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Republic of Honduras
República de Honduras

CAPITAL: Tegucigalpa

FLAG: The national flag consists of a white horizontal stripe between two blue horizontal stripes, with five blue stars on the white stripe representing the five members of the former union of Central American provinces.

ANTHEM: Himno Nacional, beginning "Tu bandera es un lampo de cielo" ("Thy flag is a heavenly light").

MONETARY UNIT: The lempira (l), also known as the peso, is a paper currency of 100 centavos. There are coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 centavos, and notes of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 lempiras. l1 = $0.05285 (or $1 = l18.92) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the legal standard; some old Spanish measures are still used.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Day of the Americas, 14 April; Labor Day, 1 May; Independence Day, 15 September; Birthday of Francisco Morazán, 3 October; Columbus Day, 12 October; Army Day, 21 October; Christmas, 25 December. Movable religious holidays include Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday.

TIME: 6 am = noon GMT.


Situated in Central America, Honduras has a total area of 112,090 sq km (43,278 sq mi), with a length of 663 km (412 mi) enewsw and 317 km (197 mi) nnwsse. Comparatively, the area occupied by Honduras is slightly larger than the state of Tennessee. It is bounded on the n and e by the Caribbean Sea, on the s by Nicaragua and the Gulf of Fonseca, on the sw by El Salvador, and on the w by Guatemala, with a total boundary length of 2,340 km (1,454 mi), of which 820 km (509 mi) is coastline.

Under the terms of an arbitration award made by Alfonso XIII of Spain in 1906, Honduras received a portion of the Mosquito (Miskito) Coast, or La Mosquitia, north and west of the Coco (Segovia) River. Citing Honduras's failure to integrate the territory, Nicaragua renewed its claim to the entire Mosquito Coast in the 1950s and brought the case to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). In February 1957, Honduras created the new Department of Gracias a Dios, made up of the former Mosquitia territory. The ICJ determined in 1960 that Nicaragua was obligated to accept the 1906 arbitration ruling concerning that country's boundary with Honduras. The judges ruled, by a vote of 141, that once a valid arbitration award was made in an international dispute, it became effective, and remained so, despite any lapse of time in carrying it out.

The two tiny Swan Islands (Islas del Cisne), lying at 17°23 n and 83°56 w in the west Caribbean Sea some 177 km (110 mi) nne of Patuca Point, were officially ceded by the United States to Honduras on 20 November 1971. For administrative purposes, they are included under the Department of Islas de la Bahía, whose capital is Roatán on Roatán Island. The Swan Islands had been effectively held by the United States, which asserted a claim in 1863 to exploit guano, and had housed a weather station and an aviation post.

The capital city of Honduras, Tegucigalpa, is located in the south central part of the country.


Honduras is mountainous, with the exception of the northern Ulúa and Aguán river valleys on the Caribbean Sea and the southern coastal area. There are four main topographic regions: the eastern lowlands and lower mountain slopes, with 20% of the land area and no more than 5% of the population; the northern coastal plains and mountain slopes, with 13% of the land and about 20% of the population; the central highlands, with 65% of the area and 70% of the population; and the Pacific lowlands and their adjacent lower mountain slopes, with 2% of the area and 5% of the population.

The width of the Caribbean coastal plain varies from practically no shore to about 120 km (75 mi), and the coastal plain of the Gulf of Fonseca is generally narrow. The highest elevations are in the northwest (almost 3,000 m/10,000 ft) and in the south (over 2,400 m/8,000 ft). Many intermontane valleys, at elevations of 910 to 1,370 m (3,000 to 4,500 ft), are settled. The old capital city, Comayagua, lies in a deep rift that cuts the country from north to south. Tegucigalpa, the modern capital, is situated in the southern high-lands at about 910 m (3,000 ft). There are two large rivers in the north, the Patuca and the Ulúa. Other important features include the Choluteca, Nacaome, and Goascorán rivers in the south, Lake Yojoa in the west, and Caratasca Lagoon in the northeast.


The northern Caribbean area and the southern coastal plain have a wet, tropical climate, but the interior is drier and cooler. Temperature varies with altitude. The coastal lowlands average 31°c (88°f); from 300 to 760 m (1,000 to 2,500 ft) above sea level the average is 29°c (84°f); and above 760 m (2,500 ft) the average temperature is 23°c (73°f). There are two seasons: a rainy period, from May through October, and a dry season, from November through April. Average annual rainfall varies from over 240 cm (95 in) along the northern coast to about 84 cm (33 in) around Tegucigalpa in the south. The northwest coast is vulnerable to hurricanes, of which the most destructive, Hurricane Fifi in September 1974, claimed some 12,000 lives, caused $200 million in property damage, and devastated the banana plantations.


Honduras has a rich and varied flora and fauna. Tropical trees, ferns, moss, and orchids abound, especially in the rain forest areas. Mammal life includes the anteater, armadillo, coyote, deer, fox, peccary, pocket gopher, porcupine, puma, tapir, and monkeys in several varieties. Fish and turtles are numerous in both fresh water and marine varieties. Among the reptiles are the bushmaster, coral snake, fer-de-lance, horned viper, rattlesnake, and whip snake, caiman, crocodile, and iguana. Birds include the black robin, hummingbird, macaw, nightingale, thrush, partridge, quail, quetzal, toucanet, wren, and many others. As of 2002, there were at least 173 species of mammals, 232 species of birds, and over 5,600 species of plants throughout the country.


The major environmental problems are soil erosion and loss of soil fertility (in part because of traditional slash-and-burn cultivation) and rapid depletion of forests for lumber, firewood, and land cultivation. From 199095, the annual rate of deforestation was at about 2.34%. In 2000, about 48% of the total land area was forested.

Enforcement of antipollution laws has been weak, and Honduras also lacks an integrated economic development and land-use policy. Rivers and streams in Honduras are threatened by pollution from mining chemicals. The nation has 96 cu km of renewable water resources with 91% used in farming activities. About 99% of city dwellers and 82% of people living in rural areas have access to pure drinking water. Air pollution results from a lack of pollution control equipment for industries and automobiles. The Secretariat of Planning, Coordination, and Budget (Secretaría de Planificación, Coordinación, y PresupuestoSECPLAN), the Ministry of Natural Resources, and several other agencies are vested with environmental responsibilities.

In 2003, 6.4% of the total land area in Honduras was protected. The Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve is a natural UNESCO World Heritage Site and there are six Ramsar wetland sites. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included 10 types of mammals, 6 species of birds, 10 types of reptiles, 53 species of amphibians, 14 species of fish, 2 species of invertebrates, and 111 species of plants. Endangered or extinct species in Honduras included the tundra peregrine falcon, jaguar, three species of turtle (green sea, hawksbill, and olive ridley), and three species of crocodile (spectacled caiman, American, and Morelet's). The Caribbean monk seal, the Lago Yojoa palm, and the Swan Island hutia have become extinct.


The population of Honduras in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 7,212,000, which placed it at number 96 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 4% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 41% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 102 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 200510 was expected to be 2.8%, a rate the government viewed as too high. Of particular concern was the high rate of adolescent pregnancy, with 50% of the population under 19 years of age. The projected population for the year 2025 was 10,700,000. The population density was 64 per sq km (167 per sq mi), with the majority of the population living in the western portion of the country.

The UN estimated that 47% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 2.99%. The capital city, Tegucigalpa, had a population of 1,007,000 in that year. San Pedro Sula, the second-largest city, had an estimated population of 486,000; La Ceiba, 250,000; and El Progreso, 115,000.

Honduras has the highest number of HIV/AIDS cases in Central America, with the rate of infection increasing rapidly among women and those under age 19. In 2003 Honduras began receiving monies from the Global Fund for Aids, Tuberculosis, and Malaria to address its HIV/AIDS situation.


Before 1969 there was a steady flow of immigrants from El Salvador. The steps taken by the Honduran government in 1969 to curb this influx were a contributing cause of the war with El Salvador during the same year. When the Sandinistas took over in Nicaragua in 1979, former National Guard members began to arrive in Honduras, and by 1983 there were 5,00010,000 of them along the border. In addition, at least 25,000 Miskito Amerindians from Nicaragua and about 21,000 Salvadorans had fled to Honduras by the end of 1986. Many of them later returned. By the end of 1992 about 100,000 citizens of Central American nations had taken refuge in Honduras.

As a result of the Central American refugee problem of the 1990s, Honduras has adopted a restrictive policy toward refugees. There were very few refugees among the 44,000 migrants living in Honduras in 2000. In 2004 worker remittances were $1,134 million. In 2005, the net migration rate was estimated as -1.95 migrants per 1,000 population. The government viewed the migration levels as satisfactory.


The vast majority (90%) of the Honduran people are mestizo, a mixture of European and Amerindian. About 7% of the population is purely Amerindian, the largest proportion being in the Copán area near the Guatemalan border. Africans, about 2% of the population, live mostly along the north coast. About 1% of the population is European, chiefly of Spanish origin.


The official language is Spanish. However, English is used widely, especially in northern Honduras. The more important Amerindian languages include Miskito, Zambo, Paya, and Xicaque.


The Roman Catholic Church reports a membership that comprises slightly more than 80% of the country's total population. However, according to estimates based on a 2002 poll of citizens 18 or older, only 63% of the population identify themselves as Roman Catholic. Approximately 23% report themselves to be evangelical Christians, and 14% designate themselves as belonging to other religious groups. The remainder were either "others" or provided no answer. The primary religious groups include Roman Catholics, Jews, Greek Orthodox, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mennonites, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons), the Union Church, and about 300 evangelical Protestant churches (including the Abundant Life, Living Love, and the Grand Commission church). There are small numbers of Muslims and Jews.

Religious freedom is guaranteed by the constitution of 1982. Though there is no state religion, many consult with the Roman Catholic Church and some Catholic leaders have been appointed to semiofficial commissions on key political and social issues. Certain Christian holidays are celebrated as public holidays.


In 2002 there were 13,603 km (8,461 mi) of highways, about 2,775 km (1,726 mi) of which were paved. Of the 112,300 registered vehicles in 2003, only 25,000 were passenger cars, while commercial vehicles totaled 87,300. The Pan American Highway virtually bypasses Honduras, entering from El Salvador and running to the eastern Nicaraguan border. The 362-km (225-mi) Inter-Ocean Highway is the only surface connection between the Pacific and the Caribbean that includes in its path both Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula. In 1971, a paved highway was opened between Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula and west to the Guatemalan border. Tegucigalpa is served by secondary roads to the north and east, while San Pedro Sula is connected both to the important Caribbean ports of Puerto Cortés, Tela, and Trujillo and to the western Mayan shrine site of Copán. Road improvements near the Nicaraguan border were undertaken with US military aid beginning in 1983.

Rail service exists only in the north, connecting the industrial and banana-growing northeastern coastal zone with the principal ports and cities. As of 2004, National Railway of Honduras, owned and operated by the government, maintains all 699 km (435 mi) of narrow gauge track.

Four principal portsPuerto Cortés, Tela, La Ceiba, and Puer- to Castillaserve the country on the Caribbean side. Another Caribbean port, Roatán, is offshore, in the Bay Islands, and Puerto de Henecán, on the Pacific coast, opened in 1979, replacing Amapala as a port facility, although the latter retains a naval base. La Ceiba and Tela are primarily banana-trade ports. Puerto Castilla (completed in 1980) serves the Olancho forestry project; and Puerto Cortés and Puerto de Henecán handle general traffic. River traffic is negligible, with only 465 km (289 mi) accessible and only to small craft, as of 2004. In 2005, the Honduran merchant fleet comprised 137 vessels of 1,000 GRT or more, totaling 598,600 GRT.

Air service is important in the transportation of passengers and cargo. In 2004 there were an estimated 115 airports in Honduras, 11 of which had paved runways as of 2005. The two principal airports are Ramon Villeda, at San Pedro Sula, and Toncontín, about 6.4 km (4 mi) from Tegucigalpa. Toncontín is served by Transportes Aéros Nacionales de Honduras/Servicio Aéreo de Honduras (TAN/SAHSA), Líneas Aéreas Costarricenses (LACSA), Challenge, and TACA airlines and the domestic carrier Lineas Aéreas Nacionales (LANSA). TAN/SAHSA flies to the United States, Mexico, and other Central American countries and also provides domestic passenger service. In 2001, San Pedro Sula International Airport serviced 510,000 passengers on scheduled domestic and international flights.


Before the Spaniards entered the land now called Honduras, the region was inhabited by the war-like Lencas and Jicaques, Mexican Amerindian traders, and Paya hunters and fishermen. The Mayan ceremonial center at Copán in western Honduras flourished about the 8th century ad but was in ruins when Columbus reached the mainland on his fourth voyage in 1502. He named the region Honduras, meaning "depths."

Colonization began in 1524 under Gil González de Ávila. In 1536, Pedro de Alvarado, who came from Guatemala at the bidding of Hernán Cortés in Mexico, founded San Pedro Sula, and another faction founded Comayagua in 1537. After the treacherous murder by the Spaniards of an Amerindian chieftain named Lempira in 1539, his followers were subjugated. In that year, Honduras was made part of the captaincy-general of Guatemala, and for most of the period until 1821, it was divided into two provinces, Comayagua and Tegucigalpa. Some silver was produced in the mines of Tegucigalpa, but the area was otherwise ignored by the Spanish empire.

Honduras joined other provinces of Central America in declaring independence from Spain in 1821. It came under the Mexican empire of Agustín de Iturbide in 182223. Honduras was a member of the United Provinces of Central America from 1824 to 1838. During that time, a liberal Honduran, Francisco Morazán, became president and struggled unsuccessfully to hold the federation together. He was exiled in 1840 and assassinated in 1842.

After Honduras declared itself independent on 26 October 1838, conservatives and liberals fought for political control. From 1840 to 1876, conservative leaders held power either as presidents or as army leaders. The second half of the 19th century brought the development, by US companies, of banana growing in northern Honduras. During the administration of liberal president Marco Aurelio Soto (187683), there was a "golden age" in Honduran letters and education.

US corporate interests, especially the United Fruit Co. (now Chiquita Brands International Inc.) and military dictators, dominated Honduran economic life during the first half of the 20th century. Honduran politics was dominated by the conservative Gen. Tiburcio Carías Andino (193248). In 1948, his handpicked successor, Juan Manuel Gálvez, took office. Gálvez proved to be more than a mere puppet, but was conservative nonetheless. When the election of 1954 produced no presidential candidate with a majority vote, he transferred the presidency to the vice president, Julio Lozano Díaz, who governed for almost two years. After an abortive attempt to have himself elected president, Díaz was deposed in 1956 by high army officers, who set up a junta. Democratic elections were held in 1957, and José Ramón Villeda Morales of the Liberal Party was elected president.

In 1963, just before completing the final months of his six-year term, Villeda was turned out of office by a coup. The liberal government was succeeded by a conservative coalition of military, Nationalist Party, and Liberal Party leaders under an air force officer, Col. Oswaldo López Arellano. This government was legalized almost two years later by an elected constituent assembly, which adopted a new constitution and proclaimed López president in June 1965.

During López's second term, a bitter and destructive four-day war broke out in July 1969 between Honduras and El Salvador. Although the immediate cause of the war was animosity arising from a World Cup elimination-round soccer match between the two countries, the underlying causes were a long-standing border dispute and the long-term migration of some 300,000 Salvadorans in search of land, which the Honduran government made it illegal for Salvadoran immigrants to own. Salvadoran troops won the ground war, but Honduran planes controlled the air. Out of this stalemate and with the help of the OAS, a compromise ceasefire was arranged. In June 1970, the two nations accepted a sevenpoint peace plan, creating a "no-man's-land" demilitarized zone along their common frontier. In the fall of 1973, Honduras and El Salvador began bilateral talks to resolve their differences. Progress was slow, and it was not until October 1980 that Honduras and El Salvador signed a treaty settling the dispute.

In the 1970s, López and the military continued to dominate Honduran politics. A civilian, Ramón Ernesto Cruz Uclés, was elected president in 1971, but lasted only briefly. By 1972, General López was back in power. General López assumed the title of chief of state, and suspended the National Congress and all political party activities. It was later discovered that in 1974 officials in the López administration had accepted a $1.25-million bribe from United Brands (formerly United Fruit and now Chiquita) in exchange for a 50% reduction in the banana tax. A Honduran investigative commission insisted on examining López's Swiss bank account, and the scandal came to be known as "Bananagate" in the United States. Finally, in April 1974, López was overthrown by a group of lieutenant colonels.

This military group was something of a reformist group, seeking social reforms and the removal of the senior officer corps. Political activity continued to be banned following the coup of 1975. Meanwhile, a significant grassroots movement, the National Front of United Peasants, had come to the fore and was pressuring the successive military governments to enact a program of large-scale land redistribution.

There followed two more military governments led by Col. Juan Alberto Melgar Castro (197578) and Gen. Policarpo Paz García (197883). This period saw strong economic growth and the building of a modern infrastructure for Honduras. At the same time, there was a gradual movement toward the democratization of the system.

Elections to a constituent assembly took place in April 1980, followed by general elections in November 1981. Under a new constitution in 1982, Roberto Suazo Córdova of the Liberal Party became president. The armed forces retained broad powers, including veto power over cabinet appointments and responsibility for national security. The military continued to grow in response to domestic instability and the fighting in neighboring Nicaragua and El Salvador. By 1983, several thousand anti-Sandinista guerrillas (popularly known as "contras") in Honduras were working for the overthrow of the Sandinista government, while the Honduran army, backed by the United States, was helping Salvadoran government forces in their fight against leftist guerrillas.

This stability became apparent in November 1985, when Hondurans elected José Simón Azcona Hoyo to the presidency in the first peaceful transfer of power between elected executives in half a century. Azcona was elected with only 27% of the vote, due to a peculiarity of Honduran electoral laws. Azcona attempted to distance himself from the United States in foreign policy and was critical of US contra policy. He signed the Central American peace plan outlined by President Oscar Arias Sánchez of Costa Rica; however, he did not move to close down contra bases as promised. The Suazo government worked closely with the United States on matters of domestic and foreign policy. US military presence in Honduras grew rapidly. Several joint military maneuvers took place during 198387, and the US CIA used Honduras during that time as a base for covert activities against the Sandinista regime. In exchange, the United States sent large amounts of economic aid to Honduras. Suazo also worked closely with the Honduran military, allowing it to pursue its anticommunist agenda freely. This arrangement led to an unprecedented political stabilization in Honduras.

In 1989, Rafael Leonardo Callejas of the National (conservative) Party was elected. With the Nicaraguan issue fading after the Sandinistas' electoral loss, Callejas focused on domestic issues, applying a dose of both conservative economics and IMF austerity measures to the Honduran economy. Callejas moved to reduce the deficit and allow for a set of market adjustments, which in the short term produced a good deal of dislocation but led to higher rates of growth thereafter. Most significantly, Callejas maintained good relations with the military. In an unprecedented show of restraint, the military sat on the sidelines as voters went to the polls in November 1993.

The voters themselves showed a good deal of resentment toward the Callejas reforms. The Liberal Party returned to power in the person of Carlos Roberto Reina. While it was unlikely that its economic problems would be solved quickly, Honduras nevertheless had achieved a level of political stability that few could have anticipated in decades past. Reina, known for his support of human rights and clean government, called for a "moral revolution" to combat crime, poverty, and widespread corruption in both the public and private sectors. In late 1994, corruption charges were filed against former president Callejas and other top government officials. Reina also took steps to further reduce the influence of Honduras's powerful military, most notably the abolition of the draft, including the notorious press-gang conscription by which young men were seized off the streets and forced into military service. The liberal administration also dismantled the military-controlled Public Security Forces (FUSEP), replacing them with a new civilian force.

Reina proved less successful in dealing with the economic problems of his nation, long considered the poorest in Central America. An already difficult situation was exacerbated by the 1994 drought that slashed production of hydroelectric power, creating an energy crisis that drove up food and fuel prices and caused chronic power outages. The struggle to improve economic conditions continued through 1996, with the government caught between an international financial community demanding tough structural reforms and a beleaguered population unwilling to tolerate the sacrifices entailed by such programs. In November of 1997, Carlos Rober- to Flores of the Liberal Party won the presidential elections with 52.8%. His party also won 62 out of 128 seats in the unicameral National Assembly. But the fury of Hurricane Mitch in October 1998 destroyed Honduras's economy and placed an even heavier burden on President Flores' challenges. The subsequent economic crisis of 1999 further worsened the economic situation.

Discontent with the government helped opposition candidate Ricardo Maduro win the 2001 presidential election with 52.2% of the vote. His National Party also came ahead in the legislative election with 46% of the vote, but it only gained 61 seats in the 128-seat assembly, forcing Maduro to seek the support of the smaller centrist parties to pass his legislative initiatives. The economy has continued to perform poorly. More than 50% of Hondurans live in poverty. In March 2005, the Honduran Congress ratified the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) with the United States.

