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History of Honduras
 
 
 
 
 

Early History

In pre-Columbian times, modern Honduras was part of the Mesoamerican cultural area. In the west, the Maya civilisation flourished for hundreds of years. The dominant state within Honduras's borders was that based in Copán. Copán fell with the other Lowland centres during the conflagrations of the Terminal Classic, the early 9th century. The Maya of this civilisation survive in western Honduras as the Ch'orti', isolated from their Choltian linguistic peers to the west.

Remains of other Pre-Columbian cultures are found throughout the country. Archaeologists have studied sites such as Naco and La Sierra in the Naco Valley, Los Naranjos on Lake Yojoa, Yarumela in the Comayagua Valley, La Ceiba and Salitron Viejo (both now under the Cajon Dam reservoir), Selin Farm and Cuyamel in the Aguan valley, Cerro Palenque, Travesia, Curruste, Ticamaya, Despoloncal in the lower Ulua river valley, and many others.

Spanish Era

Christopher Columbus landed on the mainland near modern Trujillo in 1502 and named the country Honduras ("Depths") for the deep waters off its coast.

In January, 1524, Cortés directed captain Cristóbal de Olid to establish a colony for him in Honduras. Olid sailed with a force of several ships and over 400 soldiers and colonists. He sailed first to Cuba, to pick up supplies Cortés had arranged for him, where Governor Velázquez convinced him to go and claim the colony he was to found as his own. Olid sailed from Cuba to the coast of Honduras, coming ashore east of Puerto Caballos at Triunfo de la Cruz where he initially settled and declared himself governor.

Hernán Cortés, however, in 1524, got word of Olid's insurrection and sent his cousin, Francisco de las Casas, along with several ships to Honduras to remove Olid and claim the area for Cortés. Las Casas, however, lost most of his fleet in a series of storms along the coast of Belize and Honduras. His ships limped into the bay at Triunfo, where Olid had established his headquarters.

When Las Casas arrived at Olid's headquarters, a large part of Olid's army was inland, dealing with another threat from a party of Spaniards under Gil González Dávila. Nevertheless, Olid decided to launch an attack with two caravels. Las Casa returned fire and sent boarding parties which captured Olid's ships. Under the circumstances, Olid proposed a truce to which Las Casas agreed, and he did not land his forces. During the night, a fierce storm destroyed his fleet and about a third of his men were lost. The remainder were taken prisoner after two days of exposure and without food. After being forced to swear loyalty to Olid, they were released. However, Las Casas was kept a prisoner, soon to be joined by González, who had been captured by Olid's inland force.

The Spanish record two different stories about what happened next. Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas writing in the 17th century, records that Olid's soldiers rose up and murdered him. Bernal Diaz del Castillo, in his Verdadera Historia de la Conquista de Nueva España, recalls that Las Casas captured Olid and beheaded him at Naco.

In the meantime, Cortés had marched overland from Mexico to Honduras, arriving in 1525. Cortés ordered the founding of two cities, Nuestra Señora de la Navidad, near modern Puerto Cortés, and Trujillo, and named Francisco de las Casas Governor. However, both las Casas and Cortés sail back to Mexico before the end of 1525, where Francisco was arrested and sent back to Spain as a prisoner by Estrada and Alboronoz. Francisco returned to Mexico in 1527, and returned again to Spain with Cortés in 1528.

During the period leading up to the conquest of Honduras by Pedro de Alvarado, many indigenous people along the north coast of Honduras were captured and taken as slaves to work on Spain's Caribbean plantations. It wasn't until Pedro de Alvarado defeated the indigenous resistance headed by Çocamba near Ticamaya, that the Spanish began to conquer the country in 1536. Alvarado divided the native towns and gave their labour to the Spanish conquistadors in repartimiento. Further indigenous uprisings near Gracias a Dios, Comayagua, and Olancho occurred in 1537-38. The uprising near Gracias a Dios was lead by Lempira, who is honoured today by the name of the Honduran currency.

During the colonial period, Honduras came under the control of the Captaincy General of Guatemala, and the towns of Comayagua and Tegucigalpa, arose as mining centres.

Independence from Spain

Honduras, along with the other Central American provinces, gained independence from Spain in 1821 with the independence of the vice royalty of New Spain (today Mexico) as they were part of; it then briefly was annexed to the Mexican Empire. In 1823, Honduras joined the newly formed United Provinces of Central America. Before long, social and economic differences between Honduras and its regional neighbours exacerbated harsh partisan strife among its leaders, bringing about the federation's collapse in 1838-39. General Francisco Morazán, a Honduran national hero, led unsuccessful efforts to maintain the federation. Restoring Central American unity remained the officially stated chief aim of Honduran foreign policy until after World War I.

In 1888, a projected railroad line from the Caribbean coast to the capital, Tegucigalpa, ran out of money when it reached San Pedro Sula, resulting in its growth into the nation's main industrial centre and second largest city.

The year 1899 was a watershed: the peaceful election of Terencio Sierra, and the first shipment of bananas from Honduras to New Orleans, shipped by The Vaccaro Brothers.

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