Honduras, officially the Republic of Honduras, is a sovereign state in Central America. Possessing a rich history dating back thousands of years, this exotic nation is home to an astounding number of bird species, exquisite Maya ruins, colonial villages, jungle-covered mountains, and idyllic Caribbean beaches. Here are some interesting facts about Honduras.
Facts about Honduras
1. Honduras is the second-largest country in Central America.
Honduras has a total area of 112,492 km²(43,433 sq mi) making it the second-largest nation in Central America behind Nicaragua. Comparatively, it is slightly smaller than the US state of Ohio.
2. Honduras shares a land border with three countries.
3. More than three-fourths of Honduras is mountainous.
Inland areas of Honduras are dominated by mountains, which comprise about three-fourths of the country’s terrain.
4. Honduras has a coastline on the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.
Honduras is bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the south and the Caribbean Sea, which is part of the Atlantic Ocean, to the north. Honduras’s coastline extends for 823 km (511 mi).
5. The highest point in Honduras is Cerro Las Minas.
Located in the rugged and relatively isolated part of western Honduras, Cerro Las Minas is the tallest mountain in the country. It rises to an elevation of 2,870 m (9,420 ft).
6. Honduras has two distinct seasons.
Located in the tropical region, Honduras has two distinct seasons: the dry season, from November to April, when light rains occur, and the wet season, from May to October, when the heavy rains take place.
7. Honduras is the second most populous nation in Central America.
With a population of a little over 10 million, Honduras is the second most populous country in Central America behind Guatemala.
8. Before the arrival of the first Europeans, Honduras was the land of several Mesoamerican groups, including the ancient Maya.
The first major Mesoamerican civilization to develop in present-day Honduras were the Olmecs, who moved into the region around 2000 BC. The Olmecs held power until roughly 400 BC when they were largely replaced by the Maya.
Honduras was inhabited by the Mayans for roughly 750 years from around 100-200 AD to 600-900 AD. The most famous Maya ruins in Honduras can be found at Copán which is noted for the friezes on some of its buildings and the portrait sculptures on its many elaborate stelae.
After the collapse of Maya culture, the Lenca became the dominant cultural group in Honduras. Several other tribes inhabited the country including the Tolupan, the Pipils, and the Chorotega.
9. Christopher Columbus was the first known European to arrive in Honduras.
During his fourth and final voyage in 1502 to the Americas, Italian navigator Christopher Columbus first landed in Honduras on the island of Guanaja, after which he landed on the Honduran mainland at the tip of the Bay Trujillo.
Although Columbus did encounter some natives, he didn’t continue his explorations in Honduras.
10. The name “Honduras” means “depths” in Spanish.
One of the interesting facts about Honduras is that the country’s name is Spanish for “great depths.” There are two popular theories about how Honduras got its name. The first is that the name refers to the deep anchorage in the northern Bay of Trujillo.
The second is that upon finding shelter from a storm in a pronounced cape area, Columbus exclaimed, “Gracias a Dios que hemos salido de esas Honduras!” or “Thank God we are out of those depths,” which resulted in the name of the country as Honduras.
11. Honduras was colonized by Spain.
Spanish conquistadores didn’t become interested in the colonization of Honduras until Cristobal de Olid established the first European colony near present-day Tela in 1524.
Indigenous people waged ultimately futile efforts to repel the invading conquistadors, although this was weakened by their vulnerability to European-introduced diseases. In 1539, Honduras was made part of the Captaincy General of Central America.
Some silver was produced in the mines of the interior, but by the 17th century, Honduras was a poor and neglected province of the Spanish Colonial empire. During the near three centuries of Spanish rule, Honduras was referred to as Spanish Honduras in order to distinguish it from British Honduras, which is now Belize.
12. Honduras gained independence from Spain in 1821.
By the early 19th century, inequality and discord between the elites and the commoners in Honduras had sowed the seeds for independence. In 1821, Honduras, along with four other Central American countries, declared its independence from Spain.
13. Honduras was part of the short-lived Federal Republic of Central America.
In 1823, Honduras, along with El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, formed the Federal Republic of Central America.
However, the federation was plagued by perpetual infighting between the liberals and conservatives. The conservatives favored a government based on the traditional Spanish structure of centralized government, while the liberals preferred the political and economic models of the United States and Western Europe.
The conservatives wished to maintain indigenous peoples in a subservient role, while the liberals wanted to incorporate them into the mainstream Hispanic culture. As a result, in the late 1830s, the federation descended into civil war and after a series of bloody conflicts, Honduras became a fully independent country in 1838.
14. In the late-19th century, Honduras was part of the ephemeral United States of Central America.
From 1896 to 1898, Honduras, along with El Salvador and Nicaragua, formed a political union in an attempt to revive the failed Federal Republic of Central America that existed earlier in the century.