Crime and violence are significant problems in Honduras. Youth gangs known as maras are thought to have tens of thousands of members, and use threats and violence to control poorer areas in the main urban centers. In December 2004, gang members massacred 28 bus passengers in the northern city of Chamalecon. At the same time, police officers have been implicated in high-profile crimes; in January 2001, the Honduran Committee for the Defense of Human Rights reported that more than 1,000 street children had been murdered in 2000 by death squads backed by the police. Also, former military and security personnel, along with right wing paramilitary groups, are thought to be behind the murder of members of indigenous minority rights groups.

Presidential and legislative elections were held on 27 November 2005. Although National Party presidential candidate Porfirio Lobo Sosawho came in second place behind Liberal Party candidate José Manuel Zelaya Rosalescontested the results of the election, the National Party after 10 days conceded the election to Zelaya. Zelaya took 49.9% of the vote to Lobo's 46.2%. In the elections for the National Congress, the Liberal Party won 62 of 128 seats, with the National Party winning 55. The Democratic Unification Party won 5 seats, followed by the Christian Democratic Party with 4 and the Innovation and Unity Party-Social-Democracy with 2.


The constitution of 1965, suspended following the 1972 coup, was superseded by a governing document adopted in November 1982 (amended in 1995). It defines Honduras as a democratic republic headed by a president who must be a native-born civilian. The president is elected by direct popular vote for a four-year term. The executive branch also includes a cabinet of 14 ministers. A constitutional change approved by the legislature in November 1982 deprived the president of the title of commander-in-chief of the armed forces, transferring that responsibility to the army chief of staff.

The 1982 constitution provides for the popular election of deputies to the unicameral National Congress, consisting of 128 deputies. The deputies, who are directly elected for four-year terms, must be natives or residents of the constituencies they represent. Voting is compulsory for all men and women 18 years of age and older.


The two major parties in Honduras are the Liberal Party (Partido LiberalPL) and the National Party (Partido NacionalPN). Both descend from the old Liberal and Conservative Parties from the 19th century. Although generally the National Party remains more conservative in nature, the two parties are very close ideologically.

The National Party was in power from 1932 to 1954 under Carías and Gálvez. In 1965, a PN-backed constituent assembly promulgated a new constitution, designated its membership as the National Congress for a six-year term, and proclaimed Gen. Oswaldo López Arellano as president. In the 1971 elections, the PN candidate, Gen. Ramón Ernesto Cruz, received about 52% of the vote and was elected president. Their most recent success came in 1989 when Rafael Leonardo Callejas became president. In the 1997 elections, its presidential candidate was Alba Gunera, the first woman to seek Honduras's presidency. She gained 42% of the vote. The National Party won 54 seats in the National Assembly in 1997, but it benefited from Ricardo Maduro's victory in 2001 and increased its parliamentary representation to 61 seats.

The Liberals rely on their following in urban areas and among the laboring classes and have had some successes over the last half-century. In 1957, José Ramón Villeda Morales was elected to the presidency, and governed until 1963, when he was removed by a coup. The next successes came in 1981 with the election of Suazo, and then in 1985 with the election of José Simón Azcona Hoyo, in 1993 with Carlos Roberto Reina and in 1997 with Carlos Flores, who became president with 52% of the vote. The Liberal Party also won 67 out of the 128 seats in the National Assembly, but its support fell in 2001 when it captured only 40.8% of the vote and clinched 55 seats.

Two minor parties occupy mildly leftist positions: the Christian Democratic Party, under Marco Orlandi, and the National Innovation and Unity Party, led by Olban Valladares. Each of those parties won three and four seats respectively in the National Assembly in 2001. In 1997, a Social Democratic party made its debut. The Partido de Inovación y Unidad-Social Democracia (Party for Innovation and Unity-Social Democracy) won five seats in the National Assembly in 1997 and four seats in 2001.

In the December 1996 primaries preceding the November 1997 presidential elections, the Liberal Party nominated Carlos Rober- to Flores. Nora Gúnera de Melgar won the National Party nomination. Flores went on to win the election and his party won 62 of 128 seats in the National Assembly. In 2001, Ricardo Maduro became the National Party candidate and won the presidential election. His party captured 61 of the 128 seats in the Assembly.

In 2005, Liberal Party presidential candidate José Manuel Zelaya Rosales beat National Party candidate Porfirio Lobo Sosa. Zelaya took 49.9% of the vote to Lobo's 46.2%. In the elections for the National Congress, the Liberal Party won 62 of 128 seats, with the National Party winning 55. The Democratic Unification Party won 5 seats, followed by the Christian Democratic Party with 4 and the Innovation and Unity Party-Social-Democracy with 2.


Honduras is divided into 18 departments, each with a governor popularly elected for a two-year term. Departments are divided into municipalities (298 in 2005) governed by popularly elected councils. Localities with populations between 500 and 1,000 have a mayor, a legal representative, and a council member. A council member is added for each additional 1,000 residents, but the total is not to exceed seven. A special law governs the Central District of Tegucigalpa and Comayagüela.

Under the jurisdiction of the local government, municipal land is granted or lent to peasants in the district in sections known as ejidos. The ejido system is designed to aid landless peasants and has become an important function of local administration.


Judicial power is exercised by the nine-member Supreme Court (with seven substitutes) and courts of appeal, as well as by courts of first instance, justices of the peace, and courts of limited jurisdiction. The Supreme Court appoints the judges of the courts of appeal and the courts of first instance, who, in turn, appoint local justices of the peace. The justices of the Supreme Court are elected by the National Assembly and serve for seven-year terms. The Supreme Court has the power to declare laws unconstitutional.

There is a military court of first instance from which appeals can be taken to the civilian judicial system. In practice, the civilian courts are not independent. Because of underfunding and corruption, the formal resolution of legal disputes in courts is often the product of influence and political pressure.

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary and the right to a fair trial. A public defender program provides services to indigent defendants.

Honduras accepts the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice with reservations.


The Honduran military as of 2005 had an active force of 12,000 personnel with 60,000 registered as reservists. As of that year, there were 8,300 personnel in the Army, 2,300 in the Air Force, and 1,400 in the Navy, which included 830 Marines. The Army's major armament included 12 light tanks, 57 reconnaissance vehicles, and over 118 artillery pieces. Naval equipment consisted of 31 patrol/coastal vessels and one amphibious landing craft. The Air Force had 18 combat capable aircraft made up of 8 fighters and 10 operating fighter ground attack aircraft. Paramilitary forces consisted of an 8,000 member Public Security Force. The defense budget in 2005 was $52.4 million.


Honduras is a charter member of the United Nations, having joined on 17 December 1945; it is part of ECLAC and serves in several specialized agencies, such as FAO, IFC, UNESCO, UNIDO, ILO, IMF, WHO, and the World Bank. Honduras served on the UN Security Council from 199596. It is one of five members of the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (BCIE) and the Central American Common Market (CACM). In 2004, Honduras, the United States, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic signed the USCentral America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). The agreement must be ratified by all participating countries before it enters into force.

Honduras is also part of G-77, the Latin American Economic System (LAES), the OAS, the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), and the Río Group. Honduras has observer status with the Latin American Integration Association (LAIA) and belongs to the Central American Parliament (PARLACEN), the Central American Integration System (SICA), and the Central American Security Commission (CASC). The country is a signatory of the 1947 Río Treaty, an inter-American security agreement.

Honduras is a member of the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (OPANAL) and is a signatory to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. In environmental cooperation, Honduras is part of the Basel Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity, Ramsar, CITES, the London Convention, International Tropical Timber Agreements, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, MARPOL, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification. Honduras is also part of the Central American-US Joint Declaration (CONCAUSA).


Honduras is one of the poorest and least developed countries in Latin America. The economy has been based mostly on agriculture, and over a third of the labor force in 2001 were still involved in this sector. However, agriculture's contribution to the overall GDP fell from 27% in 1998 to 18% in 2000 mainly due to the damage done to export crops by Hurricane Mitch in October 1998. About 16% of the land is arable, located mostly along the coastal plains. Coffee and bananas account for 65% of total Honduran export revenues. The vast majority of banana holdings are controlled by two US companies, United Brands and Standard Fruit, and most other profitable agricultural enterprises are owned by a small number of private citizens. With its economy enormously dependent on banana production, the country is vulnerable to weather and world market price variations. Honduras also has extensive forest, marine, and mineral resources, although widespread slash-and-burn agricultural methods continue to destroy forests. Hondurans, however, are becoming more concerned about protecting their environmental patrimony, in part because of the benefits of ecotourism.

In 1995, the Honduran economy rebounded from the severe recession experienced in 1994. Real GDP growth in 1995 was 3.6%. It was led by a solid expansion in agricultural production spurred by soaring world coffee prices, excellent basic grains harvests, and a resurrected banana industry as well as a growing maquila (Free Trade Zone of assembly plants) sector that employed 65,000 people by year's end. Honduras also received abundant rainfall which replenished the nation's dams and enabled the country to generate adequate hydroelectric energy, thus avoiding the drought-related power cuts which adversely affected economic performance in 1994. In 1996, Honduran GDP grew about 3.5%. However, inflation for 1996 reached 24.9%, well above the government's target of 16%. End of period inflation declined to 12.8% in 1997.

The economy, however, has still not recovered from the devastation left by Hurricane Mitch in late 1998, a Category Five Hurricane, rated the worst in 200 years, with winds reaching 200-mph and dumping unprecedented amounts of rain in their wake. The dead were officially counted at almost 6,000, but the total number buried in the mud slides will likely never be known. Hurricane Mitch destroyed 2080% of the 1998 coffee and banana crops, and caused an estimated $3 billion in damages, equal to half of the annual GDP. End of period inflation rose to 15.9%. In 1999 the Paris Club creditor countries extended a three-year moratorium on debt repayments by Honduras and wrote-off about two-thirds of its $1.7 billion external debt contingent on the implementation of austerity, liberalization, and privatization program under the IMF's Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF). In February 1999, a man-made disaster, a fire at the El Cajón hydroelectric plant, shut down 60% of the country's electricity until May. In all, GDP in 1999 fell 1.9% as the fall in production and export revenues was offset by increases in construction under the National Reconstruction and Transformation Plan presented by the government in May. Inflation was held to 10.9%, but the country's trade deficit, which had amounted to 10.7% of GDP in 1997, more than doubled as a proportion of GDP, to 23.8% in 1999.

In 2000, GDP growth rose to 5% as the reconstruction program continued, although the trade deficit remained high21.1% of GDP. Inflation dipped slightly to 10.1% and Honduras qualified for debt forgiveness and restructuring under the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative which included adhering to a program of civil service reform that meant large layoffs in the public sector. Honduras joined Guatemala and El Salvador in a free trade agreement with Mexico, but ended up placing trade sanctions on Nicaragua over border and fishing rights disputes. In 2001, though reconstruction continued, Honduras was hit by a serious drought that helped reduce GDP growth to 3.5%. The trade deficit increased slightly as a percent of the GDP to 23% as exports were further depressed by a declining external demand. Inflation fell to 10%. In 2002, GDP grew about 1.4% and inflation fell to 7.7%, although the IMF withheld further disbursement of debt relief under the HIPC because the targets under the PRGF program had not been sufficiently met. The trade deficit remained inordinately high, amounting to about 25% of GDP.

The economy expanded by 5.0% in 2004, up from 3.0% in 2003; in 2005, the GDP growth rate was estimated at 4.0%, while the GDP per capita, at purchasing power parity, reached $2,900. The inflation rate was fairly stable and at 8.1% in 2004 it did not pose a major problem to the economy. The unemployment rate however, was, at 28%, very high and, together with the unequal distribution of income, represented one of the main concerns of the government. Honduras remains one of the poorest countries in the Western hemisphere and is dependent on the economy of the United States, its largest trading partner.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Honduras's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $20.6 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $2,900. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 4%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 9.2%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 12.7% of GDP, industry 31.2%, and services 56.1%.

According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $867 million or about $124 per capita and accounted for approximately 12.6% of GDP. Foreign aid receipts amounted to $389 million or about $56 per capita and accounted for approximately 5.7% of the gross national income (GNI).

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Honduras totaled $5.13 billion or about $736 per capita based on a GDP of $6.9 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 3.1%. It was estimated that in 1993 about 53% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.


In 2005, the Honduran workforce totaled an estimated 2.54 million (excluding the armed forces). In 2002, agriculture accounted for 37.4% of the labor force, with services at 41.2%, and industry at 21.4%. The unemployment rate in 2005 was estimated at 28%.

Honduras did not have effective labor legislation until 1954. It joined the ILO in 1955 and subsequently adopted several labor codes, most notably that of 1959, which established the Ministry of Labor. The code also provided for union organization, collective bargaining, arbitration, social security, and fair labor standards. The principal labor organizations in 2002 were the Confederation of Honduran Workers (CTH), the General Workers' Central (CGT), and the Unitary Confederation of Honduran Workers (CUTH). Although retribution against union activity is prohibited by law, it frequently occurs. Only 14% of the workforce was unionized in 2002.

The law sets the maximum at an 8-hour day, a 44-hour week, and a 24-hour rest period each week. Because of high unemployment and a lack of government enforcement, however, these regulations are often not enforced. The labor code disallows children under 16 from working; however, in actuality, economic necessity and a lack of government enforcement mean that many children do work, especially on small farms in rural areas and as street vendors in cities. As of 2002, the daily minimum wage ranged from $2.25 to $4.08.


Over 16% of the national territory is agriculturally productive; because of the uneconomical system of land use, much arable land has not been exploited. Agriculture is the primary sector of the economy, accounting for about 13% of GDP and 32% of employment in 2003. Farming methods are inefficient, and crop yields and qualities are low. The principal export crops are bananas and coffee; the major subsistence crops are corn, sorghum, beans, and rice. In 200204, crop production was 11% higher than during 19992001. The trade surplus in agricultural products totaled $173.7 million in 2004. Crop production for 2004 included: sugarcane, 5,363,000 tons; bananas, 965,000 tons; sorghum, 52,500 tons; dry beans, 69,900 tons; rice, 29,100 tons.

Since 1972, agrarian reform has been an announced priority of the national government. In January 1975, plans were made for the distribution of 600,000 hectares (1,483,000 acres) of land among 100,000 families over a five-year period. The program was suspended in 1979 because of lack of funds and pressure from landowners; by that time, only about one-third of the goal had been met. The reform program was revived in the early 1980s, and in 1982, lands totaling 27,960 hectares (69,090 acres) were distributed to 4,000 peasant families. By 1986, however, land reform was at a virtual standstill; peasant groups, demanding immediate land distribution, staged "land invasions" and seized the offices of the National Agrarian Institute in San Pedro Sula. The agricultural modernization law eliminated subsidized credit to small farmers, while high commercial interest rates squeezed small farmers from the credit market.


Honduran consumption of milk and meat is traditionally low. However, pastures account for 13.8% of the total land area. Poor transportation facilities are a barrier to the development of stock raising and dairying, two potentially profitable economic activities. Honduras has nearly 100,000 livestock operations, mostly small or medium-sized producers. About 50% of all cattle ranches are 50 hectares (124 acres) or smaller, and 95% of all ranches have less than 100 head. In 2005, the cattle population was estimated at 2,500,000 head; hogs, 490,000; horses and mules, 250,600; and chickens, 18,700,000. That year, 1,761,950 tons of raw milk and 40,900 tons of eggs were produced. During 200204, livestock and poultry production had increased 6% since 19992001.


There is commercial fishing in Puerto Cortés, and other areas are served by local fishermen. A small local company operates a cannery for the domestic market on the Gulf of Fonseca. There is a commercial fishing concern on the island of Guanaja, and a large refrigeration-factory ship is engaged in freezing shrimp and lobster near Caratasca. In 2003, the total catch was 30,835 tons. Shrimp accounted for about 65% of the total catch, taken mostly from southern shrimp farms. Exports of fish products amounted to $46.3 million in 2003.


About 48% of Honduras is covered by forests, including stands of longleaf pine and such valuable hardwoods as cedar, ebony, mahogany, and walnut. Total roundwood production in 2004 amounted to 9.5 million cu m (335 million cu ft), and forest products exports were valued at $43.1 million. The National Corporation for Forestry Development (Corporación Hondureña de Desarrollo Forestal), established in 1974, is charged with the overall preservation, exploitation, and exportation of Honduran forest resources. The privatization of government-owned woodlands is expected to intensify the use of forestry resources. A restriction on the export of raw wood also is causing growth in the woodworking industry for semifinished wood products.


The mineral resources of Honduras consisted of cadmium, cement, gold, gypsum, iron oxide pigments, lead, limestone, marble, pozzolan, rhyolite, salt, silver, and zinc, a leading export commodity. However, inadequate transportation continued to hamper full development of the country's mineral resources. In the mid-1990s, the El Mochito Mine, in Santa Bárbara, was the country's only large operating base metal mine. By the end of 2002, the mine's proven and probable reserves stood at 3.2 million tons at an average grade of 6.8% zinc, 1.9% lead, and 78 grams per ton of silver. Estimated and indicated reserves were placed at 4.3 million tons, with inferred reserves at 2.4 million tons. Lead and zinc concentrates from the mine contributed less than 2% to GDP, which grew 5% in 2001, with the completion of reconstruction from Hurricane Mitch. Under 0.3% of the Honduran labor force was employed in the mining sector.

In 2003, production of mined zinc was estimated at 46,500 metric tons, up from 46,339 metric tons in 2002. Lead mine output in 2003 was estimated at 8,000 metric tons. Silver and gold production in 2003 totaled 2,040 kg and 3,029 kg, respectively in 2003. Limestone output that same year was estimated at 1.23 million metric tons, unchanged from 2001 and 2002.


Honduras has no known proven reserves of oil, natural gas, coal or refining capacity. Therefore, it must import all the refined petroleum products natural gas or coal that it consumes. However, it is nearly self-sufficient for its own electricity needs. In 2002, imports and consumption of refined oil products averaged 38,710 barrels per day and 38,340 barrels per day, respectively. Coal was also imported that year, amounting to 186,000 short tons of hard coal, of which consumption came to 155,000 short tons. There were no imports or consumption of natural gas in 2002.

Honduras's electric power sector is heavily reliant upon fossil fueled plants and hydropower. However, the country is facing increasing demand for electric power and the possibility of power shortages due to underperforming hydroelectric facilities. In 1998, for example, a drought induced by El Niño forced the government to declare an energy emergency. Since then, the government has sought to diversify its sources of electric power via the construction of thermal power plants. In 2002, electric power generating capacity was 0.923 million kW, with hydropower accounting for 0.435 million kW and conventional thermal plants 0.488 million kW. In the same year, consumption of electricity totaled 3.371 billion kWh, while output came to 3.195 billion kWh, with hydropower accounting for 1.594 billion kWh, and 1.601 billion kWh from conventional thermal plants.


Industry as a whole supplied 32% of Honduras's GDP in 2000 and employed 21% of the work force. Manufacturing has traditionally been limited to small-scale light industry supplying domestic requirements.

Assembly plant operations developed in the 1970s, especially after a free-trade zone was established in Puerto Cortes in 1975. San Pedro Sula is the center for matches, cigars, cigarettes, cement, meatpacking, sugar, beer and soft drinks, fats and oils, processed foods, shoes, and candles. Tegucigalpa has plants for the manufacture of plastics, furniture, candles, cotton textiles, and leather. The country has also established a well-known apparel assembly industry in the maquiladora sector, which employed over 125,000 workers in 2001. As of 2002, Honduras was the second-largest exporter of maquiladora items to the US market.

Production in the manufacturing industry, mainly of nondurable goods, has realized significant growth in the late 1990s and into the 2000s. The largest growth has been seen in the construction sector, which rebounded after the destruction wrought by Hurricane Mitch in 1998. The electric, gas, and water sectors gained almost 9%. However, in 1999 a fire temporarily closed the Cajon hydroelectric plant that had supplied 40% of the country's electricity. The electronic distribution system was privatized in 2000.

The industrial production growth rate in 2003 was 7.7%, higher than the overall GDP growth rate, and an indicator that industry was an economic growth engine. In 2005, industry accounted for 31.2% of the GDP and it employed around 21% of the labor force. Services were by far the largest sector, with a 56.1% share of the economy, while agriculture was the smallest one, with a 12.7% share.


The Honduran Academy (founded in 1949), the Honduran Coffee Institute, and the National Agriculture Institute are all located in Tegucigalpa. The José Cecilio del Valle University (founded in 1978) has engineering and computer science departments, and the National Autonomous University of Honduras (founded in 1847) has faculties of medicine, pharmacy, dentistry, and engineering. The Pan-American Agricultural School (founded in 1942) has students from 20 Latin American countries. The National Museum in Tegucigalpa has natural history exhibits. In 198797, science and engineering students accounted for 24% of college and university enrollments.

In 2000, there were 74 researchers and 261 technicians per million people who were actively engaged in research and development (R&D) activities. For that same year, R&D spending by Honduras totaled $8.346 million, or 0.05% of GDP. In 2002, high technology exports by Honduras totaled $5 million, accounting for 2% of that country's manufactured exports.


