Honduras, officially the Republic of Honduras, is a country in Central America, bordered to the west by Guatemala, to the southwest by El Salvador, to the southeast by Nicaragua, to the south by the Pacific Ocean, at the Golf of Fonseca, and to the north by the Gulf of Honduras and the Caribbean Sea.
Main articles:History of Honduras,Timeline of Honduran history
The Pre-Columbian city of Copán is located in western Honduras, near the Guatemalan border. It is a major Maya city that flourished during the classic period (150-900 A.D). It has many beautiful carved inscriptions and stelae. The ancient kingdom, named Xukpi, flourished from the 5th century AD to the early 9th century, with antecedents going back to at least the 2nd century AD. The Maya civilization changed in the 9th century AD, and they stopped writing texts at Copan, but there is evidence of people still living in and around the city until at least 1200 AD. By the time the Spanish came to Honduras, the once great city-state of Copán was overrun by the jungle. By that time, the Lencas were the main Amerindian people living in the Honduran territory.
On his fourth and final voyage to the New World, Christopher Columbus reached the coast of Honduras in 1502, and landed near the modern town of Trujillo, somewhere along the Guaimoreto Lagoon, and had his priests say mass. After the Spanish discovery, Honduras became part of Spain's vast empire in the New World within the Kingdom of Guatemala. Trujillo, and then Gracias, were the first city-capitals. The Spanish ruled Honduras for approximately three centuries.
Honduras declared independence from Spain on September 15, 1821 with the rest of the Central America provinces. In 1822 the Central American State was annexed to the newly declared Mexican Empire of Iturbide. The Iturbide Empire was overthown in 1823 and Central America separated from it, forming the Federation of the United Provinces, which disintegrated in 1838. As a result the states of the United Provinces became independent nations.
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Honduras joined the Allied Nations on the 8th of December, 1941. Less than a month later, on the first day of 1942, Honduras, along with 25 other governments signed the Declaration by United Nations.
The Football War of 1969 was fought with El Salvador. There had been border tension between the two countries after Oswaldo López Arellano, past president of Honduras, blamed the poor economy on the large number of immigrants from El Salvador. From that point on the relationship between El Salvador and Honduras was acrimonious. It reached a low when El Salvador met Honduras for a three-round football elimination match as a preliminary to the World Cup. Tensions escalated, and on July 14, 1969, the Salvadoran army launched an attack against Honduras. The Organization of American States negotiated a cease-fire which took effect on July 20, with the Salvadoran troops withdrawn in early August. The war lasted approximately 100 hours and led to an arms race between the two countries.
During the 1980s, the United States established a very large military presence in Honduras with the purpose of supporting the anti-Sandinista Contras fighting the Nicaraguan government, and to support the El Salvador military fighting against the FMLN guerrillas. Though spared the bloody civil wars wracking its neighbors, the Honduran army quietly waged a campaign against leftists which included extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances of political opponents by government-backed death squads.
Hurricane Fifi caused severe damage while skimming the northern coast of Honduras on September 18 and 19, 1974.
In 1998, Hurricane Mitch caused such massive and widespread damage that former Honduran President Carlos Roberto Flores claimed it destroyed fifty years of progress in the country. Mitch destroyed about 70% of the crops, an estimated 70-80% of the transportation infrastructure of the entire country was wiped out, including nearly all bridges and secondary roads; the damage was so great that existing maps were rendered obsolete. Across the country, the storm destroyed 33,000 houses and damaged 50,000 others.
Once part of Spain's vast empire in the New World, Honduras became an independent nation in 1821. After two and a half decades of mostly military rule, a freely elected civilian government came to power in 1982. During the 1980s, Honduras proved a haven for anti-Sandinista contras fighting the Marxist Nicaraguan Government and an ally to Salvadoran Government forces fighting leftist guerrillas. The country was devastated by Hurricane Mitch in 1998, which killed about 5,600 people and caused approximately $2 billion in damage.
