the war lasted roughly 4 days the event has affected relations between the two countries ever since.

During the 1980s, Honduras was surrounded by turmoil. Civil wars and uprisings raged in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala. Due to this, Honduras became the focus of US policy and operations in the region. Through political influence, aid money and military assistance the US helped Honduras remain stable during this period. Money and US troops where sent into the country to assist in operations to destabilize the Sandanistas in Nicaragua through covert operations with the country's exiled National Guard (Contras). The US also trained Salvadoran military in Honduras to assist in combating the civil uprising in El Salvador.

Eventually political instability and the Iran-Contra scandal resulted in huge Anti-American protests in Tegucigalpa, which made the Honduran Government reassess their military agreements with the US. In 1990 Chamorro was elected president of Nicaragua, the Contra War ended and the Contras left.

In 1998, Hurricane Mitch struck Honduras. Three days of heavy rain followed the hurricane, which caused landslides and floods throughout the country that destroyed and swept away bridges, towns and a large percentage of the country infrastructure. International aid agencies rushed into the country to assist and by 2000 a lot of the Hurricanes damage had been repaired.

The recently elected President Maduro has vowed to fight poverty, education issues, corruption and crime. Though his task may be a difficult one positive change has begun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Honduras, Copan Ruinas