The principal distribution centers include Puerto Cortes and San Pedro Sula, the latter of which is the commercial and industrial capital on the nation. Tegucigalpa is a leading center of retail trade. In major cities, shops are comparable to those in Central American towns. In the countryside, small markets and stores supply staple needs. As of 2002, there were about 55 foreign franchise companies present in the country. That number is expected to rise rapidly as local business managers become interested in franchise agreements. Foreign investment is encouraged, but in certain industries, the law requires that majority ownership be by Hondurans. The government maintains a certain degree of price management and controls over some items, including coffee, medicine, gasoline, milk, and sugar. A 12% sales tax applies to many goods and services, with the exception of staple food items and certain health and educational expenses.

Business hours are generally from 8 am to noon and 1:30 or 2 to 5 or 6 pm on weekdays and 8 to 11 am on Saturdays. Banks in Tegucigalpa are open from 9 am to 3 pm, Monday through Friday.


Honduras remains at the forefront of Central American economic integration efforts. In May 1992, Honduras signed several trade agreements with its neighbors, including Free Trade Agreements with Guatemala and El Salvador, and a Honduran/Salvadoran/Guatemalan Northern Triangle Accord, with the intent of accelerating regional integration. Honduras is also a member of the WTO and the CACM. Free trade agreements were under discussion with Chile, Panama, Mexico, the Andean Community, Taiwan, and the Dominican Republic in 1999.

The most important export from Honduras is coffee (33%), followed by printed matter (13%), and the cultivation of fruits and nuts (10%). Other major exports include shrimp and lobster (3.5%), wood and logging products, including paper (4.1%), and tobacco (2.4%).

In 2005, exports reached $1.7 billion (FOBFree on Board), while imports grew to $4.1 billion (FOB). In 2004, the bulk of exports went to the United States (54.4%), El Salvador (8.1%), Germany (5.9%), and Guatemala (5.4%). Imports included manufactures

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 961.8 3,105.3 -2,143.5
United States 448.9 1,210.7 -761.8
El Salvador 138.7 171.7 -33.0
Guatemala 63.3 261.6 -198.3
Germany 53.6 38.5 15.1
Netherlands 27.1 15.1 12.0
Belgium 23.4 23.6 -0.2
Costa Rica 22.1 149.9 -127.8
Japan 17.4 168.4 -151.0
Nicaragua 16.5 48.9 -32.4
Jamaica 15.1 15.1
() data not available or not significant.

and industrial raw materials, machinery and transport equipment, minerals and fuels, and food and animal products, and mainly came from the United States (37.5%), Guatemala (6.9%), Mexico (5.4%), Costa Rica (4.3%), and El Salvador (4%).


Since 1973, trade balances have been negative. Investment income repatriated by foreign companies in Honduras is an endemic burden on the local economy. The Honduran authorities have generally adhered to the policies of fiscal and monetary restraint that were introduced early in 1959, following a period of exceptional strain on the country's international reserves. The fall in reserves resulted from a decline in income from the banana industry and reduced international prices for other major exports. Political instability in the region in the late 1970s to the mid-1980s, together with low commodity prices and high oil prices, had an adverse effect on the balance of payments. The 1990s brought a continuation of the negative trade balance (averaging 7% of GDP), especially after the increase of imports after Hurricane Mitch. However, increases in agricultural and clothes exports are forecast to improve the balance of payments situation. International reserves reached $700 million in 1999 due, in part, to increased remittances from abroad, and international aid following the hurricane ($300 million from the United States alone).

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reported that in 2001 the purchasing power parity of Honduras's exports was $2 billion while imports totaled $2.7 billion, resulting in a trade deficit of $700 million.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2001 Honduras had exports of goods totaling $1.93 billion and imports totaling $2.81 billion. The services credit totaled $481 million and debit $653 million.

Exports of goods reached $1.6 billion in 2004, up from $1.4 billion in 2003. Imports increased from $3.1 billion in 2003, to $3.7

Current Account -279.2
   Balance on goods -987.2
     Imports -3,065.4
     Exports 2,078.2
   Balance on services -77.0
   Balance on income -183.3
   Current transfers 968.2
Capital Account 21.0
Financial Account -20.0
   Direct investment abroad
   Direct investment in Honduras 198.0
   Portfolio investment assets -4.1
   Portfolio investment liabilities
   Financial derivatives
   Other investment assets -77.6
   Other investment liabilities -136.3
Net Errors and Omissions 76.1
Reserves and Related Items 202.1
() data not available or not significant.

billion in 2004. The resource balance was consequently negative in both years, deteriorating from -$1.7 billion in 2003, to -$2.1 billion in 2004. The current account balance followed a similar path, worsening from -$292 million in 2003, to -$391 million in 2004. Foreign exchange reserves (including gold) reached $2.2 billion in 2005, covering more than six months of imports.


In 1950, the Central Bank of Honduras (Banco Central de Honduras), the sole bank of issue, was established to centralize national financial operations and to replace foreign currencies then in circulation. In 2002, there were 22 commercial banks in Honduras with an estimated $3.4 billion in assets. In addition, there are some 150 nonbank financial institutions, many of them associated with the major banks. The Banco Atlántida, the most important commercial bank, accounts for over one-half of the total assets of private banks. US banks play a significant role in the commercial system: the Atlántida is affiliated with Chase Manhattan, and the second-largest commercial bank, the Banco de Honduras, is affiliated with Citibank of New York.

The government-controlled banks, including the National Development Bank, the National Agricultural Development Bank, and the Municipal Bank, provide credit for development projects. The National Development Bank extends agricultural and other creditmainly to the tobacco, coffee, and livestock industriesand furnishes technical and financial assistance and other services to national economic interests. The Municipal Bank gives assistance at the local level.

In 1990, the Central Bank devalued the lempira and let it float freely until 1994, when a currency auction was created. The year of 1995 saw the Financial Sector Reform Law, which created a modern Banking Commission. Elements of Central Bank reforms in 1997 included the abolition of the government's right to borrow at below-market rates of interest. The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $800.6 million. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $3.3 billion.

In 1990, a stock exchange opened in San Pedro Sula to raise short-term bond finance for local businesses.


The oldest insurance company in Honduras is Honduras Savings (Ahorro Hondureño), established in 1917. Five other companies deal with life insurance and other types of policies. The number and the role of foreign companies in the insurance sector have decreased because of government incentives to domestic underwriters. In 2002, direct premiums written totaled $190 million, of which the largest portion, $142 million, was nonlife premiums. In 2003, the top nonlife insurer was Ahorro, with gross written nonlife premiums of $19.3 million. In that same year, the country's leading life insurer was Palic, with gross written life insurance premiums of $16.5 million.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Honduras's central government took in revenues of approximately $1.6 billion and had expenditures of $1.9 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$245 million. Public debt in 2005 amounted to 70.5% of GDP. Total external debt was $4.675 billion.


Personal income in Honduras is taxed according to a progressive schedule with rates running from 1025%. In 2001, the personal exemption level equaled six times the average income in Honduras whereas the threshold for the 25% bracket was 36 times the average income (down from over 100 times the average in 1997). Social security taxes are also collected. No distinction is made for tax purposes between individuals and businesses. Agricultural activities and industries classified as "basic" receive favorable depreciation rates. The corporate tax rate is 25%, with a 5% solidarity tax added. Profits from branch operations are taxed at 15%. The main indirect tax is a value-added tax (VAT) with a standard rate of 12%. An increased rate of 15% is applied to some items. Excise taxes are imposed mainly on beer and cigarettes, but also on imported matches, soft drinks, imported sugar, and new motor vehicles. New industries are exempted from income and production taxes and import duties for up to 10 years.

District and municipal governments obtain their revenues from taxes on amusements and livestock consumption, and from permits, licenses, registrations, certifications, storage charges, transfers of real estate, and fines.


Most imports from outside the CACM are subject to a common external tariff (CET) ranging from 020%. Duties are levied ad valorem over the cost, insurance, and freight (CIF) value of goods. Honduras also imposes a sales tax (12% on most goods, 15% for alcohol and tobacco) and consumption tax on selected imports: 20% on alcoholic beverages, 35% on motor vehicles, and 55% on cigarettes. Capital goods are admitted at a tariff rate of only 1%.

In June 1992, the Central Bank of Honduras eliminated the need for most import permits and foreign exchange authorizations.


Traditionally, the Honduran attitude toward foreign enterprise has been favorable. Foreign capital is treated in the same way as domestic capital; however, firms in the distribution, health services, telecommunications, fishing and hunting, mining, insurance and financial services, or lumber business must have 51% Honduran ownership. Honduran economic development has been powerfully influenced by foreign investment in agriculture, industry, commerce, and other economic sectors.

Since 1910, the Standard and Fruit and Steamship Co. and United Brands (formerly the United Fruit Company) have developed railroads, ports, plantations, cattle farms, lumber yards, breweries, electric power, housing, and education. All contracts, aside from commodity exports, were canceled on 15 September 1975; plans to convert banana-marketing operations into a joint venture fell through, however, and in 1976, the government instead expropriated large tracts of land from the banana producers. Mines have been developed by the New York and Honduras Rosario Mining Co.

In 1998, annual foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows into Honduras totaled almost $100 million, down from $128 million in 1997. Annual FDI inflows more than doubled from 1999 to 2001, averaging $238 million.

The United States has historically been, and remains today, Honduras's largest investor, accounting for at least three-quarters FDI in Honduras. More than 100 American companies operate there. About 75% of those companies produce apparel, but the largest US investments in Honduras have been in the agribusiness sector. Other important sectors include petroleum products, marketing, electric power generation, banking, insurance, and tobacco.

US franchises have substantially increased their presence in recent years, mostly in the fast food sector. Other major investors include Japan, El Salvador, Korea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Total capital inflows reached $198 million in 2003 (or 3.0% of the GDP), up from $172 billion in 2002, but still far from the 2000 historical high of $282 million.


During the administration of President Callejas, between 1990 and 1993, economic policy was mostly based on neoliberal ideas. This included a move from an inward-oriented policy to an export-oriented one. In addition, privatization was deeply emphasized. During that period, GDP was characterized by consistent growth. At the same time the country's galloping inflation was reduced to single digits. Government corruption, however, prompted citizens to vote Callejas out of office.

The November 1993 elections gave birth to a new political era in Honduras. President Reina of the Liberal Party was expected to slow down the pace of market-oriented reforms, but to continue privatization. Strong growth in nontraditional exports and the prospects for an improvement in coffee prices helped to finance the current account deficit. The continuation of foreign aid and investment was essential to closing the Honduras trade gap.

Reforms in the late 1990s were focused on alleviating the lot of the poorest citizens in Honduras, and improving international competitiveness. Hurricane Mitch in 1998 damaged the economy (particularly banana exports), as did low world coffee prices in the early 2000s, and cold weather and heavy rains in 200203 harmed the harvest (coffee revenues were down to $161 million in 2001, from $340 million in 2000). The garment-manufacturing industry, the third-largest in the world, turned in a strong performance in early 2003. In 2000, Honduras became eligible under the International Monetary Fund (IMF)/World Bank Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative for $900 million in debt service relief.

The economic growth of 2005 was mainly led by an increase in consumption and exports. However, consumption levels are expected to grow slower than the overall economic growth (despite a rise in remittances from abroad) due to the impact on wages of above-target inflation. Maquilas and tourism, as well as major public development projects, will likely benefit the economy in coming years, although they can also lead to high levels of indebtedness.


The social insurance program covers accidents, illness, maternity, old age, occupational disease, unemployment, disability, death, and other circumstances affecting the capacity to work. Social security services are furnished and administered by the Honduran Social Security Institute and financed by contributions from employees, employers, and the government. Workers contribute 1% of their earnings toward retirement, disability, and survivor insurance, while employers paid 2% of their payroll. Retirement is set at age 65 for men and age 60 for women. These programs exclude domestic, temporary and some agricultural workers. Workers' medical benefits include medical care and surgery, hospitalization and medications, and appliances.

Violence against women remains widespread although the penal code classifies domestic violence and sexual harassment as crimes. These laws are not effectively enforced. Cultural attitudes toward women limit career opportunities, and women mostly work in low status jobs. Women are treated equally under the law in divorce cases. There is a growing problem of child abuse, and trafficking in children continues.

The government's human rights record has improved since 1995, but serious abuses still occur, including torture and killing by the police. Human rights groups have challenged the existence of organized death squads.


Health conditions in Honduras are among the worst in the Western Hemisphere. There are an estimated 83 physicians, 25 nurses, and 1 dentist per 100,000 people. The Inter-American Cooperative Public Health Service, created in 1942 under the joint sponsorship of Honduras and the United States, has contributed to public health through malaria control, construction of water systems and sewage disposal plants, personnel training, and the establishment of a national tuberculosis sanatorium. US Peace Corps volunteers help train personnel for urban and rural clinics. Nearly 39% of children under five years of age were considered malnourished as of 2000. Honduras started fortifying sugar with vitamin A in 1996. Health care expenditure was relatively high, estimated at 8.6% of GDP.

Major causes of illness and death are diseases of the digestive tract, intestinal parasites, accidents, suicides, influenza, pneumonia, cancer, and infant diseases. Malnutrition, impure water, poor sewage disposal, and inadequate housing are the major health problems. In 2000, 90% of the population had access to safe drinking water and 77% had adequate sanitation. In 1995, there were 4,717 cases of cholera, of which 77 turned fatal. In 1995, there were 1,022 malaria cases per 100,000 people. Honduras has been hard hit by AIDS. The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 1.80 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 63,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 4,100 deaths from AIDS in 2003. Immunization rates for children up to one year old were as follows: tuberculosis, 99%; diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 94%; polio, 93%; and measles, 89%. The government pays 79% of routine immunization bills. As of 2002, the birth rate was estimated at 31 per 1,000 people and the general mortality rate at 5 per 1,000 people. About 50% of married women (ages 15 to 49) were using contraception. In 2000 the total fertility rate was 3.9 children per mother during her childbearing years. The infant mortality rate in 2005 was 26.47 per 1,000 live births. Life expectancy in the same year was an average of 69.30 years.


Housing shortages and lack of access to basic utilities in existing housing units has been an ongoing problem throughout most of the country. In recent years, the government has initiated and participated in several programs focusing on low-income housing construction. These have included a $30-million low-cost housing program sponsored by the Housing Finance Corp. and a $19-million venture undertaken by the National Housing Institute.

As of 2000, about 90% of the population had access to improved water sources; 77% of the population had access to improved sanitation systems. As of the 2001 census, there were about 1,487,319 housing units in the nation. The vast majority of housing units are individual homes, about 66% of which are considered to be deficient. Many homes are simply made of cardboard or plastic structures that house from 4 to 10 people in a single room.


Public education is free and compulsory for six years (ages 6 to 12). After these six years of primary education, students take three years of lower secondary school and two years of upper secondary school. In the upper level, students choose between literary or scientific tracks. Students may also choose to attend a three-year technical school at the upper level. The academic year runs from February to November.

In 2001, about 21% of children between the ages of four and six were enrolled in some type of preschool program. It is estimated that about 79% of all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 34:1 in 2003. As of 1998, there were 169,430 students enrolled in secondary schools.

The major university is the National Autonomous University of Honduras, founded at Tegucigalpa in 1847, with branches at San Pedro Sula and La Ceiba. There are several other universities, as well as technical and agricultural schools. In 2001, about 15% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in some type of higher education program. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 80%.

As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 4% of GDP.


Although the National Archive and Library of Honduras was established in 1880 to conserve and maintain the records of the republic, no great attention has been shown to government documents and other records in modern times. The National Archive and Library (40,000 volumes) includes land titles dating from 1580, historical documents dating from the 17th century, a newspaper collection from 1880 onward, a civil registry, and a collection of laws since 1880. The Ministry of Education has charge of the National Archive, as well as of other libraries and museums. The National University's library in Tegucigalpa contains over 200,000 volumes.

In Tegucigalpa, the National Museum exhibits historical and archeological works and the Miguel Paz Baraona Historical Museum highlights the personal effects of the national hero as well as the country's history. Also in Tegucigalpa are the National Art Gallery, the Museum of Natural History, and the Museum of Military History. The Museum of Anthropology in San Pedro Sula covers regional history from 1500 bc to present day and houses an impressive collection of Mayan artifacts. The Mayan Museum of Sculpture is in Copan. A Colonial Museum in Comayagua contains a collection of religious art and artifacts.


The government owns and operates postal, telephone, and telegraph services. Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula are linked by a multiplex radio relay network. The Tropical Radio Co. provides international radiotelegraph and radiotelephone service. In 2003, there were an estimated 48 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people; about 342,200 people were on a waiting list for telephone service installation. The same year, there were approximately 49 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.

As of 1998, Honduras had 241 AM and 53 FM radio stations. In 1997, there were 11 television stations. In 2003, there were an estimated 411 radios and 119 television sets for every 1,000 people. About 21.6 of every 1,000 people were cable subscribers. Also in 2003, there were 13.6 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 25 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. There were 31 secure Internet servers in the country in 2004.

The country's principal newspapers (with 2004 circulation) were El Heraldo (30,000), Tiempo (30,000), and La Tribuna (20,000), all published in Tegucigalpa, and La Prensa (62,000), published in San Pedro Sula. La Tribuna is owned by President Flores.

The constitution provides for freedom of speech and press, and the government is said to generally respect these rights. The media itself, however, is said to be subject to a high degree of politicization and corruption.


The Chamber of Commerce and Industries has its headquarters in Tegucigalpa; chambers of commerce also function in San Pedro Sula, La Ceiba, and other towns. Business and industry organizations include the Federation of Agricultural Producers and Exporters, the Honduran Manufacturers Association, and the Honduran Association of Sugar Producers. Various professional associations are also active.

The National Federation of University Students of Honduras is an active student movement. Other national youth organizations include scouting and YMCA/YWCA programs. There are several sports associations promoting amateur competition in such pastimes as tennis, football (soccer), badminton, tae kwon do, and baseball. There are also active branches of the Special Olympics.

Volunteer service organizations, such as the Lions Clubs International, are present. There are national chapters of the Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, Caritas, and CARE.


The main tourist attraction is the restoration at Copán, the second-largest city of the ancient Mayan Empire. There are many beaches on the northern and southern coasts where there is vibrant underwater life. Fishing is popular in Trujillo Bay and Lake Yojoa. A valid passport is needed for entry, and all visitors need visas except for nationals of the United States, and of the countries of Central and South America. Evidence of vaccination against yellow fever is required if traveling from an infected country.

Approximately 610,535 tourists visited Honduras in 2003, an 11% increase from 2002. About 57% of the visitors came from Central America. There were 18,590 hotel rooms with 26,897 beds that same year. The average length of stay was estimated at 10 nights. Gross tourism expenditures totaled $341 million.

In 2004, the US Department of State estimated the cost of staying in Tegucigalpa at $173 per day. Daily costs in San Pedro Sula were estimated at $163 in 2002.


José Cecilio del Valle (17801834), a member of the French Academy of Sciences, was an intellectual, a political leader, and the author of the Central American declaration of independence. Francisco Morazán (17991842) was the last president of the United Provinces of Central America, which lasted from 1823 to 1839. Father José Trinidad Reyes (17971855) founded an institute in 1847 that became the National University. Outstanding literary figures were Marco Aurelio Soto (18461908), an essayist and liberal president; Ramón Rosa (184893), an essayist and biographer; Policarpo Bonilla (18581926), a politician and author of political works; Alberto Membreño (18591921), a philologist; Juan Ramón Molina (18751908), a modernist poet; Froilán Turcios (18751943), a novelist and writer of fantastic tales; Rafael Heliodoro Valle (18911959), a historian and biographer; and Ramón Amaya Amador (19161966), a journalist and left wing political figure. Contemporary writers include Eduardo Bähr (b.1940), Roberto Sosa (b.1930), Amanda Castro (b.1962), Javier Abril Espinoza (b.1967), and Roberto Quesada (b.1962).


Honduras has no territories or colonies.


Binns, Jack R. The United States in Honduras, 19801981: An Ambassador's Memoir. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland and Co., 2000.

Calvert, Peter. A Political and Economic Dictionary of Latin America. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2004.

D and B's Export Guide to Honduras. Parsippany, N.J.: Dun and Bradstreet, 1999.

Euraque, Dar'io A. Reinterpreting the Banana Republic: Region and State in Honduras, 18701972. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996.

Health in the Americas, 2002 edition. Washington, D.C.: Pan American Health Organization, Pan American Sanitary Bureau, Regional Office of the World Health Organization, 2002.

Kelly, Joyce. An Archaeological Guide to Northern Central America: Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 1996.

Meyer, Harvey Kessler. Historical Dictionary of Honduras. 2nd ed. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1994.

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Republic of Honduras

Major City:

Other Cities:
Amapala, Comayagua, Copán, La Ceiba, Puerto Cortés, San Pedro Sula, Santa Bárbara, Santa Rosa de Copán, Tela


This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report dated June 1996. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at for the most recent information available on travel to this country.