15. The capital and largest city of Honduras is Tegucigalpa.
Founded in 1578 by the Spanish, Tegucigalpa is Honduras’s capital city that is sprawled in a highland valley, surrounded by mountains at 990 m (3,250 ft). It is an eclectic mix of Colonial heritage, modern amenities, and shantytowns.
Tegus, as the city is called by the natives, is a bustling metropolis of over one million people and serves the nation’s political and administrative center.
16. Honduras was involved in the infamous “Football War” with El Salvador.
From 14 July to 18 July 1969, Honduras was engaged in a short five-day war with El Salvador, which is often referred to as the “Football War” or the “Hundred Hours’ War.” Although the name “Football War” implies that the conflict was due to a football match, the root causes of the war involved land, finances, and immigration.
Honduras is more than five times the size of El Salvador. From the early 20th century landless Salvadorans had begun migrating to Honduras for economic reasons.
In 1969, more than 300,000 undocumented El Salvadorans were believed to be living in Honduras (about 15% of Honduras’s population at the time). Beset by economic woes, the Honduran government and private groups increasingly sought to make the Salvadorans scapegoats for their problems.
During a World Cup qualifier in Tegucigalpa, a disturbance broke out between fans on both sides. This followed by even greater violence during the next game in San Salvador after Salvadorans defiled the Honduran flag and mocked the national anthem.
In retaliation, El Salvadorans living in Honduras began to be harassed and even killed, leading to a mass exodus from the country. On 27 June 1969, Honduras broke off diplomatic relations with El Salvador, and on 14 July, the El Salvadoran air force attacked targets inside Honduras.
Though the war lasted only five days and ended in a stalemate of sorts, between 60,000 and 130,000 El Salvadorans were expelled or fled from Honduras. More than 3,000 people, mostly Hondurans, were killed.
17. The currency of Honduras is the Lempira (HNL).
The Honduran currency is named after Lempira, a young 16th-century cacique (chief), of the indigenous Lenca people. Lempira is renowned in Honduran folklore for leading the local native resistance against the Spanish Conquistador forces.
18. The business and industrial capital of Honduras is San Pedro Sula.
Unlike the other Central American nations, the main economic center in Honduras isn’t the capital city Tegucigalpa, but San Pedro Sula, the country’s second-largest city, located in the northwest.
The commercial and industrial capital of Honduras, San Pedro Sula generates almost two-thirds of the country’s GDP, with thousands employed in the city’s clothes-weaving factories.
19. The first country to be described as a “banana republic” was Honduras.
One of the fascinating facts about Honduras is that it was the first nation to be coined a “banana republic.” A banana republic is a politically unstable country whose economy is reliant on a single export or limited resource, such as bananas or minerals.
Banana republic is generally considered a derogatory term used to describe a venal, unstable, and self-serving dictatorship that solicits and takes bribes from foreign corporations for the right to exploit large-scale agricultural operations—like banana plantations.
In 1904, American writer O. Henry wrote “The Admiral,” a short story published in his book “Cabbages and Kings.” It’s set in Anchuria, a fictional maritime “banana republic,” that was clearly based on Honduras. At the time Honduras’s economy, people, and government were being exploited by the American-owned United Fruit Company (now Chiquita Brands International).
Around the end of the 19th century, big American companies – including the United Fruit Company and the Cuyamel Fruit Company – bought up huge chunks of land in Honduras to grow bananas. After the American companies moved in, bananas soon provided up to two-thirds of Honduran exports in the early-20th century.
The triumph of the industry made the banana companies extremely powerful within Honduras. These foreign corporations soon became the de-facto rulers of the country, with policy and politicians controlled by their interests.
20. Tegucigalpa’s Toncontín International Airport is one of the world’s most dangerous airports.
Toncontín International Airport, located in Tegucigalpa — the capital of Honduras — has gained notoriety as one of the most treacherous airports in the world due to a difficult approach and a tragic history of deadly plane crashes.
Surrounded by mountains and residential neighborhoods, Toncontín International Airport’s approach is considered one the toughest because of its winding approach pattern and short runway. To land, pilots must execute a dramatic 45 degree turn and lose altitude quickly to safely touch down.
The deadliest accident at the airport occurred in 1989, when a Boeing commercial plane crashed into a mountainside on approach, killing 127 of 146 people aboard. This was also the deadliest accident in Central American history.
21. Honduras has had 12 different constitutions since its independence in 1838.
Having long suffered from political instability, Honduras’s constitution has been changed a remarkable 12 times, with the current one being adopted in 1982.
22. The biggest ethnic group in Honduras is the mestizos.
Mestizos (people of mixed indigenous and European descent) constitute the single largest ethnic group in Honduras, with around 90% of Hondurans identifying as Mestizos.
