Honduras is one of the countries of Central America, that area between North and South America. It is a republic that was formerly known as Spanish Honduras to differentiate it from British Honduras, which is now renamed Belize. Guatemala is to the west withEl Salvador and Nicaragua to the southwest and southeast. The coastline of Honduras is on the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Fonseca, a large inlet of the Caribbean Sea. The uncertain political climate so common in the entire region is no stranger to Honduras, and there is an ongoing war against entrenched gangs, illegal logging, and HIV being waged by the authorities and citizens of the country. Hondurans by nature are laid back and not too affected by all these events and nature has been bountiful, making this a favorite spot for tourists, especially back packers, for very cheap holidays.
Honduras has a population of over seven million people in an area that extends over 43,243 square miles. The majority of the population, about 90%, is Mestizos, meaning of American/Indian and European descent. There are also other indigenous groups that are descendents of the original aboriginal population of the region, and smaller groups of black Afro-Hondurans who descend from the slave population brought in from West Indian islands. Palestinians, who are mainly Christian Arabs, came to Honduras in the late 19th century and form a prominent part of the business community in modern Honduras. Most Hondurans are Christians, either of the Roman Catholic or Protestant faith. Many Hondurans have immigrated to the United States and the Honduran economy is greatly helped by the remittances sent back by these migrants. Tegucigalpa is the largest city and the capital of Honduras, and Spanish is the official language.
The north coast of Honduras borders the Caribbean Sea and this is a major influence on the climate. The central and southern regions are less affected by this and are therefore hotter and less humid. The territory of Honduras consists mainly of mountains, with elevations up to 9842 feet, and some narrow plains nearer the seas. An undeveloped lowland jungle forms the La Mosquita region while most of the population lives in the lowland valley of Sula in the northwest. Honduras also claims the islands just off the northern coast. The country is rich in mineral deposits including gold, silver, copper, lead, zinc, iron ore, coal and antimony. Other bounties found in the country are timber, fish, and shrimp, and a topography well suited to the production of hydropower.
A major Mayan city existed in Honduras in the period between 150-900 AD, but this city was overridden by jungle and had all but vanished when the Spanish explorer Columbus came to Honduras during his fourth and last expedition of discovery. So Honduras was added to the Spanish Empire in 1502 and the Spaniards continued to rule the region for the next three centuries. Independence came to Honduras earlier than most other European colonies and in 1821 the Empire of Iturbide was formed, with links to Mexico. The Central American states seceded from this empire in 1823 and further split up into independent nations by 1838. Honduras and the neighboring country of El Salvador have always been hostile to each other resulting in a Salvadoran attack on Honduras in 1969. This was called the Football War, since the tensions had escalated due to football matches held to decide World Cup participation. The present political situation in Honduras is still somewhat uncertain, following the transfer of power from the President to the head of Congress. Honduras has been under civilian rule only since 1979.
Honduras has many beautiful sites enhanced by a network of national parks and game reserves, and you can go to the islands for some very entertaining diving and snorkeling experiences. The historical ruins at Copan are some of the finest Mayan ruins dating back some 1500 years. Some of the artifacts there are very well preserved. The Pico Bonito national park is one of the most diverse parks in the region extending from sea level to a height of over 7217 feet. The park encloses an amazing biodiversity: you may see huge swathes of bright butterflies or even spot an occasional jaguar. The capital of Honduras, Tegucigalpa, has some fine 18th century cathedrals and a central park worthy of an afternoon. Lake Yojoa, in the mountains, is a great spot for boating and fishing enthusiasts.
Honduras attracts over one million tourists each year and they cater to the night life requirements of these visitors. Almost all the cities and towns have their own clubs, bars, and restaurants that welcome tourists. You will hear Garifuna music, a sound that is slightly different from the rest of the music in Central America, and you can find a number of dancing clubs and the punta dancing that comes with them. Spas, bars, and restaurants are found throughout the country, and operas and theatres in the capital satisfy more eclectic tastes.
National holidays are celebrated in the form of carnivals, fairs, and parades throughout the year, and some, like the Isidra Fair, are celebrated over a full week with a spectacular carnival to end it. A June Fair offers different musical concerts performed over several days. A Venice-like fair is celebrated with gondolas in the bay. The predominant Catholic population leads in the celebration of the Holy week at Easter. Like all major celebrations, this week also ends with elaborate firework displays.
Baleada is the most traditional of Honduran dishes. It is made from tortilla flour and contains refried beans, cheese, and sour cream. Variations are also made by adding meat or scrambled eggs to these creations. Other Honduran delicacies include grilled meat with chimol, fried fish with pickled onions, chicken with rice and corn, and baked or fried plantains are also popular. In the coastal areas these same preparations would include the addition of coconut milk. Soups are a staple for most Hondurans and could include varieties of bean soup, seafood soup, and beef soup, all of them mixed with plantains and cabbage and served with corn tortillas. Fruits are abundant in this Central American republic and servings of papaya, pineapple, plums, passion fruit, and bananas, alone or in dishes are quite common. Many of these dishes are prepared in different ways using the raw fruits. A soft drink or beer is normally served with lunch or dinner.
Photo: Courtesy of Eduardo Amorim (flickr.com)