HONDURAS , whose name is derived from the depth, or hondura, of the waters which surround its northern shores, is an underdeveloped Central American nation, struggling to improve its economic and social circumstances. It has had a history of turbulence since the coming of the Spaniards early in the 16th centurypolitical struggles, war with its neighbors, intervention by others in its internal affairsall major deterrents to the encouragement of progress.

Honduras is a country of rugged and varied terrain, a predominantly rural aspect, and a strong Indo-His-panic culture. Its ancient temple city of Copán was one of the great ceremonial centers of the vast Mayan empire.



Tegucigalpa, capital of the Republic of Honduras, is in a mountain-ringed valley about 3,200 feet above sea level. It is a provincial and picturesque city full of contrasts between the antique and the modern. At several points, streets of stairs connect one level of the city with another. At others, the city climbs the hillsides on terraces.

The predominant architectural style is Spanish colonial. Central Tegucigalpa is built around the traditional square. Narrow streets, remaining cobblestones, blank walls pierced by heavy doors and iron-grilled windows, and reddish tile roofs all add to an impression of architectural unity. But this unity is now being broken by the construction of new, modern buildings. Traces of former days contrast sharply with the new, modern residential sections surrounding the old town.

Spaniards founded Tegucigalpa in 1579 as a silvermining town with the imposing name of Real Minas de San Miguel de Tegus Galpa. In Indian language this means hill or mountain of silver. In 1880 the capital of the republic was transferred from Comayagua to Tegucigalpa. Until 1898, Tegucigalpa and Comayaguela, two settlements divided by the Choluteca River, were separate towns. The two were united in 1898 with the provision that each should retain its own municipal council. It was not until 1938 that they, together with other neighboring communities, were united to form the Central District.


Pasteurized, fresh milk, as well as cheese, butter, eggs, cooking oil, and ice cream are available locally. Occasional shortages occur of items such as milk, eggs, flour, rice, beans, and chicken. Satisfactory locally bottled beer and soft drinks are also available.

Good quality frying chickens are available. Several outlets sell good quality beef (including fillet), veal, ham, and pork. Cuts and taste often differ from US meats. Good frozen and fresh lobster tails and shrimp are available at reasonable prices. Several supermarkets carry a fluctuating supply of local and imported food items and local meats. Items imported from the US are slightly more expensive due to high transportation costs and import duties.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are available year round, but supplies vary with the season. Local vegetables include tomatoes, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, beets, corn, eggplant, and lettuce. Avocados, oranges, bananas, limes, melons, pineapples, and other tropical fruits are available year round.


Summer clothing is suitable for most of the year in Tegucigalpa. Bring a complete wardrobe, as local selection is limited, expensive, and of lower quality. Local tailors and seamstresses are good, but quality materials are expensive. Tegucigalpa's weather is tropical by day and cool in the early morning and evening. During the cool season (mid-November to February) it may be chilly during the day. At this time, lightweight wools and long sleeves are worn.

Men: Bring tropical-worsted, dacron, and other lightweight suits. One or two lightweight woolen suits or slacks with sport jackets are comfortable for cooler months.

Locally manufactured shirts (some well-known US brands) compare to those made in the US and cost about the same. Many men purchase locally made "guayaberas" (loose-fitting shirts), which are frequently worn at casual gatherings. Bring a supply of shoes, as those available locally are not the same quality as those made in the US.

Women: Bring a good supply of lightweight, synthetic, cotton, and cotton-blend clothes for the dry and rainy seasons. During the cool season, you may use long-sleeved synthetic knits, lightweight wools, sweaters, light jackets, and blazers. Include street-length dresses and skirts, separates, and sports clothes in your wardrobe. Shorts are inappropriate except for the beach. Rainy weather and unpaved streets are hard on shoes. Bring sandals, sport shoes, and boots for picnics and hiking. Bring plenty of lingerie and hose or panty hose, since sizes, styles, and colors are limited, and quality is only fair. Good quality imported items are expensive here.

Children: Local prices for imported children's wear are high and selection is limited. Children will need washable synthetic or cotton clothing most of the year with sweaters and/or jackets for cool months, and umbrellas. All schools in Tegucigalpa require uniforms for which materials can be purchased locally.

Supplies And Services

Local shops are open from 9 am to noon and 2 pm to 6 pm daily and 8 am to noon on Saturdays. Several large grocery stores are open on Sundays from 10 am to 6 pm.

Tailors and seamstresses are available in Tegucigalpa. Most make only simple, inexpensive clothes. A variety of material is available in all price ranges; however, quality material is expensive and selection is fair to poor.

Dry-cleaning is adequate for most fabrics, except leather. Laundry service is available. Shoe repair is satisfactory. Beauty shops and barbershops offer adequate service, but operators are not professionally trained, and sanitary precautions are not as strict as in the US. The barbershop in the Hotel Maya is cheap, excellent and hygienic.

Religious Activities

Most faiths are represented in Tegucigalpa. English-speaking Catholic and Protestant services are available. Tegucigalpa has several Catholic and Protestant Missions representing the Seventh Day Adventists, Assembly of God, Central American Mission, Baptist, Four-Squared Gospel, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mennonites, Lutheran, Mormon, Southern Baptist, and World Gospel Mission. The American community is also served by the nondenominational Union Church and an English-language Episcopal Church.

Most Hondurans are Roman Catholic. Highlights of the religious calendar in Tegucigalpa are Christmas and Semana Santa (Holy Week). Christmas week through New Year's Eve is celebrated with much gaiety and fireworks. Holy Week is rigorously observed. Most stores and all government offices remain closed from Wednesday through Sunday. Vehicular traffic on Good Friday is minimal. Honduran Catholics celebrate February 2 and 3 as feast days of the Patron Saint of Honduras, Our Lady of Suyapa.


The largest school in Tegucigalpa offering a US curriculum is the American School. The school, a private institution organized under Honduran law, is not affiliated with the US Government. An elected school board, which includes US members, administers the school. About 10% of the student body are US citizens, 80% are Hondurans, and 10% are other nationalities. Enrollment is about 1,000, including pre-kindergarten through grade 12. Through guidance and financial support of the State Department's Office of Overseas Schools, it has improved significantly, upgrading teacher's professionalism and improving facilities. A new building for the high school was completed in 1991 and a new preschool complex will be completed in the Spring of 1995. The school has a large gym and modern exercise equipment.

Most classes are conducted in English with one period of Spanish-language instruction daily. The school follows the US curriculum through primary school (grade 6). Beginning in grade 7, students may choose from two curriculums: one prepares students to enter US colleges, the other prepares students for the National University of Honduras.

The American School is located in Colonia Las Lomas del Guijarro, a residential area. Overall, children of US parents do well at the American School, scoring above average on scholastic aptitude tests (SAT), many gaining acceptance to prestigious colleges of their choice in the US after graduation.

All students in grades K to 12 wear uniforms. Boys wear uniform pants, white, short-sleeved shirts, and dark socks. Girls wear jumpers with white, short-sleeved blouses and white socks. Girls may wear uniform pants with a white, short-sleeved blouse. All shirts/blouses must have the American School patch sewn on the sleeve. Material for the jumpers and uniform pants is available at the school as are the patches; shirts/blouses may be purchased from the school or local merchants and are readily available. A navy blue sweater or windbreaker is necessary for cooler days. Most students wear tennis shoes, or black or dark brown dress shoes on occasion. Kindergarten children wear the same uniform. The school, accredited by the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges, has a parent-teacher organization. Extracurricular activities include cheerleading, band, sports, drama, and chorus.

School begins in late August and ends in June. Advance registration is necessary; the address is:

American School
APO AA 34022
Fax (504) 32-2380

Some American children attend Academia Los Pinares. A board of missionaries administers this school, located in a highland area 1/ 2 hour by bus from Tegucigalpa. A US curriculum is followed from kindergarten through grade 12. The Honduran curriculum is also offered in grades 7 to 12. Bible study is a required course, emphasizing moral values. The grading system is academically more rigorous than that of the American School. Classes are in English with one period of Spanish-language instruction daily. Pinares offers a full range of sports activities, plus band and chorus.

Enrollment at the beginning of the 1994-95 school year was 625 in pre-kindergarten through grade 12. The enrollment was 15% US citizens, 5% other nationalities, and 80% Hondurans. The school year runs from September to June. Academia Los Pinares students wear dark green uniforms with green-and-white checkered shirts. Many students wear tennis shoes. Socks are white.

Address all correspondence to:

Director, Academia Los Pinares
Apartado 143C
ETegucigalpa, Honduras, CA

American children also attend the Discovery School, a small private preschool and elementary school located in Colonia Payaqui, a residential area. A US curriculum and hands-on approach are followed from Kindergarten through sixth grade. Classes are capped at 15 students. Classes are in English with a daily Spanish class. Enrollment for is about 30 students, in three multi-grade classes, and about 20 in the preschool. Parents interested in sending a child to the Discovery School should write directly to the school.

Discovery School
TGU 00015
P.O. Box 025387
Miami, FL 33102-5387

The Mayan School and the Elvel School are two other English-language schools in Tegucigalpa. Several recently opened preschools offer varied curriculums. Parents wishing to enroll their children in a preschool should visit various facilities to determine which best suits their child's needs.

Special Educational Opportunities

The University of Honduras offers limited facilities for college age students and adults. All classes are taught in Spanish. Advanced study is usually undertaken abroad. French-language lessons are taught at the Alliance Francaise under the auspices of the French embassy. The Alliance offers an excellent curriculum from beginning to advanced studies. Guitar, piano, and marimba lessons are available.


Horseback riding is popular, and you can enjoy it year round. A stable near the outskirts of town offers English riding lessons. Horses are boarded for a monthly fee, which includes feed, utilities, rent, and membership. Lessons are available on an hourly basis after the membership fee is paid.

There are two Country Clubs which offers tennis and golf memberships. The Hotel Honduras Maya and the Alameda Hotel offer pool memberships. The Country Club and Los Delfines del Maya have competitive swim teams for young people. Bosques de Zambrano, a 40 minute drive from Tegucigalpa has indoor and outdoor pools, skeet shooting, tennis courts, picnic grounds, and restaurant services.

Tegucigalpa has three ballet schools for children and adults. Karate and judo classes are available for all ages.

Little league baseball, basketball, and soccer are played at the American School. Adults can join in pickup basketball or volleyball games.

Scuba diving, snorkeling, and fishing in the Bay Islands are fantastic. An active scuba diving club (Honduras Underwater Group) makes regular trips to various diving areas. You can also charter sailing yachts in the Bay Islands or rent small cays for overnighting.

The rugged hills around Tegucigalpa and the La Tigre cloud forest offer excellent hiking opportunities. Tegucigalpa has limited museums, zoological parks, and playgrounds.

Amateur archeologists may be interested in the Mayan ruins scattered throughout the country. All archeological relics are the property of the state, and exportation is prohibited by Honduran law and a treaty with the US.

Bring all sporting equipment and special clothing with you since selection is limited and prices are high.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

The former Presidential Palace, which has been converted into a museum is a beautiful, old building situated above the river. Near the palace is the more modern Congress building. A stroll through its columned patio area is interesting. A drive or walk up the cobblestone streets to the old La Leona section of the city leads to La Leona Park, with its lovely view of Tegucigalpa. In this area are a few colonial style homes. Concordia Park is a small popular park that has replicas of the Copan ruins.

The National Cathedral of San Miguel was begun in 1756 and consecrated in 1782. One of the oldest pieces in the church is the stone baptismal font. As you enter the valley of Tegucigalpa, you will see Suyapa Basilica, home of the Patron Saint of Honduras, the Virgin of Suyapa, etched against hills to the east.

The Pan American Agricultural School at Zamorano is about 25 miles from Tegucigalpa over a mountainous paved road. School grounds are beautiful and well kept, and the colonial style architecture of the buildings is attractive. Nearby is San Antonio de Oriente, a picturesque mining town, home of well-known Honduran primitive painter, Juan Antonio Velasquez. It is a morning's hike from the Pan American School grounds, or you can go by four-wheel-drive vehicle.

Valle de Angeles is about a 30minute drive over a paved road that winds through hills to the quaint village where you will find an arts and crafts center. Santa Lucia, near Valle de Angeles, is a small silver mining town perched on top of one of the many hills surrounding Tegucigalpa. The age of the principal church in Santa Lucia is unknown, but a wooden plaque dated 1598 was found in the old building.

Parque Aurora, a lovely park off the north road, has a lake for rowing, a picnic area, roller skating rink, miniature golf, playground equipment, and small zoo.

Comayagua, th colonial capital of Honduras, is situated in a broad valley. It is a 90 minute drive on a paved road from Tegucigalpa. Comayagua's Cathedral, built over 400 years ago, is one of the most beautiful in Central America.

Lake Yojoa, the largest lake in Honduras, is about 2½ hours from Tegucigalpa. An hour's drive from Lake Yojoa is Pulhapanzak Falls. A jeep or four-wheel-drive vehicle is recommended.

Cedeno and Choluteca are reached by a paved road, the spur that connects Tegucigalpa with the Pan American Highway on the South Coast. A dirt road leads to the bathing beach of Cedeno on the Gulf of Fonseca, southwest of Choluteca. There is excellent fishing in the many shrimp farm canals near Choluteca.

The country's cultural heritage includes the remains of a great center of pre-Columbian civilization in America, the Mayan ruins of Copan. This Mayan center rose and mysteriously declined seven centuries before Columbus set foot on Honduran soil. Since their discovery in 1893, the ruins of Copan have been explored, excavated, and studied by some of the world's leading archeologists. Copan is one of the greatest ceremonial centers of temple cities of a vast empire evolved from ancient peoples who inhabited Mexico and Central America before the birth of Christ. Visit by car or tour bus. Ranging from 10 to 40 miles off the North Coast are several picturesque islands, the largest of which are Guanaja, Roatan, and Utila. Once the haven of buccaneers and pirates, the islands are now sparsely populated by friendly descendants of English settlers who welcome all visitors. The Bay Islands offer lovely scenery, excellent snorkeling and diving, sailing, relaxed atmosphere, and good food, especially seafood. Go by boat, scheduled airlines, or chartered aircraft.

Tela, on the North Coast, has fine, sandy beaches fringed by graceful palms. Telamar, a seaside resort, offers fair accommodations. La Ceiba also on the North Coast, is accessible daily by plane.


Movie theaters show current and old American films with English soundtrack and Spanish subtitles. They also feature some Mexican, Italian, French, and British films. Prices are low, even for first-run movies (L10 per person or $1.10). Several new, air-conditioned, multi-cinema movie theaters are in the suburbs, and several comfortable movie theaters are in town.

The National School of Fine Arts has showings of local art. Classes are conducted in ceramics, painting, woodcarving, and sculpturing. The average cost per class session is L25 (US $2.80). Photography is a popular hobby. You can find considerable human interest subject matter as well as panoramic scenes. Most popular types and sizes of film are available in the commissary as is developing service for black-and-white and color films. Mail-order firms in the US can also be used for processing.

Occasionally, cultural attractions are sponsored by the US Government and other embassies. Locally produced concerts, folk festivals, and plays are also offered. Plays in English and Spanish are presented by a local dramatic group, Teatro Reforma. Mixed Company, an amateur English-speaking theater group, also presents several plays a year. Both groups welcome Hondurans and members of the international community. The National University has a theater group that presents occasional plays in Spanish. Instituto Hondureno de Cultura Interamericana (Binational Center) presents concerts, lectures, and local art shows.

Social Activities

The English-speaking Women's Club of Tegucigalpa is open to any English-speaking woman, regardless of nationality, and offers an excellent opportunity to meet Hondurans, Americans, and women from other countries. The club offers a monthly entertainment program and a variety of classes such as oil painting, international cooking, discussion groups, bridge, book club, etc.


AMAPALA is the chief Pacific port in Honduras. It is located in the southern part of the country, on Tigre Island in the Gulf of Fonseca. Lumber and coffee are shipped to Amapala by launch from the mainland for export. Amapala is about 70 miles southwest of Tegucigalpa and has a population over 4,000.

COMAYAGUA , located about 35 miles northwest of Tegucigalpa, was the most important city of colonial Honduras. Founded in 1537, Comayagua, the conservative stronghold, rivaled Tegucigalpa, dominated by liberals, in the political struggle following Honduras' independence from Spain in 1821. The two cities alternated as capital until 1880, when Tegucigalpa became the permanent site. Comayagua today is the center of an agricultural and mining region. It has colonial landmarks, including a magnificent cathedral. The population over 40,000.

COPÁN is a village of about 2,000 people on the Honduran-Guatemalan border, 125 miles northwest of Tegucigalpa. It is near the ruined city of Copán, considered to be the center of the ancient Mayan culture. Of note among the ruins is the Hieroglyphic Stairway, dating to the year 756 and bearing the lengthiest known Mayan inscription.

LA CEIBA , located in northern Honduras on the Caribbean Sea, is about 100 miles north of Tegucigalpa. Situated at the foot of Peak Bonito, La Ceiba has beautiful beaches and is a departure point for the Bay Islands. The city is a commercial and processing center for the surrounding agricultural region; coconuts and citrus fruits are shipped from its port. La Ceiba was Honduras' main banana port until disease destroyed the surrounding plantations in the 1930s. The population in 1995 was about 89,200.

PUERTO CORTÉS lies on the Gulf of Honduras near the Guatemalan border, about 100 miles west of La Ceiba. Founded in 1525, Puerto Cortés is the principal Atlantic port, exporting mainly bananas, but also coffee, coconuts, hardwood, abaca, and minerals. The population here is approximately 42,000 (1987 est.).

SAN PEDRO SULA is the second largest city in Honduras, located 100 miles northwest of Tegucigalpa. With a metropolitan population over 280,000, San Pedro Sula is a commercial center, producing foodstuffs, clothing, beverages, tobacco products, soap, and building materials. Industry here is small and consumer-oriented. The country's only railroad links northwestern banana and sugar plantations with the principal northern ports.

SANTA BÁRBARA is a commercial and administrative center in western Honduras, 80 miles northwest of Tegucigalpa. The community of over 26,000 residents, rests in the hot lowlands close to the Ulúa River and Lake Yojoa. In the city's outlying areas, livestock and sugarcane are economic mainstays; in the core, manufacturing of clothing and furniture is important. Nearby, ruins of the abandoned city of Tencoa have been found. Santa Bárbara can be reached by a spur from the Inter-Oceanic Highway; it has an airfield.

Situated 25 miles from the Guatemala border and 115 miles west of Tegucigalpa, SANTA ROSA DE COPÁN is the country's western-most major city. It was founded in the 1700s and first called Los Llanos. Today it is the commercial hub of western Honduras, with 32,000 residents. The varied economy here includes tobacco blending and cigar making, and the production of lumber, furniture, leather products, clothing, and beverages. Good transportation is assured by access to several highways in Honduras and El Salvador; Santa Rosa de Copán also has an airfield. A nearby tourist stop is the ancient Mayan city of Copán, 25 miles outside of town. Several ruins can be seen, mostly buried under tropical vegetation. Courtyards, ball courts, and stone columns are among the sites.

TELA is situated in the northwestern region on the Caribbean Sea, between Puerto Cortés and La Ceiba. It is the headquarters for a large area of banana plantations, as well as a port and commercial center. Tela has an estimated population of 71,000.


Geography and Climate

The Republic of Honduras is situated in the middle of six republics comprising the Central American Isthmus between Mexico and Panama. Roughly triangular in shape, it has a 459-mile Caribbean coastline to the north and narrows in the south to 89 miles at the Gulf of Fonseca on the Pacific Ocean. It is bounded on the west by Guatemala, the southwest by El Salvador, and the east and southeast by Nicaragua.

Honduras has an estimated land area of 43,277 square miles, slightly larger than Tennessee. Second largest of the six Central American Republics, it ranks 14th in size among all Latin American nations. However, population distribution is unequal. The northeastern part (Mosquitia, consisting of eastern Department of Colon, most of Olancho, and all of Gracias a Dios) is thinly inhabited. It comprises 44.5% of the entire national territory and only 8.6% of the population.

Honduras also has insular possessions, including the picturesque Bay Islands formed by the summit of a submerged mountain range. The Bay Islands (Roatan, Utila, Guanaja, Barbereta, Santa Elena, and Morat) form one of the country's 18 departments. Farther northeast lie the Swan Islands, previously used by the US as a weather research station and now recognized as Honduran territory. Puerto Cortes (Honduras' first container-loading facility), Tela, La Ceiba, and Puerto Castilla are major Caribbean ports. Honduras has two secondary Pacific ports: Amapala, on Tiger Island in the Gulf of Fonseca, and San Lorenzo, on the mainland.

