Honduras is a democratic republic in Central
America. It was formerly known as Spanish Honduras to differentiate it from British Honduras (now Belize).The
country is bordered by Guatemala,
El Salvador, Nicaragua, the Pacific Ocean at the Gulf of
Fonseca, and Gulf of Honduras, a large inlet of the Caribbean
Sea. Its size is just over 110,000 km˛ with an estimated
population of almost 7,500,000.
Archaeologists have demonstrated that Honduras had a rich, multi-ethnic
prehistory. An important part of that prehistory was the Mayan presence around
the city of Copán in western Honduras, near the Guatemalan
border. A major Mayan city flourished during the classic period (150-900) in
that area. The Mayan civilization began a marked decline in the ninth century,
but there is evidence of people still living in and around the city until at
least 1200. By the time the Spanish came to Honduras, the once great city-state
of Copán was overrun by the jungle.
After the Spanish discovery, Honduras
became part of Spain's vast
empire in the New World within the Kingdom
of Guatemala. The Spanish
ruled what would become Honduras
for approximately three centuries.
Spain granted independence to Honduras, with the rest of the
Central American provinces on September 15, 1821. In 1822 the United Central
American Provinces decided to join the newly declared Mexican Empire of
Iturbide. The Iturbide Empire was overthrown in 1823 and Central
America separated from it, forming the Federal Republic of Central
America, which disintegrated in 1838. As a result the states of the republic
became independent nations.
In 1969, Honduras
and El Salvador
fought what would become known as the Football War. Contributing factors in the
conflict were a boundary dispute and the presence of thousands of Salvadorans
living in Honduras
illegally. After the week-long football war in July 1969, 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.
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.
In 1998, Hurricane Mitch caused such massive and
widespread loss, obliterated about 70% of the crops and an estimated 70-80% of
the transportation infrastructure, including nearly all bridges and secondary
roads. Across the country, 33,000 houses were destroyed, an additional 50,000
damaged, some 5,000 people killed, 12,000 injured and total losses estimated at
$3 billion USD.