Three versions explain the name of Honduras. According to the legend, when they arrived there, the discoverers, on the fourth voyage of Colombo, gave thanks to God for having freed them from the honduras (depths) they had been through. The second version concerns the depth of the coasts in this region and the consequent difficulty that the Spaniards encountered in anchoring their ships, in 1523. The last can relate to the depth of the valleys in the region.
Honduras is a country in Central America, located in the center of the isthmus that connects North America to South America. It occupies an area of 112.088 km2 and is limited to the north with the sea of the Antilles, to the south with El Salvador and the ocean Pacific, west with Guatemala and southwest with Nicaragua.
Geology and relief
According to themotorcyclers.com, Honduras can be divided into four geographic regions: (1) the eastern plains and eastern mountain slopes; (2) the north coast, alluvial plains and coastal mountains; (3) the highlands of the interior; (4) the Pacific plains and low mountain slopes. It is the most mountainous country in Central America, consisting of chains cut by a depression in the north-south direction. The eastern and western chains (mountains of Pija, Yoro and Paya), culminate at an altitude of 2,700m and extend to the south by volcanic massifs. In the mountains, the valleys and inland basins are between 600 and 1,500m high. The north coast, low and swampy, is partially drained. The Pacific coast and low slopes have fertile soils of alluvial origin and other soils derived from the decomposition of volcanic rocks.
On the coastal plains, the climate is generally hot and humid, but is lessened by the altitude. There are three climatic regions in the country: the Atlantic coast, which is hot, humid and unhealthy; that of the hills and inland valleys, with a temperate climate; and that of the plains and the Pacific slope, which is very hot and relatively dry. In the hottest parts the temperature fluctuates between 26 and 28o C, and drops to 10o C at great elevations.
The rivers of Honduras belong to the Atlantic and Pacific slopes. The main drainage network goes to the Antilles Sea. The Coco or Segovia River, on the border with Nicaragua, is the longest, with 275km. Also noteworthy are Patuca, Aguán, Ulúa and Sico. Among the rivers on the Pacific side, the most extensive is the Choluteca, with 241km, which flows into the bay of Fonseca. In addition to the coastal lagoons, such as the Caratasca lagoon, there are several lakes, the most important of which is Yojoa, near San Pedro Sula.
Flora and fauna
Tropical vegetation predominates in the country, on the plains and low slopes. In the valleys and basins between the mountains, pine and oak forests dominate. In small areas, such as east of Tegucigalpa, the savanna appears.
The fauna is rich in insects, birds and reptiles. There are numerous species of butterflies, beetles, ants, spiders and bees. Many species of water birds inhabit the coastal regions, while crocodiles, snakes, turtles and lizards (like the giant iguana) prefer the rainforest. In the mountains, bears, cougars and leopards can be found. In the lagoons and coastal waters, fish and molluscs abound.
Honduras is a country of mixed race of Spaniards and Indians. The majority of the indigenous population belongs to the mosquito, zambo, paias and jicaques tribes. The population is young – half are under 15 years old. Birth rates, infant mortality and population growth are high compared to those in other countries in Latin America.
Most of the population lives in small villages in the central region of the country. The most populated areas are the valleys and the Pacific coast, due to the cultivation of coffee and cereals and livestock, and in the interior plateau. In the central depression, crossed by the Ulúa and Choluteca rivers, are the country’s two main cities, Tegucigalpa, the capital, and San Pedro Sula. Other larger cities are La Ceiba, Choluteca, Puerto Cortés and Tela. Honduras lives in hundreds of thousands of workers from El Salvador, which has often caused friction between the two countries.
Agriculture, livestock and fishing
The Honduran economy depends heavily on the production and export of bananas, coffee, sugar and wood, especially mahogany and pine. Banana exports, the mainstay of the Honduran economy, are made by two American companies, United Fruit and Standard Fruit. Also important crops are maize, beans, rice and tobacco. Inland, livestock is extensive, with a predominance of cattle and pigs. The most relevant fishing activity is that of lobsters and shrimp.
Energy and mining
Electricity for industrial and domestic consumption is supplied mainly by hydroelectric plants. There is a large hydroelectric complex to the southeast of San Pedro Sula, in El Cajón. The country’s main mineral resources are zinc, lead, silver and gold, exploited mainly in the mines of El Mochito. Oil exploration is financed by the World Bank.
The main industry is sugar. The industrial park is made up of small industries, with medium-level technology. It is dedicated to the production of food, textiles, shoes, chemicals, cement, rubber and furniture.
Finance and trade
The country has a chronic deficit in its balance of payments, due to oil imports. Banana, coffee, wood and mineral products make up the bulk of Honduras’ export basket. Imports are mainly of fuels, lubricants, chemicals, machinery and transportation equipment. The main trading partners are the United States, Japan and Germany. Honduras is part of the Central American Common Market, created in 1961, along with El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.
Transport and communications
Honduras’ rail network serves mainly agricultural regions and the road system is very poor. The Pan-American highway crosses the south of the country, close to Fonseca Bay. The busiest port is Puerto Cortés, followed by La Ceiba, Tela and San Lorenzo. There are two airports in the country, in Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula. History
Prehistory and discovery
The territory of Honduras was inhabited by the Maya, long before the discovery of the New World. When Columbus, on his fourth voyage, landed on the Honduran coast, the remnants of the once glorious Mayan civilization inhabited Copán, Quiriguá and other places. Faced with the brutality of the invaders, they fled to the Yucatán peninsula. Hernán Cortés, the conqueror of Mexico, colonized the region aided by his representatives Cristóbal de Olid, Francisco de Las Casas and Pedro de Alvarado, who founded the city of San Pedro Sula. The first capital of Honduras, Comayagua, was founded by Alonso de Cáceres. This period of conquest was marked by a violent repression against the indigenous people, who, under the command of Chief Lempira, bravely resisted the advance of the Spanish towards the interior, until they were mercilessly massacred.