Honduran topography is exceptionally rugged. The Central American Cordillera crosses Honduras from east to west, making it the most mountainous of the six republics. The highest mountain peaks are in the southwest. Lowlands are the northern and eastern coastal plains, a narrow southern coastal plain, and river valleys. Principal rivers are in the north and flow into the Caribbean. Government estimates list 63.6% of the land surface as mountainous and 34.4% as plains and valleys.

Geographically and commercially, the country consists of two general regions: the highlands of the interior and southern Honduras and the tropical, banana-producing North Coast. Southern coastal lowlands are grouped with the highland region because of their economic linkage with Tegucigalpa, located in southwest central Honduras.

Tegucigalpa, located in a mountain basin at about 3,200 feet, is surrounded by jutting peaks, one of which reaches over 7,000 feet. The city proper lies at the foot of and on the slopes of Mount Picacho. It is 82 miles from the Gulf of Fonseca on the Pacific coast and 230 miles from the Caribbean to the north. The Choluteca River separates Tegucigalpa and its twin city, Comayaguela. Seven small bridges connect the twin cities.

Tegucigalpa's altitude renders a moderate climate, and most days are like spring. Moderate to cool nights relieve occasional hot days. Average monthly temperatures vary from 66°F in January to 74°F in May. Extreme temperatures as low as 44°F and as high as 90°F may occur. Seasonal differences vary more in rainfall than in temperature. The rainy season usually begins in mid-May and continues through mid-November, with heavy rains ending in late October. During the rainy season, rains occur in the late afternoons and early evenings, and days are mostly sunny and clear. From mid-November to February, cooler temperatures and strong winds prevail. The hot, dry season in Tegucigalpa can be uncomfortable and lasts for about 34 months, beginning as early as mid-January. It reaches its peak in April and continues until the first rains. During this time water shortages occur, the earth becomes brown and parched, and heavy dust and smoke from brush/grassland burnings hang in the air.


Honduras' population is estimated at 6.1 million (2000), about 55 persons per square mile. Population distribution is concentrated in a rough crescent beginning at the South Coast, running through Tegucigalpa and Comayagua to San Pedro Sula, and then eastward along the North Coast through Tela to La Ceiba. Tegucigalpa, including Comayaguela (Central District), has a population of more than 800,000. Beginning in 1950, migration to the city from rural areas caused the population to rise sharply. Other population centers are San Pedro Sula, the country's industrial center; Puerto Cortes and La Ceiba on the North Coast; and Choluteca in the south.

The family is the basic social unit. Family ties extend to cousins, aunts, uncles, in-laws, and even godparents (known as "compadres"). Many families are large and often include representation from several social strata and different political affiliations. Although Roman Catholicism predominates, freedom of religion exists, and many other sects and denominations are represented.

Most Honduran Indians have been assimilated into the Hispano-American culture. Today, more than 90% of the population is comprised of mestizos, i.e., a mixture of white and Indian. A Caribbean black population is centered on the North Coast and the Bay Islands where most were born. Spanish is the official language, but North Coast blacks and most inhabitants of the Bay Islands speak an English dialect. A large colony of Catholic Palestinian emigrants is active in commerce and trade.

About 8,500 US citizens, many of whom are missionaries, reside in Honduras. Others are employed by US-based firms and the US Government. A small international colony includes British, Chinese, German, Italian, French, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, and Spanish citizens. Although some Hondurans possess great wealth, a gap exists between upper class and middle-class groups and the poorer rural and urban populations. The middle class consists principally of professionals, merchants, entrepreneurs, and government employees.

Honduras is largely agricultural. More than 29% of the population depends on agriculture for its livelihood. Basic dietary staples are corn (usually prepared as tortillas), red beans, rice, fish, and eggs. Meat and fresh vegetables are added to the diet as one progresses up the economic scale.

Public Institutions

The 1982 constitution provides for a strong executive, a unicameral National Congress, and a judiciary appointed by the National Congress. The president is directly elected to a 4-year term by popular vote. The congress also serves a 4-year term; congressional seats are assigned the parties' candidates in proportion to the number of votes each party receives in the various departments. The judiciary includes a Supreme Court of Justice, courts of appeal, and several courts of original jurisdiction--such as labor, tax, and criminal courts. For administrative purposes, Honduras is divided into 18 departments, with municipal officials selected for 4-year terms.

Reinforced by the media and several political watchdog organizations, human rights and civil liberties are reasonably well protected. There are no known political prisoners in Honduras, and the privately owned media frequently exercises its right to criticize without fear of reprisals.

Honduras held its sixth consecutive democratic elections in November 2001, to elect a new president, unicameral Congress, and mayors. For only the second time, voters were able to cast separate ballots for each office, and for the first time, denied the president-elect party's absolute majority in the Congress. The incidence of cross-voting between presidential and congressional candidates was marked.

The two major parties--the Liberal Party and the National Party--run active campaigns throughout the country. Their ideologies are mostly centrist, with diverse factions in each centered on personalities. The three smaller registered parties--the Christian Democratic Party, the Innovation and National Unity Party, and the Democratic Unification Party--have increased their political muscle in the National Congress by doubling their representation. Despite significant progress in training and installing more skillful advisers at the top of each party ladder, electoral politics in Honduras remain traditionalist and paternalistic.

Under the 1982 Constitution, the Armed Forces are entrusted with ensuring both internal and external security. A branch, the Public Security Force (FUSEP), assumes police functions. The Armed Forces also play an important role in national political and economic affairs. They have supported the democratic process.

For administrative purposes, Honduras is divided into 18 departments. The chief official of each department is a governor appointed by the President.

Arts, Science, and Education

Tegucigalpa has six institutions of higher education. The National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH), founded in 1847, has its principal campus in Tegucigalpa with branches in San Pedro Sula and La Ceiba. UNAH and the local professional associations, such as the College of Engineers, share responsibility of issuing professional licenses. The public Universidad Pedagogica Nacional and the private Jose Cecilio del Valle University, a Catholic University, are also located in Tegucigalpa. Through extension programs, non-degree students can elect courses in painting, drama, archeology, and sculpture at any of these institutions. The newest private university in Tegucigalpa is the 1987 founded Central American Technical University (UNITEC). UNITEC offers 2-year programs, as well as BS and MS degrees in fields such as accounting, computer science, and human relations. The private University of San Pedro Sula was founded in 1972 and offers degrees in business administration, economics, architecture, and anthropology.

In 1982 a scientific center of investigation was established at UNAH. The University has organized a marine biology center at La Ceiba. Despite these recent efforts, Hondurans pursue little scientific investigation and research.

The National School of Fine Arts and the National School of Music train qualified students. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism directs these institutions and sponsors the Cuadro Folklorico of Honduras and a Garifuna (a Caribbean coast ethnic group) song-and-dance group. The Institute of History and Anthropology, a part of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, maintains a small museum in one of Tegucigalpa's historic houses and offers exhibits on topics of natural history, Honduran political history, and archeology. A study center at the museum conducts archeological studies and preserves Mayan artifacts. A second museum devoted to Honduran history can be found in downtown Tegucigalpa. A museum of North coast history and anthropology recently opened in San Pedro Sula. An excellent museum is located at the famous Copan ruins.

Aside from occasional visiting cultural presentations and the opportunity to attend courses at educational institutions, cultural opportunities are limited and do not compare with those available in larger regional cities in the US.

Commerce and Industry

Agriculture is the principal industry in Honduras. Although much farming is done at a low level of technology for basic staples such as corn and beans, commercial farming for export has become increasingly important in recent years. The tropical location combined with the mountainous terrain creates a variety of micro-climates suitable for a wide range of crops. Bananas, coffee, and sugar are the most important export crops; coffee alone accounts for some 30% of total exports. Nontraditional crops such as cantaloupes, watermelons, and vegetables such as cucumbers and squash are produced for the winter market in the US on an increasingly larger scale. Many other fruits, nuts, and vegetables are also grown but have not yet become significant exports.

Despite agriculture's importance, the Honduran countryside often seems empty when viewed from the roadside. This is due to both extensive forests and extensive cattle raising areas. Although cattle ranching remains important throughout Honduras, beef production has declined recently. The same may be said for the forestry industry. Although Honduras still has abundant forest reserves, primarily pine but with extensive tropical hardwood forests in some parts, poor government policies and inadequate reforestation have reduced commercial exploitation. Much of the population still uses wood as a primary fuel. This, along with clearing land for cattle and other food production, has resulted in deforestation in southern and central areas particularly.

The fishing industry is concentrated on the North Coast and in the Bay Islands. The large fishing fleet takes lobster, shrimp, and, increasingly, fin fish for both local and export markets. Farm-grown shrimp concentrated along the Gulf of Fonseca in the south form the base of a dynamic industry, which began in earnest in the early 1980s. As over-fishing in the north causes catches to decline, aquaculture in the south increases in importance. Recently disease has hurt production in the southern shrimp farms.

Honduras historically was a mining country, producing gold, silver, lead, and zinc. However, poor policies and low mineral prices have reduced mining's importance. El Mochito, the only large mine, still produces zinc and lead. Several smaller mines are active, and individuals do placer mining for gold on rivers in the east. No petroleum production exists, but onshore exploration activities were initiated in 1991.

Manufacturing consists primarily of consumer goods for local markets. The notable exception is, the booming apparel industry that generates considerable employment, primarily on the north coast. Many local apparel companies do assembly operations for well-known US brands and companies. In 1990, the first privately operated industrial park was inaugurated and others are expected soon. Occupants of these parks and free zones include US and Asian companies producing apparel for the US market.

Although not traditionally an important tourism destination, the industry shows signs of becoming more dynamic. Reef diving off the Bay Islands and well-preserved Mayan ruins are current attractions. Accommodations on the islands have improved and new development projects are in planning stages. Two American carriers (Continental and American), as well as several Central American airlines, serve Honduras.

Principal exports are bananas, coffee, sugar, shrimp, and apparel. Other exports include tobacco products, melons, winter vegetables, wood products, and minerals. Principal imports are petroleum products, fertilizers and pesticides, plastic resins, and paper products. A wide variety of machinery, vehicles, and consumer goods also reaches Honduran markets. The US buys about 55% of Honduran exports and provides 50% of its imports.



Individually operated buses and microbuses ("busitos") provide service within Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, and nearby cities such as Choluteca and Danli. Bus fare is 75 centavos ($.08). No transfers are given, and often you must take several buses to a given destination. Taxi service is adequate in downtown areas of Tegucigalpa, but some drivers pick up as many passengers as possible along the way. Taxis can be hard to find in most residential areas and often you must walk to a main street. Major hotels and the airport in Tegucigalpa and San Perdo Sula have a fleet of cabs that charge two or three times normal rates. Taxis are not metered, so negotiate the fare first. Rental cars are available and taxis can be hired on a daily or hourly basis.


Rail service in Honduras is confined to the banana zone along the Caribbean coast and is not reliable.

Honduras has three international airports, located in Tegucigalpa, the capital city, San Pedro Sula, the commercial center and the coastal city of La Ceiba. Passenger and air freight services are reliable and efficient.

Air service from Tegucigalpa to Miami is provided by American Airlines and Taca Airlines. In addition, Taca provides service to New Orleans and Houston as well as to Guatemala City, San Salvador, Managua, San Jose, San Andres, and Panama. Continental Airlines provides air service from Tegucigalpa to Houston. Lacsa, a Costa Rican airline, provides air service via San Pedro Sula to Cancun, San Jose, Panama, Barranquilla, New Orleans, Los Angeles, and New York. Since delays can occur in receiving your baggage when coming from the US, include a change of clothing and toiletries in your carry on bags.

Islena, a domestic air carrier, connect Tegucigalpa with the North Coast and the Bay Islands. Charter service and aircraft rentals (small single and twin-engine equipment) are available from private flying services operating out of Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, and La Ceiba. Small jets land in Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, and La Ceiba.

Of Honduras' 22,724 miles of roads, about 4,053 miles are paved. Potholes are constant hazards, particularly during the rainy season. Night driving is discouraged because of such hazards as poor road conditions, animals on the road, pedestrians, unlit vehicles, and heavy commercial traffic. It takes 4 hours to drive from Tegucigalpa to San Pedro Sula.

When political and security conditions permit, you can drive to neighboring Central American capitals.

Bus service is available from Honduras to principal cities of Central America. However, buses are often overcrowded and rarely meet US safety and comfort standards. There is, however, a comfortable and very reasonably priced express bus service between Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula.


Telephone and Telegraph

Telephone service is adequate, but obtaining a telephone in a new housing area is difficult.

Telecommunications of Honduras (HONDUTEL) provides domestic and international telephone service. The monthly rate for residential telephone service is L20 (US $2.25). Additional calls and/or increased calling time increase your phone bill. Direct-dial, long-distance calling within Honduras and to the US and many other countries is available. Costs are based on destination, and rates are available through operator assistance. Night rates are charged from 10 pm to 7 am daily. Direct-dial calls placed from the continental US to Honduras are considerably cheaper. AT&T credit card holders may use the less costly "USA Direct" service. Sprint 121 service is also available. Worldwide telephone service offers good connections.

Telegraph service, also through HONDUTEL, is available to all parts of the world at a rate of L7 ($0.8) per word, including name and address. An urgent telegram costs L1.40 ($.18) a word

Radio and TV

Radio reception is satisfactory. US-style music is featured on several stations, but news is exclusively in Spanish. A good shortwave radio is necessary to receive American stations and international broadcasts including the Voice of America (VOA).

Five local TV stations can be seen in Tegucigalpa, all with Spanish-language programming. Local viewing will improve your Spanish. Some local companies offer cable service with a wide range of stations, including major networks, CNN and entertainment-oriented stations (HBO Ole, CINEMAX, etc.).

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals

Six Spanish-language dailies are published in Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula. One weekly English-language newspaper is published in Honduras. Major sources of English-language news are the Latin American air express editions of the Miami Herald, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and USA Today. They normally arrive the day of, or day after, publication.

Overseas editions of Time and Newsweek are available at several newsstands at lesser cost. Several bookstores in Tegucigalpa carry limited selections of paperbacks, US magazines, and children's books. The Binational Center library carries a good selection of US newspapers, magazines, and some technical journals.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities

If you require medication for longterm conditions, bring an adequate supply and/or make arrangements with your physician and pharmacist to ensure a continued supply. Drugs may be obtained locally but are sporadically available. In addition, finding the exact item desired can be difficult.

Many local physicians have had part or all of their medical education in the US or Europe and enjoy the confidence of the community. Diagnostic facilities, such as radiology units and laboratories, provide most basic services. Three private hospitals are utilized frequently and two have emergency services. Hospitalization is usually limited to short stays, as comfort and nursing care are only fair and services limited.

Ophthalmology and optometry services are good. A new ophthalmology clinic has up-to-date outpatient care services and 24hour emergency services. Lenses, frames, glasses, and accessories are imported but are cheaper than in the US.

Routine dental care is quite good. Orthodontia is excellent and inexpensive. Many types of medical specialists are available and often are good.

Community Health

Honduras provides very little environmental sanitation or community health controls. Tap-water is considered contaminated and must be purified by the 3 minute boil-and-filter method before using for drinking, making ice cubes, brushing teeth, or washing fresh produce. All raw food products such as fruits, vegetables, and meats should be considered contaminated, and must be treated or properly cooked. Most endemic health hazards, including intestinal parasites and bacterial infections such as typhoid and infectious hepatitis, are directly related to water and food contamination. Pasteurized milk and other dairy products are available.

During the latter part of the dry season (February-April) water shortages occur. Many homes have water storage tanks (cisterns) with electric pumps in readiness for shortages. During this same period, burning empty fields within the city results in an inordinate amount of smoke in the air. Upper respiratory infections and lung ailments, such as allergies and asthma, may be exacerbated during this period of dry, dusty, warm weather with smoke. If you are subject to any of these illnesses, bring a nebulizer, vaporizer and/or air purifier.

Rabies is present in Honduras but does not constitute a serious health problem. Mosquitoes and other flying insects are present in Tegucigalpa and can be somewhat controlled by repellents, sprays, and good screening. Malaria is exists outside Tegucigalpa, and malarial suppressants are recommended when overnighting in areas with elevation lower than Tegucigalpa. Crawling insects can be problems, and controlling them in homes requires constant care. To keep bugs out of food, use airtight containers.


Passage, Customs & Duties

The best air travel to Tegucigalpa is via Miami on American Airlines (daily, nonstop flights are available). Luggage often does not arrive on the same flight as the traveler, therefore, use your carry on bag effectively (change of clothing, special medicines, etc.).

A valid U.S. passport is required to enter and depart Honduras. A visa is not required, but tourists must provide proof of return or onward travel. Visitors are given a permit to remain in Honduras for 30 days. Honduran immigration may grant up to two thirty-day extensions for a total of 90 days. Thereafter, tourists must leave the country prior to reentering. On departure, visitors are required to pay an exit fee, either in dollars or in local currency, at the airline counter.

Honduran customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Honduras of items such as firearms, antiquities, medications, and business equipment. For example, Honduran law prohibits the export of antiques and artifacts from pre-colonial civilizations. To protect the country's biodiversity, it is illegal to export certain birds, feathers and other flora and fauna.

U.S. citizens who intend to stay in Honduras for an extended period of time and who bring vehicles or household goods into the country should consult Honduran customs officials prior to shipment.

For specific information regarding customs requirements, contact the Embassy of Honduras in Washington or one of Honduras's consulates in the United States.

Americans living in or visiting Honduras are encouraged to register at the consular section of the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Honduras. Travelers can register in person or fill out the form available on the Embassy website and fax it to the Embassy. Please include a copy of the data page of your passport and emergency contact information.

The U.S. Embassy and Consulate are located at: Avenida La Paz in Tegucigalpa, Honduras; Fax: 011-504-238-4357; Web site:; Telephone: 011-504-236-9320 or 011-504-238-5114. For information on services for U.S. citizens, ask for ext. 4400.

The Consular Agency in San Pedro Sula is located at: Banco Atlantida Building-8th Floor, San Pedro Sula, Honduras, Telephone: 011-504-558-1580.

The Consular Agent at this office is available during limited hours to accept U.S. passport applications for adjudication at the Embassy in Tegucigalpa, perform notarial services and assist U.S. citizens with emergencies. Please call for office hours. The Consular Agent does not provide visa information or services.


The Government of Honduras' Ministry of Natural Resources has established import restrictions for pets. Before arrival, you must request an import permit and obtain a veterinarian certificate, which authorizes a 40 day in-house quarantine. Bring vaccination certificates for distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, and parvovirus. You must also bring, upon arrival in country, a health certificate not more than 14 days old and a rabies vaccination certificate that is at least 6 months, but not more than 1 year old. Local veterinarian services are fair to good.

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures

The official monetary unit is the lempira, named after a heroic Indian chief who fought against the Spanish conquistadors. It is usually written as L1 or 1 Lps.

Occasionally, the shopper will hear Hondurans use "peso". This monetary unit existed before the lempira was adopted and is currently equivalent to the lempira.

Lempiras are divided into 100 centavos. Bills the same size as US bills are issued in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 lempiras. Coins are issued in 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 centavos.

Currently, the official rate of exchange is L16.36=US$1. The Central Bank of Honduras regulates both imports and foreign exchange. The value of the lempira against the dollar (exchange rate) is subject to periodic adjustment according to supply of and demand for dollars and other political economic factors.

The official system of weights and measures is the metric system, but the US system is, used most in markets, shops, and gasoline stations. The old Spanish system (e.g., vara vs. meter) is used in legal affairs. Most mechanics and carpenters are also familiar with US weights and measures.

Disaster Preparedness

Honduras is prone to flooding and landslides from heavy rains, especially during the rainy season which generally occurs from June to December. Hurricane Mitch caused extensive damage and loss of life in October 1998. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at


Jan. 1 New Year's Day

Jan. 15 Martin Luther King's Day

Mar/Apr. Holy Thursday*

Mar/Apr. Good Friday*

Mar/Apr. Holy Saturday*

Mar/Apr. Easter*

Apr. 14 Day of the Americas

May 1Honduran Labor Day

May 1Labor Day

Sept. 15 Independence Day of Central America

Oct. 3 Birthday of General Francisco Morazan

Oct. 12 Discovery of America

Oct. 21 Honduran Armed Forces Day

Dec. 25 Christmas Day



These titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country. The Department of State does not endorse unofficial publications.

Acker, Alison. Honduras: The making of a Banana Republic. South End Press: Boston, 1988.

American University. Foreign Area Studies. Area Handbook for Honduras. U.S. Government Printing Office: Washington, D.C., 1984.

Anderson, Thomas P. Politics in Central America: Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. Praeger: New York, 1982.

. The War of the Dispossessed. University of Nebraska: Lincoln, 1981.

Bair, Frank E., ed. Countries of the World and Their Leaders Year-book 1993. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1993.

Bergsten, Horst, and Moran. American Multinationals and Interests. The Brookings Institution: 1978.

Chamberlain, R.S. The Conquest and Colonization of Honduras. Francisco Morazan: 1950.

Charnay, Desire. The Ancient Cities of the New World. AMS Press, Inc.: 1973

Coe, Michael. The Maya. Praeger Publishers: New York, 1973.