A Presidential and general election was held on November 27, 2005. Manuel Zelaya of the Liberal Party of Honduras (Partido Liberal de Honduras: PLH) won, with Porfirio Pepe Lobo of the National Party of Honduras (Partido Nacional de Honduras: PNH) coming in second. The PNH challenged the election results, and Lobo Sosa did not concede until December 7. Towards the end of December the government finally released the total ballot count, giving Zelaya the official victory. Zelaya was inaugurated as Honduras' new president on January 27, 2006. His government has generally been considered fragile and he does not hold a majority in the National Congress. His first year in office has been dominated by trying to find a way of obtaining cheaper oil for Honduras through holding a licitation.
Honduras has five registered political parties: PNH, PLH, Social Democrats (Partido Innovación Nacional y Social Demócrata: PINU-SD), Social Christians (Partido Demócrata-Cristiano: DC), and Democrat Unification (Partido Unificación Democrática: UD). The PNH and PLH have ruled the country for decades. In the last years, Honduras has had five Liberal presidents: Roberto Suazo Córdova, José Azcona del Hoyo, Carlos Roberto Reina, Carlos Roberto Flores and Manuel Zelaya, and two Nationalists: Rafael Leonardo Callejas Romero and Ricardo Maduro. The elections have been full of controversies, including questions about whether Azcona was born in Honduras or Spain, and whether Maduro should have been able to stand given he was born in Panama.
In 1963 a military coup was led against the democratically elected president Villegas Morales and a military junta was established to rule the country without holding elections until 1981with varying executive leaders. In this year Suazo Córdova (LPH) was elected president and Honduras transferred from a military authoritarian regime to an electoral democracy.
In 1986, Azcona del Hoyo was elected via the "Formula B," when Azcona did not obtain the majority of votes. However, 5 Liberal candidates and 4 Nationalist were running for president at that time, and the "Formula B" required all votes from all candidates from the same party to be added together. Azcona then became the president. In 1990, Callejas won the election under the slogan "Llegó el momento del Cambio," (The time for Change has arrived), which was heavily criticized for resembling El Salvador's "ARENAs" political campaign. Callejas Romero gained a reputation for illicit enrichment. Callejas has been the subject of several scandals and accusations in the last two decades. In 1998, during Flores Facusse's mandate, Hurricane Mitch hit the country and all indications of economic growth were washed out in a period of 5 days.
In 2004 separate ballots were used for mayors, congress, and president. Many more candidates were registered for the 2005 election.
The Nationalist and Liberal parties are distinct political parties with their own dedicated band of supporters, but some have pointed out that their interests and policy measures throughout the 23 years of uninterrupted democracy have been very similar. They are often seen as primarily serving the interests of their own members, who receive jobs when their party gains power and lose them again when the other party does so. Both are seen as supportive of the elite who owns most of the wealth in the country, with neither of them promoting socialist ideals, even though in many ways Honduras is run like a democratic version of an old socialist state, with price controls and nationalized electric and land-line telephone services.
However, President Maduro's administration "de-nationalized" the telecommunications sector in a move to promote the rapid diffusion of telecom services to the Honduran population. As of November 2005, there were around 10 private-sector telecom companies in the Honduran market, including two mobile phone companies.
The largest department by surface area is Olancho department and by population is Cortes department, where San Pedro Sula, the commercial capital of the country is located, and the smallest by both surface area and population is the Islas de la Bahía department.
Honduras borders the Caribbean Sea on the north coast and the Pacific Ocean on the south through the Gulf of Fonseca. The climate varies from tropical in the lowlands to temperate in the mountains. The central and southern regions are relatively hotter and less humid than the northern coast.
The Honduran territory consists mainly of mountains (~81%), but there are narrow plains along the coasts, a large undeveloped lowland jungle La Mosquitia region in the northeast and the heavily populated lowland San Pedro Sula valley in the northwest. In La Mosquitia lies the UNESCO-world heritage site Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve, with the Coco River dividing the country from Nicaragua. See Rivers of Honduras.