About 7% of the population is purely Amerindian, the largest proportion being in the Copán area near the Guatemalan border. Blacks, who make up about 2% of the population, live mostly along the country’s north coast. About 1% of the population is white, chiefly of Arab and Spanish descent.
23. Spanish is the official language of Honduras.
The official language of Honduras is Spanish and everyone speaks it, including indigenous people who also speak their native language. Honduran Spanish shares many similarities to that of its neighbors in the Central American region, but it has its stark differences in pronunciation and usage.
Among the indigenous languages spoken in Honduras are Garifuna, Miskito, Mayangna, Paya, and Jicaque.
24. Natives of Honduras are called “Catrachos.”
Hondurans are usually called “catracho” and “catracha” (male and female) by themselves as well as people of other Spanish-speaking (primarily Central American) countries. The term was coined by Nicaraguans in the mid-19th century and derives from the surname of Honduran General Florencio Xatruch.
As Xatruch and his soldiers returned from battle, some Nicaraguans yelled out “¡Aquí vienen los xatruches!” (“Here come Xatruch’s boys!”). However, Nicaraguans had so much trouble pronouncing the general’s last name that they altered the phrase to ‘los catruches.’
25. Christianity is the major religion in Honduras.
Honduras is an overwhelmingly Christian country and the majority of the population identifies as Roman Catholic (~40-50%), while approximately 30-40% identify as Protestant. The rise of the Evangelical movement in the last few decades has seen a decline in Catholicism and an increase in Protestantism.
The remainder of the Honduran population is either irreligious or belongs to other religions.
28. Abortion is completely illegal in Honduras.
One of the most shocking facts about Honduras is that it is one of six countries in the world where abortion is illegal under all circumstances. This means that Honduras outlaws abortion completely, even in circumstances of rape or incest, when the fetus is gravely deformed, and if the pregnancy endangers the mother’s life.
Honduras’s abortion laws are so strict that a woman convicted of intentionally having an abortion can wind up in prison for between three and six years. Healthcare professionals or anyone else convicted of performing an abortion can be locked up for up to 10 years.
29. Honduras has also banned emergency contraception or the “morning-after pill.”
In addition to its draconian abortion law, Honduras is also the only Latin American country to prohibit the use, sale, distribution, and purchase of emergency contraception, or the “morning-after pill,” which can prevent pregnancy after rape, unprotected sex, or a contraceptive failure.
30. Honduras borders the world’s second-largest barrier reef.
The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System (MBRS), also popularly known as the “Great Mayan Reef” is a marine region that stretches over 1,126 kilometers (700 mi) along the coasts of four countries – Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras.
It is the second-largest coral reef system in the world after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and features one of the most colorful ecosystems on earth.
31. Honduras is one of the few countries that has jus soli (birthright citizenship).
Like most countries in the Americas, Honduran nationality law is based on jus soli, meaning anyone born on Honduran soil acquires the country’s citizenship regardless of parental citizenship.
32. Honduras is home to the oldest working clock in the Americas.
One of the most random bits of trivia about Honduras is that the country is home to the oldest working clock in the Americas. It can be found in the Santa María Cathedral, also known as the Church of the Immaculate Conception in the city of Comayagua.
One of the oldest working clocks in the world, the Reloj Arabe, as it is known, was made around 1100 and graced the side of The Alhambra in Granada, Spain, before it was donated to Comayagua by King Felipe II.
33. Football is the most popular sport in Honduras.
Nicknamed Los Catrachos (The Catrachos) or La Bicolor (The Bicolor), the Honduran men’s national football team has qualified for the FIFA World Cup on three occasions but has never advanced beyond the group stage.
34. Honduras is home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The two UNESCO World Heritage Sites are the Maya Site of Copan and the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve.
35. Honduras has never won a medal at the Olympics.
Despite having participated in the Summer Olympics since 1968, Honduras has never won a medal. The nation has never participated in the Winter Olympic Games.
36. The national bird of Honduras is the Scarlet macaw.
Probably the best-known New World parrot, the Scarlet macaw has a brilliant red, yellow, and blue plumage. Scarlet macaws were sacred to the Maya.
37. The national flower of Honduras is the orchid.
There are 630 types of orchids in Honduras. It has been the national flower of Honduras since 1969 when it replaced the rose.
38. The national mammal of Honduras is the white-tailed deer.
The white-tailed deer is one of the two species of deer that live in Honduras.
39. The national dish of Honduras is Plato tipico.
Plato tipico (Typical dish) consists of a combination of grilled beef, pork sausages, fried plantain, stewed beans, rice, sour cream, fresh white cheese, avocado slices, marinated cabbage, small tortillas, and chismol. Needless to say, the national dish of Honduras is a heaping, carb overload.