Durham, William H. Scarcity and Survival in Central America: Ecological Origins of the Soccer War. Stanford University Press: 1979.

Goetz and Morley. The Sacred Book of the Ancient Quiche Maya. University of Oklahoma Press: 1978.

Henderson, John S. The World of the Ancient Maya. Cornell University Press: Ithaca, 1981.

Houlson, Jane H. Blue Blaze: Dangers & Delight in the Strange Islands of Honduras. Birmingham, AL: Southern University Press, 1987.

Huston, R.G. Journey in Honduras & Jottings by the Way. Conway, NH: La Tienda, 1988.

Karnes, Thomas L. The Failure of Union: Central America 1824-1975. Arizona State University: Tempe, 1976.

Kepner and Soothill. The Banana Empire. Russell & Russell: 1963.

Lerner Publications, Department of Geography Staff. Honduras in Pictures. Minneapolis, MN: Lerner Publications, 1987.

MacCameron, Robert. Bananas, Labor, and Politics in Honduras (1954-1963). Maxwell School: Syracuse University Press: 1983.

MacLeod, Murdo J. Spanish Central America: A Socioeconomic History, 1520-1720. University of California Press: 1973.

Meyer, Harvey. Historical Dictionary of Honduras. The Scarecrow Inc.: 1976.

McCann, Thomas. An American Company: The Tragedy of United Fruit. Crown: New York, 1976.

Morris, James A. Honduras: Caudillo Politics and Military Rulers. Boulder: Westview, 1984.

O' Henry. Cabbages and Kings. Doubleday & Co., Inc.: 1953.

Panet, J.P., and Leah Hart. Honduras & the Bay Islands. Champlain, NY: Passport Press, 1990.

Parker, Franklin D. Travels in Central America 1821-1840. University of Florida Press: 1970.

Peckenham, Nancy and Street, Annie. Honduras: Portrait of a Captive Nation. Praeger Publishers: New York, 1985.

Rosenberg, Mark B. and Shepherd, Philip L. Honduras Confronts Its Future. Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc.: Boulder, 1986.

Soltera, Maria. A Lady's Ride Across Spanish Honduras. University of Florida Press: 1964.

Squier, E.G. Honduras. Trubner & Co.: 1970.

Stephens, John L. Incidents of Travel in Central America. Chiapas and Yucatan. In two volumes. Dover Publications, Inc.: 1969.

Stockes, William S. Honduras. Greenwood Press: 1973.

Stone, Doris. Pre-Columbian Man Finds Central America. Peabody Museum Press: 1976.

Thompson, J. Eric. The Rise and Fall of Maya Civilization. University of Oklahoma Press: 1977.

Williams, Mary. Anglo-American Isthmian Diplomacy 1815-1915. Russell & Russell, Inc.: 1965.

Wilson, Charles Morrow. Empire in Green and Gold. Greenwood Press: 1968. Fiction and Travelogs

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Republic of Honduras

República de Honduras



Honduras is located in Central America. Its northern border, between Guatemala and Nicaragua, lies along the Caribbean Sea. The southwestern tip of the country, between El Salvador and Nicaragua, borders the northern Pacific Ocean. Slightly larger than Tennessee, Honduras has an area of 112,090 square kilometers (43,278 square miles).


In July of 2000 the population of Honduras was estimated at 6.25 million, with an annual growth rate of 2.52 percent. In 2000, for every person who died in Honduras, approximately 6 were born. The birth rate during this period was 32.65 per 1,000, the death rate 5.31 per 1,000.

Approximately 90 percent of Hondurans are ethnic mestizo (mixed Amerindian and European). The remainder of the population is primarily Amerindian (7 percent). Blacks make up 2 percent of the population, while 1 percent of the country is white.

A significant portion of the Honduran population about 43 percentis under the age of 15. Approximately 54 percent are between the ages of 15 and 64. Those over 65 account for only 3 percent of the population. The life expectancy for males in Honduras is 67.91 years, while females are expected to live slightly longer, to 72.06 years.


The Honduran economy, one of the least developed in Latin America, has traditionally been fueled by the export of bananas and coffee. In the 1980s these crops accounted for between one-half and two-thirds of the country's total exports. Such a narrow export base limited growth and left the entire economy vulnerable to changing market conditions and poor weather, so in the 1990s moves were made toward economic diversification. The production of nontraditional exports such as melon, pineapple, and shrimp increased; the manufacturing industry grew; and the services sector, once fairly limited, emerged as a vital component of the economy. This diversification helped the Honduran economy withstand the effects of Hurricane Mitch, which swept through the country in October of 1998, devastating the agricultural sector. In the northern Sula Valley, the hurricane destroyed 70 percent of the banana plantations and brought heavy losses to basic grains. Coffee production was cut by about 20 percent. Despite these losses, the economy still gained 3 percent in 1998, led by strong performances in the manufacturing and services industries. The 3 percent growth was considered solid given the severity of the hurricane, which killed 7,000 people, destroyed 200,000 homes, and left 1.5 million Hondurans temporarily homeless. The damage caused by Mitch was estimated at US$5 billion, equivalent to 95 percent of the country's gross domestic product in 1998.

Honduras, despite moves to improve its economy, still depends on international aid and imported goods to meet consumer and fiscal demands. This dependence was heightened by Hurricane Mitch. The storm put domestic production on hold, increasing the need for imported goods and loans to help finance reconstruction. By 1999 Honduras was US$4.4 billion in debt, most of it owed to multilateral lending agencies and the United States. In 1999, in exchange for debt relief of nearly US$1 billion, the Honduran government agreed to restructure the economy along lines agreed to by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). As part of the structural adjustment program , Honduras agreed to privatize certain sectors of the economy. It also made a commitment to fight poverty and corruption, reform social security, strengthen the financial sector, and improve education and health care for the poor.

To spur the economy and increase foreign investment, the Honduran government, under President Carlos Roberto Flores Facusse, pledged in 1999 to accelerate the privatization programs which had stalled under the previous administration. Earlier privatization initiatives and the expansion of the tourist and manufacturing industries led to an increase in foreign investment in Honduras in the 1990s. Foreign investment in 1993 amounted to US$27 million. By 1999, that figure had grown nearly 10 times to US$230 million. Investment in Honduras will likely continue to increase as privatization initiatives move forward and industries expand. In the medium term Honduras will rely on close to US$3 billion in multilateral funding to assist in reconstruction costs and poverty alleviation programs.


Since gaining its independence from the Spanish empire in 1821, Honduras has been plagued by political and financial instability. Changes of government have often been accompanied by violence and bloodshed. Rebellions, coups, and civil wars characterized much of the 20th century.

Two parties, the Partido Liberal (PL) founded by Celeo Arias in the 1880s, and the Partido Nacional (PN) established in 1902 by Manuel Bonilla, have dominated Honduran politics for the last century and continue to play a predominant role. The PN, which garners support from the military, is the more conservative of the parties, with strongholds in less-developed rural areas. The PL is more to the political left and draws support from an urban base, although it has a constituency among rural landowners as well.

Honduras has spent much of its independence under military rule. A break in military control occurred in 1955 when a group of military reformers staged a coup and installed an interim government, paving the way for constitutional elections. In 1957, a civilian, Ramon Morales, was elected to a 6-year term as president. Morales introduced agrarian reforms and social welfare legislation, including social security provisions. He also introduced a labor code to protect the rights of workers, and took Honduras into the Central American Common Market, a free trade zone made up of 5 Central American countries. In 1963 a military coup prevented Morales from running for a second term. General Oswaldo Lopez Arellano became the country's leader and placed agricultural development and the banking system under government control.

The military ran the country until 1981, when Honduras was returned to civilian rule. In 1982 a new constitution was drafted, and in 1986 Roberto Suazo Cordoba of the Liberal Party was elected president, marking the first peaceful transition of power between civilians in over 30 years.

The Liberal Party held the presidency for 4 years. Then, in 1990 the Nationalists took over with the election of Rafael Leonardo Callejas. Callejas moved to bring the military under civilian control, and instituted fiscal reforms to stabilize the economy, concentrating primarily on deficit reduction and currency stabilization. His presidency, however, was marred by allegations of corruption. Despite his reforms, the Liberal Party, under the leadership of Roberto Reina, regained the presidency in 1994. Under Reina the economy improved, with growth reaching 5 percent in 1997. International reserves were increased, and inflation dropped to 12.8 percent a year.

The current president of Honduras is Carlos Flores Facusse, a member of the Partido Liberal. In November 1997 he was elected to a 4-year term which began in January of 1998. His party holds over half the seats in the 128-seat National Congress. The Honduran government remains highly centralized despite slow-moving reforms to increase the power and participation of local municipalities.

Efforts to decentralize the political system (to give more power to the leaders of local governments) have been accompanied by economic reforms, with the government loosening its control over various economic operations, including those in the financial sector. In 1997, the Central Bank of Honduras was given greater independence in an effort to strengthen the country's financial system. In 2000 mandatory currency reserves were lowered from 25 percent to 19 percent. The government hopes that lowering reserve requirements and giving banks higher liquidity will increase loan disbursements and stimulate the economy.

Flores has also instituted a series of tax reforms designed to boost private investment and reduce the fiscal deficit. Flores reduced export tariffs , most notably in the banana sector, cutting duties from 50 cents a box to 4 cents. He also lowered the business income tax from 42 percent in 1997 to 25 percent in 1999. In order to offset losses from the cuts, the administration raised the sales tax from 7 percent to 12 percent. Flores has also undertaken efforts to increase privatization. The state-owned telecommunications company, Empresa Hondurena de Telecomunicaciones (Hondutel), and the state-owned electric company, Empresa Nacional de la Energia Electrica (ENEE) are prime candidates for privatization.


In 1998 mudslides and flooding caused by Hurricane Mitch devastated the Honduran infrastructure . Nearly half of the country's road network was damaged by the storm. Over 160 bridges were destroyed. Approximately 50,000 telephone lines went down. Water and sewage pipes were damaged, as were seaports, airports, and schools throughout the country.

Honduras has 9,074 miles of primary, secondary, and municipal roads. About 18 percent of them are paved. The country has 2 main highways. The north-south highway

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Honduras 55 386 90 N/A 5 N/A 7.6 0.19 20
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Mexico 97 325 261 15.7 35 3.0 47.0 23.02 1,822
Nicaragua 30 285 190 40.2 4 N/A 7.8 2.21 20
aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
bData are from the Internet Software Consortium ( and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

connects the capital, Tegucigalpa, with San Pedro Sula. The Pan-American highway runs parallel to the Pacific coast and connects Honduras to Nicaragua and El Salvador. While road construction has remained stagnant over the past 5 years, the number of automobiles has substantially increased. There were 273,927 registered vehicles in Honduras in 1995. By 1999, that number had risen to 417,431, increasing traffic and congestion, especially in urban areas. There are also about 600 miles of rail lines to accommodate overland traffic.

The main Honduran port is Puerto Cortes on the northern coast. With 4,000 square feet of docking space capable of accommodating 10 vessels at a time, Puerto Cortes handles over half the country's export trade, on and off-loading 14 to 25 containers of goods an hour. Consistent with its larger privatization efforts, the Flores administration is seeking to open Honduran ports to private sector participation.

The 4 international airports in Honduras have already been turned over to private management. A U.S.-Honduran consortium led by the San Francisco International Airport (SFIA) will run the airports for the next 20 years. Under the terms of the agreement with the Honduran government, the consortium will invest US$120 million in the airports over the next 20 years, making physical improvements and raising the standards of efficiency, safety, and services.

The telecommunications infrastructure was greatly expanded in the 1990s. Empresa Hondurena de Telecomunicaciones (Hondutel), the state-owned telecommunications firm, increased the number of phone lines from 87,311 in 1990 to 373,032 in 1998. In 2000, as part of its structural adjustment agreement with the IMF, the Honduran government attempted to partially privatize Hondutel by selling 51 percent of the company's shares to the private sector. However, an October auction produced only a single bid for the shares. Telefonos de Mexico offered to pay US$106 million for the majority stock, but that offer was soundly rebuffed by Honduran privatization officials who set the minimum selling price at US$300 million. As part of the takeover agreement, any company which purchases the shares in Hondutel will be required to install 23,500 pay phones and add 600,000 kilometers of fixed lines in Honduras by the end of 2005. Honduran officials are seeking buyers in the United States and Europe, hoping to possibly attract an international consortium to take over company operations.

In 1999 Hondurans received about two-thirds of their energy from state-owned hydroelectric plants, with thermal plants providing the rest. Energy demands are increasing by about 12 percent a year, driven upwards by a widening industrial base and a rural electrification program. The heavily indebted state-run energy corporation, Empresa Nacional de la Energia Electrica (ENEE), is increasingly turning to private sources for help in meeting the country's growing energy needs. The Flores administration has expressed a commitment to privatize the state-run power plants, both hydroelectric and thermal, which together provided over three-quarters of the country's energy in 1999.


Honduras has traditionally had a limited industrial capability, relying primarily on agricultural exports like bananas and coffee for the bulk of its foreign exchange. In the 1990s this began to change as Honduras made aggressive moves to shore up its economy by diversifying exports and broadening its industrial base. The services sector was also targeted for growth, resulting in the rapid expansion of the tourist industry.

Honduras is thought to have extensive mineral deposits which have yet to be exploited, indicating the potential for growth in the mining industry. Seeking to capitalize on the situation, the Flores administration passed legislation to increase foreign investment in the sector. However, some of Honduras's most fertile mining grounds are located near the Nicaraguan border and, as land disputes between the nations are common, this has led to political complications and has stifled industry expansion.

Growth in the manufacturing sector, led by the expansion of the maquila (offshore assembly for re-export ) industry, has been most pronounced. The re-export business was one of the few areas of the economy to escape Hurricane Mitch virtually unscathed.

Agricultural activity, which registered substantial declines after Hurricane Mitch, is not expected to fully recover before 2001. The severe damage wrought by the storm to traditional export crops has increased the pace of agricultural diversification. The cultivation of melons, pineapples, sugar cane and African palm were expanded in the wake of the storm.


Despite declines in production caused by Hurricane Mitch, agriculture continues to dominate the Honduran economy, supplying in 1999 over 60 percent of the jobs and over half of all merchandise export earnings. That year, out of a working population of 2.13 million people, 834,900 of them held agricultural jobs. Coffee and bananas have traditionally made up the bulk of Honduras's agricultural exports.

Coffee is produced in 14 of the country's 18 provinces by 70,000 independent producers. Over the last decade, the coffee industry has been beset by financial problems. Some of these problems have resulted from poor weather. In 1998, prior to Hurricane Mitch, Honduras was the tenth largest coffee producer in the world. The damage caused by Hurricane Mitch contributed to an 11 percent decline in coffee production in 1999. Other problems came as a result of the structure of the industry itself. With so many small producers, quality control was hard to maintain. This caused great price volatility and made revenues less dependable. Furthermore, many small coffee producers and exporters took out loans before the hurricane, putting them in debt to the Central Bank following the destruction of their crops. Government subsidies to assist coffee farmers have been slow in coming, adding to the coffee industry's problems.

Banana production, which takes place on the northern coast, is controlled primarily by the subsidiaries of 2 U.S. conglomerates, Chiquita and Dole. These companies have established effective monopolies over the banana export trade in Honduras. However, legal challenges to the monopolies are growing more frequent.

Like the coffee sector, the banana sector had its share of trouble in the 1990s. Between 1991 and 1994, production was affected by strikes and floods. The industry recovered in 1995, but was then devastated in 1998 when Hurricane Mitch destroyed a majority of the banana plantations. In 1999, production fell by over 70 percent. Banana exports are not expected to reach pre-hurricane levels until 2001 or 2002. A reduction in the banana export tax from 50 U.S. cents per box to 4 cents will likely help boost the recovery.

With bananas and coffee proving highly susceptible to price volatility, bad weather, and labor unrest, Honduras has made efforts to diversify its agricultural exports. The development of nontraditional crops such as melon, pineapple, sugarcane, and African palm has expanded since the mid-1990s. Between 1995 and 1999, African palm production rose 50 percent. Sugar production during the same period increased from 67.5 million bags, to 82.8 million bags, reaching a high in 1998 of 89.4 million bags. In the wake of the hurricane, the pace of diversification increased with many banana farmers turning over some of their fields to the production of non-traditional crops.

During the 1990s commercial shrimp farming emerged as one of Honduras's most dynamic industries, posting steady gains in production and revenue between 1995 and 1998. Volume and earnings fell slightly in 1999 after Hurricane Mitch, but the industry quickly recovered. Shrimp is the third most important agricultural export after bananas and coffee, generating revenues of US$153 million in 1999.



The mining industry in Honduras has achieved noticeable growth in recent years, with output increasing by 7 percent in 1999. However, between 1995 and 1999 the industry's contribution to the gross domestic product remained steady at around 2 percent. Honduras's primary mineral exports are silver, lead, and zinc. With a substantial portion of the country's mineral deposits still unexploited, the potential for growth in the sector is high. Attempts to expand the industry, however, have been complicated by political and environmental factors. Despite new mining laws, which were introduced by the Flores administration in 1998 to increase investment in the sector, foreign companies have been hesitant to operate in Honduras. The Canadian company Greenstone had to abandon its operations in the Copan region near the border with Nicaragua, in 1999 because of territorial disputes between Nicaragua and Honduras. Mining interests near Tegucigalpa have been opposed by environmental groups, offering another setback to the industry.


Unlike the mining industry, the manufacturing sector has experienced unimpeded growth over the last decade, with the most dramatic expansion being in the maquila industry. The industry produced about US$545 million in foreign exchange earnings in 1999 (just over 18 percent of the gross domestic product at market prices), exceeding agriculture proceeds to become the single largest export category. The number of workers in the sector grew from 9,000 to 120,000 between 1990 and 1998. A majority of these workers70 percentwere women aged 15 to 26. Between the years 2000 and 2005, the industry will likely expand by another 80,000 workers, with new investment expected to reach US$700 million.

Growth in maquila can be attributed to a number of factors, including favorable tax provisions, a solid manufacturing infrastructure, and low wage costs. A series of laws passed between 1975 and 1999 granted national and foreign companies tax and duty exemptions in specified areas called free zones. This made the maquila industry more lucrative for domestic companies and established Honduras as a particularly attractive base of operations for foreign firms.

In May 2000 the U.S. Congress decided to eliminate an 18 percent duty on finished apparel from Africa, the Caribbean, and Central America, making Honduran maquila producers more competitive. As investment and labor increases, the maquila sector will likely diversify and begin performing more technical operations, such as the cutting and dying of fabrics. As it stands now, a majority of these operations take place in the United States.

In July 2000 Honduras was granted North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) parity for its exports, meaning it would receive the same trade benefits as signatories of NAFTA even though it was not an actual party to the agreement. Although NAFTA parity had been granted to other Central American and Caribbean countries, Honduras was in an especially good position to benefit from enhanced access to American markets. Its port facilities are some of the most developed in Central America, and its proximity to American markets facilitates high levels of trade.



Tourism is one of the fastest growing industries in Honduras. The country hosts a variety of attractions including beaches and coral reefs, historic colonial cities, Mayan ruins, and lush national parks. Revenues from tourism rose steadily in the 1990s, from US$30.6 million in 1991 to US$185 million in 1999. In 1994 Honduras had around 230,000 recreational visitors. By 1999 the number had increased to 375,000.

The government has attempted to expand the tourist industry in part through large-scale development projects. A plan emerged in the late 1990s to allow foreign nationals to own land and operate tourist-related businesses within 40 miles of the coast. This plan was vigorously opposed by the coastal Amerindians who feared the development would disrupt their livelihoods. Amerindians may be a minority in the overwhelmingly mestizo population, but they have grown more vocal in recent years. In 2000 Congress rejected the measure that would have allowed foreigners to run tourist operations in the coastal regions. Clashes over coastal development between the government and indigenous groups will likely continue.


When financial services in Honduras were liberalized in the 1990s, the banking industry underwent a period of expansion. By the end of the decade, the sector had begun to consolidate. After the 1999 collapse of Banco Corporativo, Bancahsa and Banco del Ahorro Hondureno merged to create the largest bank in the country. By the late 1990s, financial assets in Honduras had been consolidated into the hands of a few large banks. With most the 19 finance houses and 11 insurance companies being grouped under holding companies with common shareholders, banks can easily shift assets in response to changing market forces and new regulations.

Only 2 foreign banks operate out of Honduras: Lloyds Bank and Citibank, the latter of which owns Banco de Honduras. The country's 2 stock exchanges one in the capital, Tegucigalpa, and the other in San Pedro Sularun mainly short-term credit operations.

In an effort to shore up confidence in the banking system and stem capital flight (the movement of financial assets from domestic markets to foreign countries), the Banco Central de Honduras (the central bank) in 1995 authorized the holding of U.S. dollar accounts in Honduran banks. Import and export operations benefited from the move. In another measure to retain capital, insurance companies were allowed to issue policies in U.S. dollars, having been formerly restricted to providing coverage in lempiras.