Natural resources include timber, gold, silver, copper, lead, zinc, iron ore, antimony, coal, fish, shrimp, and hydropower.
Honduras is one of the poor countries in the Americas, with GDP per capita at US$2050 per year (1999). The economy has continued to grow slowly but the distribution of wealth remains very polarized with average wages remaining very low. Economic growth is roughly 5% a year, but many people remain below the poverty line. It is estimated that there are more than 1.2 million people who are unemployed. The rate of unemployment is 28%
The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund classified Honduras as one of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries eligible for debt relief, and this debt relief was given in 2005.
Both the electricity services (ENEE) and land line telephone services (HONDUTEL) were run by government monopolies, with the ENEE receiving heavy subsidies from the government because of its chronic financial problems. HONDUTEL however is no longer a monopoly, the telecomunication sector having been opened after December 25, 2005; this was one of the requirements before approving the beginning of CAFTA. There are price controls around the price of petrol, and other temporary price controls of basic commodities are often passed for short periods by the Congress.
After years of declining against the US dollar the Lempira has stabilized at around 19 Lempiras per dollar.
In 2005 Honduras signed the CAFTA (Free Trade Agreement with USA). In December 2005, Honduras' main seaport Puerto Cortes was included in the U.S. Container Security Initiative.
On December 7, 2006 the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and Energy (DOE) announced the first phase of the Secure Freight Initiative, an unprecedented effort to build upon existing port security measures by enhancing the US federal governments ability to scan containers for nuclear and radiological materials overseas and to better assess the risk of inbound containers. The initial phase of Secure Freight involves the deployment of a combination of existing technology and proven nuclear detection devices to six foreign ports: Port Qasim in Pakistan; Puerto Cortes in Honduras; Southampton in the United Kingdom; Port Salalah in Oman; Port of Singapore; and the Gamman Terminal at Port Busan in Korea. Beginning in early 2007, containers from these ports will be scanned for radiation and information risk factors before they are allowed to depart for the United States.
The population of Honduras is approximately 7.1 million according to a United Nations 2006 estimate.
The nation's capital and largest city, Tegucigalpa, has a million inhabitants, but the country's most industrious city is San Pedro Sula close to the Caribbean coast, near the Guatemalan border.
According to the Honduras 2001 Census of Population, the most populated Departments are: Cortés (1,2 million), Francisco Morazán (1,2 million), Yoro (466,000), Olancho (420,000), Choluteca (391,000) and Comayagua (353,000). The less populated are Islas de la Bahia and Gracias a Dios. According to the same source, the main cities are: Tegucigalpa (894,000 hab.-Distrito Central only), San Pedro Sula (517,000 hab.), Choloma (160,000 hab.), La Ceiba (140,00 hab.), El Progreso (106,000 hab.), Choluteca, Comayagua, Puerto Cortes, La Lima and Danli. However, the main metropolitan areas are Tegucigalpa (1,200,000 hab. -est. 2007-) and San Pedro Sula (900,000 hab. -same year-). Between the 1988 and 2001 Census, San Pedro Sula duplicates its population. The country only has 20 cities with populations above 20,000 inhabitants. Honduras is the only Central American country which its second most important city has half the population of the city-capital. Considering metropolitan areas only, the Honduran capital is the third largest Central American urban agglomeration, after Guatemala City and San Salvador.
About 91% of the population is mestizo, or a mixture of the Caucasian (Spanish) and American Indian races. Also there are small minorities of "white" European, Afro-Honduran, and indigenous Amerindian descents.
The great majority of Hondurans are Roman Catholic.
The Spanish language is the predominant language, while (pidgin) English is spoken in the Caribbean Islas de la Bahia Department, however it is being superseded. Indigenous Amerindian languages (in several dialects) and Garifuna are also spoken, though Spanish is becoming more popular in areas where it was not widely spoken, due to efforts by the government, including making Spanish the language used in education.
The population of Honduras is predominantly Hispanic, except along the northern coast where, until recently, communities of English speakers maintained a separate culture. This is primarily because some islands and some Caribbean coastal areas were occupied by pirates and by the British at one time or another. Groups of Garifuna (people of mixed of Amerindian -Caribbean natives- and African ancestry) live along the north coast and islands, where there are also many Afro-Latin Americans. This ethnic group estimate in 150,000 people- has it origin in black slaves expulsed by the British authorities from St. Vincents island during the 18th century after an insurrection. Garífunas are part of Honduras' identity through theatrical presentations such as Louvavagu. Other indigenous peoples in Honduras such as Chortí (Mayan descent), Pech or Paya (2,500), Tolupan or Xicaque (25,000 hab.), Lenca (100,000 hab.), Sumo or Tawahka (1,000), and Miskito (40,000 hab.) still exist, and most still keep their language, Lenca being an exception. For the most part, these tribes live in rural areas and deal with extreme poverty. Many Honduran families have roots in the Middle East, specifically Palestine. These Arab-Hondurans are sometimes called "turcos", because they arrived in Honduras using Turkish travel documents, as their homelands was then under the control of the Ottoman Empire. The "turcos", along with a tiny Jewish minority population, exert considerable influence on Honduran economics and politics through their industrial and financial interests. It's been stated that Honduran hero Francisco Morazan, great Central American statesman and president of Honduras, was of Jewish ancestry. Asians in Honduras are mostly of Chinese and some Japanese decent, but in the 1980's and 1990's when the US army was stationed in Honduras, a number of Korean, Ryukyuan, Filipino and Vietnamese came to Honduras as a contract laborers.
In the 1960's, Honduras and El Salvador had a diplomatic conflict over a boundary dispute and the presence of thousands of Salvadorans living in Honduras illegally. After the week-long war in July 1969 known as the Soccer War, many Salvadoran families and workers were expelled. El Salvador had agreed on a truce to settle the boundary issue, but Honduras later paid war damage costs for expelled refugees.
Since 1975, emigration from Honduras has accelerated as job-seekers and political refugees sought a better life elsewhere. Although many Hondurans have relatives in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Spain, Mexico, and Canada, the majority of Hondurans living abroad are in the United States.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau (figures taken of the 2005 census) 460,00 Honduran live there (the third largest community among the Central-American living in the U.S.). Members of the Honduran community tend to live mainly (in order of size) in: 88,000 in Florida (of which 24,000 in Miami only), 68,000 in Texas (of which 27,000 in Houston and 6,000 in Dallas), 62,000 in California (of which 25,000 in the city of Los Angeles only), 51,000 in New York (of wich 36,000 in New York City (NY)), 25,000 in New Jersey, 18,000 in Virginia, the same number in Louisiana and 3,000 in Washington DC. Source: 
In Spain, the Honduran community is by far the largest amongst the Central American people living there: 8,523 according to Spanish figures for 2006: ). Statistics indicate that 2,130 live in Barcelona and 1,100 in Madrid. Following these demographic tendencies, Cataluña has 4,854 Hondurans; Comunidad de Madrid, 1,086; Comunidad Valenciana, 556; and Castilla y Leon, 524.
According to CELADE (Investigación Migración Internacional de Latinoamérica) figures, by 1992, more than 8,700 Honduran were living in El Salvador; 9,700 in Nicaragua (by 1995), 5,500 in Guatemala (by 2002), 3,000 in Costa Rica (by 2000); and 2,400 in Belize (by 1990). Note: figures are not comparable. Additionally, acoording to UN Demographic Yearbook (2000) 8,700 Hondurans live in Canada. 