Honduras conducts a majority of its trade with the United States. In 1999 over one-third of Honduras's exports went to America, not including merchandise produced in the maquila sector. Although technically a function

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Honduras
Exports Imports
1975 .295 .400
1980 .829 1.009
1985 .780 .888
1990 .831 .935
1995 1.220 1.643
1998 1.533 2.500
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.

of manufacturing, Honduras lists maquila as a service export instead of a product export. With maquila exports included, the United States received over 70 percent of total Honduran exports. Nearly half of Honduras's importsabout 47 percentcame from the United States (over 60 percent with maquila). Other trading partners included Germany, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico, and Japan.

During the 1980s coffee and bananas in Honduras accounted for a majority of total exports. Over the past decade, exports were diversified. By 1999, due to a widening agricultural base and the effects of Hurricane Mitch, which destroyed much of the banana crop, the export share of coffee and bananas had been reduced to 25 percent.

In 1999 coffee and shellfish were the leading export earners. Coffee receipts came to US$256.1 million, and shellfish exports generated US$193.2 million. Revenues from banana exports, which were US$279.8 million in 1996, fell in 1998 to US$175.7 million. After Hurricane Mitch, banana receipts dropped to US$37.7 million.

The Honduran government in the 1980s instituted policies to curb imports. This led to pent-up demand, and a decade later when trade was liberalized, import levels rapidly rose, exceeding export levels and widening trade deficits . The situation was exacerbated by Hurricane Mitch, which lowered export production and raised the demand for imported goods. By 1999, trade deficits, excluding maquila value, had widened by 60 percent to US$1.48 billion (US$764.2 million with maquila).

Honduras is looking to expand its regional trading relationships in order to lessen its economic dependence on the United States. Honduras, along with El Salvador and Guatemala, established a trade agreement with Mexico in June 2000 which was meant to reduce tariffs on industrial and agricultural products and give Central American countries enhanced access to Mexican markets. In 1993 Honduras also entered into a free-trade agreement with Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. Central American policy makers hoped the creation of the free-trade area, known as the Group of Four (G4), would make the region more competitive in the world economy. Efforts to expand regional trade have been partly successful. In Honduras, exports to G4 countries rose from 13 percent of the total in 1997 to 17 percent in 1999. However, border disputes between Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador could potentially complicate the agreement.

Problems arose in 1999 when Honduras recognized Colombia's right to a stretch of maritime land off the coast of Nicaragua. Nicaragua, claiming ownership of the land, responded by levying a 35 percent surcharge on all Honduran imports. The dispute, which is still unresolved, has left relations between the countries strained. Disputes in other areas between the countries have led to violence. Military clashes have occurred over fishing rights in the Gulf of Fonseca, and in recent years Honduras has also clashed with El Salvador over contested land in the province of La Paz.


Between 1919 and 1990, the lempira maintained an artificially fixed rate against the U.S. dollar at L2.0:US$1. This meant the Honduran economy was vulnerable to shifts in U.S. monetary policy . Furthermore, the printing of domestic currency was constrained by the need to keep local money supplies in line with U.S. dollar reserves. In March of 1990, in an effort to give the Central Bank and the Honduran government more control over the country's fiscal development, the fixed rate was removed and the value of the lempira sharply declined. By the end of that year, the exchange rate had risen to L5.3:US$1. The government tried to support the currency by strictly enforcing laws which required exporters to repatriate foreign exchange earnings (meaning exporters selling to the United States, for instance, would have to convert their profits from dollars to lempiras when placing them back in Honduran banks). However, these efforts were insufficient and the lempira continued its downward slide throughout the first half of the 1990s. In 1994, in a further attempt to stabilize the currency, the Central Bank

Exchange rates: Honduras
lempiras (L) per US$1
Dec 2000 15.1407
2000 15.1407
1999 14.5039
1998 13.8076
1997 13.0942
1996 12.8694
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

established a public U.S. dollar auction system. In this system the Central Bank sold American dollars to domestic commercial banks at a slightly elevated exchange rate. This allowed the Central Bank to make money on the exchange, and by pulling lempiras out of the system (taking them from commercial banks in exchange for dollars) it lowered the supply of domestic currency, thereby raising its price. By the end of 1995, the lempira's decline had begun to slow, improving the performance of the external sector and boosting investor confidence. By 1999 the lempira had steadied at L14.5:US$1, representing a 3.3 percent appreciation against the U.S. dollar in real terms for the year.


Hurricane Mitch devastated Honduras in 1998, causing over 7,000 deaths. Over 1.5 million people were left homeless by the storm. Thousands of buildings were destroyed, and roads and bridges were washed away. The economy came to a near standstill, worsening the effects of already endemic poverty.

Since 1998, the government of Honduras has committed to a development strategy which was coordinated in conjunction with the World Bank and IMF. The World Bank is currently supporting a US$30 million Social Investment Fund aimed at alleviating poverty through the improvement of the country's infrastructure at the community level. The project includes self-help programs for the poor and involves the construction of numerous schools in rural areas. The World Bank has also initiated a US$25 million nutrition and health program for 255,000 poor women and children. The program's goals include the establishment of up to 160 health care centers with a priority given to rural areas.

The infant mortality rate in 2001 was high at 36 deaths per 1,000 live births. Approximately 25 percent of children were suffering from malnutrition. Despite World Bank initiatives, Honduras remains one of the poorest countries in the Americas with an estimated gross domestic product of US$6.5 billion in 2001. More than 53 percent of the population live below the poverty line,

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Honduras 614 733 681 682 722
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Mexico 3,380 4,167 4,106 4,046 4,459
Nicaragua 999 690 611 460 452
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.
Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage
Share: Honduras
Lowest 10% 1.2
Lowest 20% 3.4
Second 20% 7.1
Third 20% 11.7
Fourth 20% 19.7
Highest 20% 58.0
Highest 10% 42.1
Survey year: 1996
Note: This information refers to income shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita income.
SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].

42 percent of the population do not have access to safe drinking water, and a quarter of the population are illiterate. Over 50 percent of Honduras's rural population are agricultural workers who own no land or are small-scale landowners who have less than 5 hectares. Land reform that provides technical as well as financial assistance in the form of micro credit (small-scale loans) could reduce poverty in Honduras by allowing farmers to earn income, be self sufficient, and increase overall production.


After a 1954 banana strike, trade unions emerged as a major force in Honduran politics. In 1999, with 14 percent of its labor force organized, Honduras was the most heavily unionized country in Central America. Still, the strength of unions diminished in the 1990s. Despite the labor movement's opposition to privatization, the Flores administration remained committed to economic reforms that would give up state-owned companies to the private sector, while union calls for higher wages were ignored.

While the law in Honduras grants workers the right to form and join unions, there have been cases reported of employers seeking to disrupt union activities by harassing or firing union sympathizers. As of 1999, the labor court in Honduras was considering numerous appeals by workers who claimed to have been fired by their companies for engaging in union activities.

Forced labor is forbidden by law, but there have been some cases reported of forced overtime in the maquila sector, particularly for women. Child labor is prohibited as well. Children under 14 years old are barred from the workforce, even if they have parental permission to work. Allowing a child to work illegally is punishable by up to 5 years in prison; however, frequent violations occur in rural districts. According to a human rights report issued in 1999 by the U.S. State Department, an estimated 350,000 children in Honduras work illegally.

The labor force in Honduras is mostly unskilled. The general level of education is low and training is limited. Children between ages 7-13 receive free, compulsory education, but in order to continue after the age of 13 tuition is required. A majority of families cannot afford to pay for education, and instead of continuing with school, most children move into the labor force after they turn 14. In 1999, out of 841,236 children aged 15 to 19, only 187,561 were receiving regular schooling. The illiteracy rate in Honduras is around 19 percent. Public spending on education, traditionally low in Honduras, has declined in recent years, falling to 4.1 percent of the gross domestic product in 1999.

In January 1998 the average minimum wage in Honduras was raised 17 percent. In 1999 it was hiked another 25 percent, and in 2000, the wage was raised again, this time by 8 percent. The wage varies from sector to sector, the lowest being US$2.12 a day in non-export agriculture. The highest minimum wage is paid in the export sector, where workers receive at least $3.47 a day. Even the highest minimum wage is insufficient to provide a standard of living over the poverty line.

The maximum workday is 8 hours. Workers cannot be required to work more than 44 hours in a week, and they must be given at least one 24-hour rest period every 8 days. The labor code stipulates that workers be given 10 days of paid vacation after 1 year of work, and 20 days after 4 years of work. These laws, however, are often ignored. Demand for jobs is so high that workers cannot afford to complain.


1502. Christopher Columbus visits Honduras on his third voyage to the New World.

1524. Spanish colonization of Honduras begins.

1537. Native Honduran Chief Lempira murdered by the Spaniards.

1821. Honduras gains independence from Spain and joins the Central American Federation.

1830. Francisco Morazan becomes the nation's first president.

1842. The Central American Federation falls apart. Morazan is murdered.

1870s. A revolution takes place. Church and state are separated under Marco Aurelio Soto.

1880s. Partido Liberal, one of the dominant political parties, is founded by Celeo Arias.

1899. First banana concession is granted to Vicaro brothers, later becoming Standard Fruit (Dole).

1902. Manuel Bonilla establishes the Partido Nacional.

1907. The Cuyamel Fruit Company is set and is later bought by United Fruit (Chiquita).

1929. Honduras becomes the largest banana exporter in the world.

1954. A banana workers strike establishes unionized labor and gains recognition from the government.

1956. The Honduran military takes control of the government.

1957. Civilian rule is restored. Ramon Villeda Morales is elected president.

1957. Morales promotes social reforms, and Honduras joins the Central American Common Market.

1963. Statist General Oswaldo Lopez Arellano takes control of the government in a military coup.

1981. Honduras again returns to civilian rule.

1982. Debt crisis sparks fiscal austerity.

1989. Rafael Leonardo Cellejas of the Partido Nacional is elected president. He makes moderate reforms.

1994. Carlos Roberto Reina of the Partido Liberal becomes president, inheriting wide public sector debt.

1998. President Carlos Flores Facusse (PL) decentralizes the government and privatizes the economy.

1998. Hurricane Mitch hits Honduras with devastating force.

1999. Honduras receives US$3 billion in loans to help finance reconstruction after Hurricane Mitch.

2000. Honduras qualifies for debt relief under the Debt Initiative for Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC).


Honduras is still recovering from Hurricane Mitch, which swept through the country in 1998, interrupting the implementation of much-needed reforms, including decentralization and privatization programs. As the country rebuilds itself, and those reforms get back on track, Honduras could experience a period of solid economic growth.

The offshore manufacturing sector will continue to expand, and competitive access to American markets will keep export revenues high. Mining production could increase as well, which, along with the growth in manufacturing, could widen the export base, raise trade revenues, and generate foreign investment. Increased activity in the tourist sector will also play an important role in the country's economic revitalization. However, regional disputes still threaten to undermine the Honduran economy.

The ongoing land dispute between Nicaragua and Honduras flared up again in 1999 when Honduras recognized Colombia's right to a stretch of maritime land claimed by Nicaragua. Nicaragua, in retaliation, imposed a 35 percent tariff on all Honduran imports. Honduras, in turn, has threatened to impose trade sanctions on Nicaragua effective April 2000 if the tariffs are not lifted. The case has been taken up by the International Court of Justice in the Netherlands but will likely take years to resolve. In the meantime, Honduran exporters will suffer high regional tariffs, costing millions of dollars and stifling domestic growth.

On the political front, the Honduran democratic process will be put to the test in November 2001 when the country's next presidential election is set to be held. The 2 main parties are fiercely competitive and regard one another with hostility. The level of acrimony between them was heightened by a recent dispute over the eligibility of candidates. The dispute threatens to jeopardize political stability and plunge Honduran politics back into violence.

Honduras may benefit from the joint initiative developed by the World Bank and the IMF, known as the Debt Initiative for Heavily Indebted Poor Countries. The program provides debt relief for poor countries who, in exchange, commit to economic reforms. Reforms in Honduras have been opposed by the unions, but union influence has waned and, so far, the reforms are proceeding. The reforms include privatizing the telecommunications industry as well as power production in order to meet the terms of a 3-year poverty reduction program signed with the IMF in April 1999. It has been estimated that relief from the HIPC program will save Honduras nearly US$1 billion over 20 years.


Honduras has no territories or colonies.


Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Honduras, 2000. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2000.

International Monetary Fund. Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers. <>. Accessed August 2001.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. CIA World Factbook 2000: Honduras. <>. Accessed August 2001.

U.S. State Department: Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. 1998 Human Rights Report: Honduras Country Report. Released February 1999. <>. Accessed August 2001.

U.S. State Department: Bureau of Western Affairs. Background Notes: Honduras, March 1999. <>. Accessed August 2001.

U.S. State Department. Country Report, Honduras, Bureau of Economic Policy and Trade Practices. <>. Accessed August 2001.

World Bank. World Bank Development Report. WashingtonD.C.: World Bank Group, 2000.

John Mazor




Lempira (L), also known as the peso. One lempira equals 100 centavos. Coin denominations include 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 centavos, and notes include 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 lempiras.


Coffee, bananas, shrimp, lobster, meat, zinc, lumber.


Machinery and transport equipment, industrial raw materials, chemical products, fuels, foodstuffs.


US$5.25 billion (purchasing power parity, 1998 est.).


Exports: US$1.2 billion (1999 est.). Imports: US$2.7 billion (1999 est.).

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Basic Data

Official Country Name: Republic of Honduras
Region (Map name): North & Central America
Population: 6,406,052
Language(s): Spanish, Amerindian dialects
Literacy rate: 72.7%
Area: 112,090 sq km
GDP: 5,932 (US$ millions)
Number of Television Stations: 11
Number of Television Sets: 570,000
Television Sets per 1,000: 89.0
Number of Cable Subscribers: 49,280
Cable Subscribers per 1,000: 7.7
Number of Radio Stations: 306
Number of Radio Receivers: 2,450,000
Radio Receivers per 1,000: 382.5
Number of Individuals with Computers: 70,000
Computers per 1,000: 10.9
Number of Individuals with Internet Access: 40,000
Internet Access per 1,000: 6.2

Background & General Characteristics

Originally part of Spain's empire in the New World, the Republic of Honduras was freed from Spain in 1821. After briefly being annexed to Mexico, in 1823 Honduras gained its independence and joined the newly formed United Provinces of Central America. After the collapse of the United Provinces in 1838, Honduras continued its foreign policy to unite Central America until after World War I.

U.S. companies controlled Honduras's agriculture-based economy during the twentieth century after U.S. businesses established large banana plantations along the north coast. Not long after World War II, provincial military leaders gained control of the Nationalists and the Liberals, the two main Honduran political parties. Two authoritarian administrations and a strike by banana workers paved the way in the mid-1950s for a palace coup by military reformists.

In 1957, constituent assembly elections took place and a president was elected. The assembly also transformed itself into a national legislature. From 1957-63 the Liberal Party ruled Honduras. Then in October 1963 conservative military officers deposed the president in a bloody coup. For a brief time in the early 1970s a civilian president was in charge until his administration was the victim of a coup in 1972. For the next 11 years, military men ruled Honduras. In April 1980 a constituent assembly was elected and general elections took place in November 1981. A new constitution was approved in 1982 and a Liberal Party president took office after the free elections.

In January 2002, President Ricardo Maduro of the National Party took office, becoming Honduras's sixth democratically elected president since 1981. He inherits a nation where it was estimated at the turn of the twentieth century that 85 percent of the 6.4 million Hondurans live below the poverty line, and the average annual income is U.S. $850.

Honduras's capital is Tegucigalpa. The national language is Spanish, although English is often spoken in the Bay Islands. The approximate 112,000 square kilometers of land varies from primarily mountains in the interior to narrow plains along its 820 kilometers of coastline, including the almost inhabitable eastern Mosquito Coast along the Caribbean Sea. Honduras's neighbors are Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala, with a long stretch of coastline facing the Caribbean Sea and a small stretch on the opposite side of the country along the North Pacific Ocean.

In 1998 Honduras was devastated by Hurricane Mitch, which killed around 5,000 Hondurans and destroyed about 70 percent of the nation's crops. The hurricane set back the nation's development by several decades.

Not all of Honduras's problems can be blamed on the weather. Poor housing, youth gangs, crime, malnutrition, allegations of police wrongdoing, and the murder of indigenous rights groups allegedly by right-wing paramilitary groups, plague the nation.

Honduras has suffered almost 300 internal conflictsrebellions, civil wars and changes of administrationssince gaining its independence. More than half of those conflicts have occurred in the twentieth century. With this type of history, it is no wonder that the strict defamation laws shackle Honduran press. At times the press in Honduras is its own enemy, as journalists have been known to practice self-censorship to avoid offending the interests of media owners, and accept bribes from officials in return for favorable coverage.

Nature of the Audience

More than 54 percent of Honduras's population is between the ages of 15 and 64 years, while another 42.22 percent is 14 years old or younger. In 2001, population growth was estimated at 2.34 percent annually, with a life expectancy of 69.35 years (67.51 years for men, 71.28 years for women). However, these estimates must take into consideration the country's high incidence of HIV/AIDS. From 1990 to 1996 Honduras reported 5,902 AIDS cases and another 3,132 people with HIV (the virus that causes AIDS), according to the Health Ministry.

Of the Honduran population, 72.6 percent of the men and 72.7 percent of women are literate, which is defined as those aged 15 and over who can read and write. Around 90 percent of the population is mestizo (mixed Amerindian and European), about 7 percent is of Amerindian descent, 2 percent is black and 1 percent is white. The overwhelming majority of Hondurans (97 percent) are Catholic, with the remainder primarily Protestant.

General Media Characteristics

Honduras supports six major newspapers, with most based in Tegucigalpa. There are five national dailies, three of whichEl Periodico, La Tribuna and El Heraldo are headquartered in Tegucigalpa, as is the weekly English-language newspaper Honduras This Week. The other two dailies, El Tiempo and La Prensa, are based in San Pedro Sula. The government publishes its decrees in the weekly La Gaceta.

Political figures are a prominent part of the Honduran press. Former President Rafael Leonardo Callejas is the principal stockholder in El Periodico, and the paper is known for its conservative views.

Another influential political figure, Jaime Rosenthal, owns El Tiempo. Rosenthal, a Liberal Party leader who finished second in the Liberal Party of Honduras primary for the 1993 national election, leads the more liberal paper, which is known to criticize the police and military. As a result, the editor, Manuel Gamero, has at times been jailed.

La Tribuna and La Prensa are considered by most press observers to be more centrist than the others, although some would say La Prensa is a little more to the right of center. La Tribuna is owned by yet another political figure, Carlos Flores Facusse, who in 1989 made an unsuccessful bid for the presidency before being elected to that post in the November 1997 election. La Tribuna has close ties to the Liberal Party and to Tegucigalpa's industrial sector.

La Prensa has ties to San Pedro Sula businesses, as well as other publishing interests. Publisher and editor Jorge Canahuati Larach is a member of the family that also publishes El Heraldo. That paper is more conservative than La Prensa, and has been more favorable in its coverage of the military than other dailies. El Heraldo often reflects the positions of the National Party.

Daily newspapers reach about 159,000 readers, but Honduras also has smaller publications. The most significant of thosethe monthly Boletin Inforativo is published by the Honduran Documentation Center (Centro de Documentacion de Honduras, or CEDOH), run by the respected political analyst Victor Meza.

CEDOH and the Sociology Department at the National Autonomous University of Honduras (Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Honduras, or UNAH) publish Puntos de Vista, a magazine centering on social and political analysis. In addition, Honduras This Week covers national news and events in Central America.

Honduras's major newspapers are all members of the Inter American Press Association (IAPA), which was set up in 1942 to defend and promote the right of people of the Americas to be fully and freely informed through an independent press, according to information obtained from the IAPA. In March 2001, the IAPA announced its support for and adherence to the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression during a ceremony in Washington, D.C., chaired jointly by Cesar Gaviria, secretary general of the Organization of American States, and IAPA President Danilo Arbilla.

The declaration was drafted by the Organization of American States's (OAS) Inter American Commission on Human Rights. Gaviria called it a "significant contribution to the establishment of a legal framework to protect the right to freedom of expression." He also said it would "surely be the subject of interest and study by OAS member countries." The document includes 13 principles of freedom of expression and is based on the Declaration of Chapultepec, sponsored by the IAPA and drafted in 1994. Honduras signed that declaration in July 1994, under then-President Carols Roberto Reina.

The Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression was adopted at the 108th regular session of the Inter American Commission on Human Rights in October 2000, and submitted for the approval of OAS member countries during a general assembly in Quebec, Canada, in April 2001.

Several periodicals are published in Honduras, as are a number of trade papers. One popular periodical is Coconut Telegraph, which features stories on vacations and travel.