The most renowned Honduran painter is Jose Antonio Velasquez. Other include Carlos Garay, Maury and Roque Zelaya.
Some of Honduras' best known writers are Froylan Turcios and Ramón Amaya Amador. Other writers include Marco Antonio Rosa, Roberto Sosa, Lucila Gamero de Medina, Eduardo Bähr, Amanda Castro, Javier Abril Espinoza, and Roberto Quesada.
Some of Honduras' best musicians are Rafael Coello Ramos, Lidia Handal, Victoriano Lopez, Francisco Carranza and Camilo Rivera Guevara.
A Honduran can be called a Catracho or Catracha (fem) in Spanish. The word is derived from the last name of a french Honduran General Florencio Xatruch, who led Honduran armed forces in defense of Honduran territories in 1857 against an attempted invasion led by North American filibuster William Walker. The nickname is considered complimentary, not derogatory.
The patron saint of Honduras is the Virgin of Suyapa.
Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga is a Cardinal who was a potential candidate for Pope in the Papal conclave, 2005.
Salvador Moncada is a world-renowned scientist with authorship of more than 12 highly cited papers, including his work on nitric oxide. His research on heart-related drugs includes the development of Viagra. Moncada works at the University College of London and funds an NGO in Tegucigalpa. He is married to Princess Maria-Esmeralda of Belgium.
Honduras This Week is a weekly English language newspaper that has been publishing now for 17 years in Tegucigalpa. On the islands of Roatan, Utila and Guanaja the Bay Islands Voice is a source of monthly news since 2003.
Three important Honduran journalists who work in the United States are Neida Sandoval and Satcha Pretto work for Univision in Miami, Florida and Dunia Elvir works for Telemundo in Los Angeles, California.
A famous Honduras born (now US Citizen) radio presenter is Renán Almendárez Coello host of the show El Cucuy de la Mañana ("The Bogeyman of the Morning") on KLAX-FM in Los Angeles, California.
Honduran people are used to celebrating big events. The most popular events are: Honduras Independence Day on September 15, Christmas, which is typically celebrated on the 24th, and New Years, which is typically celebtrated on the 31st of January. Honduras Independence Day celebration starts early in the morning with marching bands which last about an hour. Each band wears different colors joined with cheerleaders who dance all over the streets. Fiesta Catracha takes part this same day, during this event there are typical foods such as beans, tamales, baleadas, yucca with chicharron, and tortillas.On Christmas Eve people gather around with their families and close friends to eat dinner on December 24 and give out presents at midnight. In New Years everyone gets together to celebrate with their families and have a nice feast as well on December 31, which is often accompaied by "cohetes" or fireworks. Besides the holiday events, birthdays are also great parties. These big events include the famous piñata which is filled with candies and surprises for the children invited
Honduras is part of Mesoamerica, which is the landmass that extends from Mexico to Costa Rica. The region is considered as a biodiversity hotspot due to the numerous plant and animal species that can be found. Like the other countries in the region, Honduras contains vast biological resources. This 43,278 square mile (112,092 km²) country hosts more than 6,000 species of vascular plants, of which 630 -described so far- are Orchids; around 250 reptiles and amphibians, more than 700 bird species, and 110 mammal species, half of them being bats.
In the northeastern region of La Mosquitia lies the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve, a lowland rainforest which provides home to a great diversity of life. Sometimes called "The Last Lungs of Central America", this Reserve was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites List in 1982.
Honduras has rain forests, cloud forests (which can rise up to nearly three thousand meters above sea level), mangroves, savannas and mountain ranges with pine and oak trees, and the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. In the Bay Islands are bottlenose dolphins, manta rays, parrot fish, schools of blue tang and whale shark. .
Honduras is a country full of folklore, its famous Lluvia de Peces (Rain of fishes) is unique in the world. The legend of el cadejo is also popular.
Football is the most popular sport in Honduras. Some information on teams, competitions and players is available in the following articles.