Private interests own around 80 percent of newspapers. All Honduran television stations are privately owned. The government owns the radio station Radio Honduras. There is no national news agency.

Economic Framework

In 2000, Honduras was generally seen as one of the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere. It is basing much of its hopes for the future on expanded trade privileges under the Enhanced Caribbean Basin Initiative and on debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries initiative.

Honduras has come back from much of the economic problems caused by Hurricane Mitch, and the gross domestic product in 2001 rose an estimated 5 percent. The labor force in 1997 was estimated at around 2.3 million. Of that labor force, about 50 percent were employed in services, agriculture employed 29 percent and industry around 21 percent, according to 1998 figures. However, in 2000 it was estimated that Honduras had an unemployment rate of 28 percent.

The Honduran economy is rebounding, and in 2001 it grew 2.5 percent, according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. Inflation was at 9 percent in 2001, slightly lower than the previous year.

Press Laws

The 1982 Honduras Constitution guarantees freedom of the press. However, with the news media concentrated in the hands of a small number of powerful businessmen, as well as local businessmen or their close family members, press laws are not always respected.

The Law of Free Expression of Thought came into effect Aug. 26, 1958, when it was published in La Gaceta, the official bulletin, according to the Inter American Press Association. Article 1 of that law states: "No person may be harassed or persecuted for their opinions. The private actions that do not alter public order or that do not cause any damage to third parties are outside the action of the Law." According to the first part of Article 2: "The freedoms of speech and of information are invio-late. This includes the right to not be harassed for one's opinions, to investigate and receive information, and to disseminate it via any means of expression."

However, according to Article 6: "It is forbidden to circulate publications that preach or disseminate doctrines that undermine the foundation of the State or of the family, and those publications that provoke, incite to or encourage the commission of crimes against persons or property." Clearly this leaves room for interpretation regarding what or what does not undermine the state or the family.

Honduran journalists also must adhere to the Organic Law of the College of Journalists of Honduras, an obligation that went into effect on Dec. 6, 1972. That law is, in effect, a mandatory licensing law for journalists and the OAS's Inter American Court of Human Rights has found that mandatory licensing laws such as this violate the American Convention on Human Rights. According to the OAS's Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, the College of Journalists has become an "organization that restricts freedom of expression and limits the free practice of journalism."

The law requires that all Honduran journalists have a valid degree in journalism, be registered in the College of Journalists, and that editors, managing editors, editors-in-chief and news editors be Honduran by birth. If a journalist is caught practicing the profession without being a member, he is fined, as is the person or company that contracts the offender's services. The College of Journalists also is responsible for sponsoring courses to upgrade the profession.

The College of Journalists is charged with overseeing the regulation of professional journalism, and according to Article 2e, "To cooperate with the State in the fulfillment of its public functions."

Foreign journalists must abide by a strict set of laws in order to practice their profession in Honduras. Article 18 of the Organic Law mandates that foreign journalists must comply with immigration, labor laws and treaties of Honduras; have their degree revalidated at the National University of Honduras, and register with the College of Journalists.

Honduran journalists must also worry about criminal defamation laws. Article 345 of the penal code mandates jail sentences of two to four years for anyone who "threatens, libels, slanders, insults or in any other way attacks the character of a public official in the exercise of his or her function, by act, word or in writing." Under Article 323, anyone who "offends the President of the Republic" may be sentenced to up to 12 years in prison.

Defamation is a criminal offense, and those found guilty may receive up to a year in prison, although no prosecutions were reported in 1999. Although defamation laws have been reformed, lawsuits remain a risk. Many officials still use any available legal means to stifle criticism in the press. Some government and corporate sponsors have been known to retaliate against the press by discriminately doling out advertising dollars, according to information provided by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). In a nation trying to rebound economically, this is a particularly devastating and effective tactic.

In 2001, a government-proposed bill that would have tackled organized crime was presented to parliament. The bill (Article 7) stated "professional confidentiality cannot be cited as a reason not to cooperate" with government officials, according to Reporters Without Borders. The bill would have made it easier to tap telephones and intercept postal or electronic mail. In addition, a new penal code (Article 372) would mandate between four and seven years in prison for revealing a state secret. Although neither bill was approved by the end of the year, the fact they were put forward by the government clearly sends a message to the press.


In theory, the rights of the press generally are respected. In practice, they sometimes appear to be breached. The media is subject to corruption and politicization, and there have been instances of self-censorship, allegations of intimidation by military authorities, and payoffs to journalists, according to a 1992 U.S. Department of State human rights report.

In a press scandal that became public in January 1993, a Honduran newspaper published information contained in documents belonging to the National Elections Tribunal (Tribunal Nacional de Elecciones) showing payments to 13 journalists. Many observers believed at the time that more than half of journalists received payoffs for stories, some from government institutions including municipalities, the National Congress, various ministries and the military.

Another problem has been self-censorship in reporting sensitive subjects, particularly issues concerning the military and national security, according to the U.S. State Department report. Intimidation, threats, blacklisting and violence also occurred at various times in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Some analysts say that despite instances of military intimidation of the press in early 1993, print and broadcast media played an important role in creating an environment conducive to the public's questioning and criticism of authorities. Honduran sociologist Leticia Salomon said that in early 1993 the media, including newspaper caricatures, played "an instrumental role in mitigating the fear of criticizing the military." He believes this diminishment of fear was an important step in the building of a democratic culture in Honduras.

Little investigative journalism is done in Honduras, and when it does occur the focus primarily is on non-controversial subjects, according to the U.S. State Department. If a journalist does try to do an in-depth report, the reporter is faced with external pressure to halt the investigation, restrictive deadlines, and often a lack of access to government documents or independent sources.

State-Press Relations

As the twentieth century came to a close and the twenty-first century opened, freedom of the press in Honduras remained a difficult goal. Restrictive government policies were targeted toward silencing the independent media and corruption among journalists.

Independent journalists often faced government pressure, according to a 1999 CPJ report. Phones were often tapped, the "established" press often ridiculed them, and fear was ever present. One San Pedro Sula television journalist, Rossana Guevara, told police she had been harassed after looking into cases of government corruption. And in July 1999, someone tried to kidnap another television journalist, Renato Alvarez of Telenisa Canal 63, after he reported details of a possible coup.

In 2001, Reporters Without Borders characterized Honduras's media situation as "tense." A half dozen journalists in total were dismissed from the newspaper El Heraldo and the television station Canal 63, with all six claiming the government pressured their employers. Allegations of intervention were also leveled against former President Flores.

The Journalists Institute suspended dozens of its members in 2001. It also criticized two outspoken journalists who voiced objections against the institute's decisions and corruption among their colleagues.

The Honduran government installed in January 2002 may not try to control the press as much as past administrations have, according to the Inter American Press Association. However, threats and legal matters remain in the way of a totally free press.

The deputy of Democratic Unification, the left-wing party, has asked the National Congress to regulate press freedom, including controlling journalists and media outlets. His request was based on a recently published case in which the U.S. Embassy suspended the visas of three prominent Honduran businessmen.

The independent press also faced pressure from the government of former President Flores. The press gave prominent coverage to the more powerful politicians during the November 2001 presidential elections. Small political parties received little or no coverage and had little or no access to the media. Meanwhile, the National Party and the ruling Liberal Party flooded radio and television stations with advertisements. National Party candidate Ricardo Maduro won the race, defeating Liberal Party candidate Rafael Pineda Ponce, to become president.

It can frequently be difficult to distinguish the media from the politicians in Honduras. Former President Flores owns La Tribuna. In addition to El Tiempo, Rosenthal owns a television station, Canal 11. Other politicians are reported to own radio and television stations, according to CPJ.

The government in 2001 reportedly influenced the decision of El Heraldo, traditionally known for its anti-government stances, to fire opinion editor Manuel Torres and a reporter, Roger Argueta, according to CPJ. A month earlier the paper lost editor Thelma Mejia when she resigned, also reportedly under government pressure. All three had criticized the government while working at the paper. After they left, the newspaper's coverage of the Flores administration became decidedly less critical.

In September 2001, former President Flores pledged to ensure no limits are placed on press freedom after a meeting with an Inter American Press Association delegation, a meeting during which the issue of legislation to force journalists to disclose their sources of information was raised. Flores assured the delegation he would act to remove any provision that would curtail freedom of the press. In doing so, Flores cited his own newspaper background, from being editor of the daily La Tribuna to actually owning the paper. At the end of the year, the legislationstill with the provisionhad not been acted upon.

The military allegedly has been involved in intimidating members of the press. In January 1993, an El Tiempo reporter, Eduardo Coto, witnessed the murder of a San Pedro Sula businessman. When El Tiempo 's business manager gave refuge to Coto, a bomb exploded at his home. Coto had alleged that the businessman was killed by members of Battalion 3-16, a military unit suspected in the disappearances of several people in the 1980s. Coto is said to have received death threats from members of the military. He fled to Spain, where he was given asylum.

Under the Maduro administration, many observers hope that the press will be freer than it has under previous governments. Whether that turns out to be the case or not will be determined in the coming years.

Broadcast Media

Radio Honduras is owned by the government, but the state does not own a television station. Honduras has around 290 commercial radio stations broadcasting on about 240 AM stations and 50 FM stations. Hondurans own about 2.45 million radios, according to 1997 U.S. government figures.

Honduras has nine television channels, with an additional 12 cable television stations broadcasting to approximately 570,000 televisions. Television stations primarily operate from either Tegucigalpa or San Pedro Sula. Emisoras Unidas controls three television channels, and it owns Radio HRN, a major stations. Around 87 percent of homes in Tegucigalpa have televisions, while about 90 percent have radios.

Electronic News Media

As of 2000, Honduras had eight Internet service providers, according to U.S. government figures. Honduras also reported around 40,000 Internet users. About 12 television stations air programs on the Internet, as do around 25 AM and FM radio stations, as well as several newspapers and other publications.

Education & TRAINING

The Inter American Press Association established a scholarship fund in 1954 for young journalists and journalism school graduates. The scholarship allows U.S. and Canadian scholars to spend one academic year studying and reporting in Latin America and the Caribbean. In return, Latin American and Caribbean students spend an academic year at a recognized U.S. or Canadian journalism school. Member publications and private foundations help support the fund, and no government funding is accepted.

The primary institution of higher education in Honduras is the National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH), which was founded in 1847. It has around 30,000 students, with branches in San Pedro Sula and La Ceiba.

Three private universities are located in Honduras, although most observers believe UNAH remains the top educational choice. The tiny Jose Cecilio del Valle University is located in Tegucigalpa, as is Central American Technological University. The third private university is the University of San Pedro Sula. Annual enrollment in higher education in Honduras is around 39,400 students.


Although its history might not appear to leave much hope for a completely unfettered and free press, Honduras has made progress. Some see greater hope for a freer press under the leadership of President Maduro, although that has yet to be proven.

Ownership of newspapers by politicians and government officials does not do much to help freedom of the press, and the kinds of harassment reported by those who criticize the government further erodes the possibility of a free press in Honduras. In addition, restrictive laws such as those requiring journalists to belong to the College of Journalists-in effect, a licensing law-further inhibits a free press. The government's pressure on the press also shackles journalists. The press in Honduras will not be free until these pressures on the media are removed.

Significant Dates

  • 1982: The Honduran Constitution guarantees freedom of the press.
  • 1998: Hurricane Mitch devastates the country.
  • September 2001: Honduran President Carlos Flores pledges to ensure no limits are placed on press freedom in his country.


Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The World Fact Book 2001. Available from

"Country Profile: Honduras." BBC News, July 20, 2002. Available from

"Country Profile: Honduras." Available from

"Freedom of the Press Report 2002." Country Reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists. Available from

"Honduras." Country Reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists. Available from

"Honduras." Press Laws Database. Inter American Press Association. Available from

"Honduras: Constitutional Background." Library of Congress Country Study, 1992. Available from

"Honduras: Economic and Political Overview." In Latin Business Chronicle. Available from

"IAPA in Honduras defends professional secrecy, rejects licensing of journalists." Inter American Press Association, September 7, 2001.

Reporters without Borders. "Honduras: Annual Report 2002." Available from

U.S. State Department. "Honduras." In Consular Reports. Available from

World Press Freedom Review. International Press Institute. Available from

Brad Kadrich

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Basic Data
Official Country Name: Republic of Honduras
Region: North & Central America
Population: 6,249,598
Language(s): Spanish
Literacy Rate: 72.7%
Academic Year: February-November
Number of Primary Schools: 8,114
Compulsory Schooling: 6 years
Public Expenditure on Education: 3.6%
Foreign Students in National Universities: 521
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 1,008,181
  Secondary: 203,192
  Higher: 54,106
Educational Enrollment Rate: Primary: 111%
  Higher: 10%
Teachers: Primary: 28,888
  Secondary: 10,203
  Higher: 4,078
Female Enrollment Rate: Primary: 112%
  Higher: 9%

History & Background

Honduras is a Central American nation that shares borders with Guatemala, Nicaragua, and El Salvador. It has coasts on both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. More than three-fourths of the 29,236-square mile country is mountainous. In 1997, its population was over 6 million. Five major cities include Tegucigalpa (the capital), San Pedro Sula, La Ceiba, Puerto Lempira, and Santa Rosa de Copán. Ninety percent of Hondurans are mestizo (a mixture of Spanish and Indian), 6 percent are Indian, and more than 2 percent are of African descent. Of these many are Black Caribs (guarifunas ), who are of both Indian and black stock. The country, which already had one of the lowest per capita incomes in Central America, was decimated in 1998 by Hurricane Mitch, probably its biggest natural disaster ever.

In 1821 Honduras won independence from Spain and joined the Central American Federation, to which it belonged until it became a separate, independent country in 1841. Honduras has shifted from democratic to dictatorial governments, but in 1981 civilian rule returned. There are 18 provinces (departamentos ) in the country, each with its own governor.

Under Spain, as in most Central American countries, Honduran education was an enterprise of the Roman Catholic Church. Normally, the richest families had access to the best education in or outside the country. For many years, most Hondurans attended universities in nearby Central American countries. Formally, education was recognized as a national enterprise in 1880, when a new constitution was approved; in 1881 an Act of Education was promulgated.

At the end of the nineteenth century, Honduras had already established the nondenominational character of public education, although it did provide some financial support for private (Roman Catholic) schools. Education got another boost at the beginning of the twentieth century when several normal schools (teacher training schools) were established. But advances were minimal from government to government. Recently, at the end of the twentieth century, the government of Ramón Villeda Morales established a more credible educational system and began to construct new schools.

The biggest enemy of both public and private education in Honduras is extreme poverty. Most Hondurans live below the poverty level, and many migrate to the United States and to other Central American nations in search of better living standards. It is unfortunate that one-fifth of the population controls more than half of the combined income of all of the families in Honduras.

Constitutional & Legal Foundations

The 1982 Honduran constitution stipulates laws and regulations related to education in articles 151 to 171. Primary education is free and obligatory. Honduran nationals must teach the constitution, history, and geography of Honduras in public schools. Public education is nondenominational, and parents can choose whether to send their children to public or private schools. The state charges schools with the tasks of eradicating illiteracy, promoting special education, and insuring adherence to prescribed academic levels. In rural areas, farm or factory owners must establish new primary schools as needed or help support poor schools. Teachers, both active and retired, are tax-exempt.

Articles 160 to 162 address higher education and establish the National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH ) as the official state agency that governs most laws and regulations pertaining to higher education, including setting its own academic standards. By law, the state allocates 8 percent of its national budget to the university. In addition to what is established in the constitution, the government of Honduras has issued other decrees on education, such as the 1966 Organic Law and the 1973 National Commission for Educational Reform Report. All of these reports, laws, and statutes strengthen the central position of the government in the Honduran educational system.

Educational SystemOverview

Schools in Honduras fall in four categories: preprimary, primary, lower secondary, and upper secondary. The Secretary of Public Education is the chief administrator. The Ministry of Education supervises the writing and publication of textbooks and is in charge of distributing them throughout the country. The curriculum is the same for the whole country and, following the spirit of the country's constitution, education inspectors make regular visits to insure that syllabi and textbooks are used and implemented properly. The inspectors also visit private schools.

Private education has flourished in the last third of the twentieth century. Unlike in other countries, private schools do not have as much academic prestige in Honduras, where they have the reputation of being little more than moneymaking enterprises. Despite the schools' lower academic standards, wealthy families like to send their children to the private schools because they still convey higher social status.

To pass any academic subject, students must achieve at least the 60 percent mark. They can repeat the same course several times during the year, but low achievers may be required to repeat grades. Education is compulsory from ages 7 to 13, and after finishing primary education, students are required to teach two adults in literacy. Dropout rates are high in both primary and secondary education, especially in the rural areas. While more than 90 percent of students enroll in primary schools, less than half complete their studies. Of those who do finish primary school, only one-third goes on to secondary schools. There are six universities in the country, led by the National Autonomous University in Tegucigalpa.

Although French and German are taught in some private institutions, the most popular language in both the private and the public systems is English. Most students, however, do not achieve the proficiency standards set by the state. The Internet, as a classroom tool, is slowly making its way into many Honduran schools, especially in urban areas. It is used the most at the main university in Honduras.

In the late twentieth century, the educational system in Honduras struggled with a lack of funds, teacher shortages, poor pedagogic training, and antiquated curricula. These problems were compounded in 1998 when Hurricane Mitch hit the country. An estimated one-fourth of schools were destroyed.

Preprimary & Primary Education

At age four, children may attend either a public or a private school, and they do so for a period of three years (ages four to six). Preprimary education is divided into three stages: prekindergarten, kindergarten, and preparatory. The Honduran constitution stipulates that preprimary education must be both free and compulsory. In fact, however, very few children (less than 13 percent in the early 1990s) do go to school at this early age, and those who do go come mostly from urban areas. This is because the law forcing compulsory attendance is more strictly enforced in urban areas.

As one might expect, primary school students get a smattering of academics: they learn a few numbers and the alphabet. Most youngsters spend their time playing games and singing songs that are appropriate for their age. However, preprimary teaching goes further than babysitting. Teachers emphasize good behavior and disposition for study.

Primary school lasts six years, and the age level ranges from 7 to 13. More than 90 percent of Honduran children attend primary school, despite a scarcity of teachers and inadequate classroom space. In addition, most elementary schoolteachers have poor backgrounds themselves, having had very little preparation in the sciences and in teaching methodology. Primary school teachers concentrate on teaching basic skills, though many instruct students in practical subjects such as agriculture and physical education.

Secondary Education

There are two stages in secondary education: lower and upper. To be accepted in the lower level (equivalent to the American middle school or junior high) students must have completed six years of primary education. In the lower level there are two tracks, called common cycles: the common cycle of general culture and the prevocational common cycle. Both tracks last two years and enroll students from ages 13 to 16. The common cycles prepare students with basic knowledge that they can use either for a vocational career or to move on to the next academic level.

The upper secondary level is called diversified education. It lasts two years, from 16 to 18 years of age. To be accepted, students at this upper level must have completed the general culture common cycle. They can specialize in either sciences or letters. They are awarded the high school degree (bachillerato ) upon completion of their studies.

Students who opt out of diversified education can enroll in a three-year technical secondary school program, for students ages 16 to 19. Students learn practical skills that prepare them for more vocational training, or they try to get a job. The technical track awards certificates in public accounting, primary teaching, or business. By choosing this option, students can enter the workforce more quickly.

Private secondary schools compete with public ones. There are more than 150 private secondary schools in Honduras, and they cater to the rich and the middle class. A lack of both private and public schools at this level explains why more than two-thirds of students who graduate from primary schools do not continue on to secondary education. Nonetheless, those who do not have access to centers of secondary learning have the option of enrolling in a distance education system. Many who do so, as might be expected, come from rural areas.

There are many specialized secondary schools in the country. They include the School of Fine Arts, the National School of Forestry, the National School of Agriculture, and the National School of Music. Admission to these schools depends upon completion of primary studies.

Higher Education

The National Autonomous University of Honduras, founded in 1847, is the premier institution of higher learning. It became autonomous in 1847, and in the 1990s, more than 30,000 students were enrolled. In addition to the main campus in Tegucigalpa, it has branches in San Pedro Sula and La Ceiba. Other universities include JoséCecilio del Valle University (founded in 1977), Central American Technological University (1986), and the National Pedagogic University Francisco Morazán (1989). This latter institution trains mainly secondary teachers. There is low morale among university professors, as they are poorly paid and receive little encouragement to do research. Most professors are not full time.

To be accepted at the university, students must finish high school and take a general orientation course. There are three stages, or university levels. In the first stage students can, after three or four years of study, earn a university first degree (bachillerato universitario ) or a licentiate (licenciatura ). The university usually does not offer master's or doctoral programs, although there are doctoral degrees for medicine, chemistry, and dental surgery.

Most students at the university choose careers in medicine, law, or engineering. To specialize in medicine, students have to work for three years after they complete six years of undergraduate work. Because they have to work full- or part-time, many college students take even longer to finish their degree programs. In addition, many do not get their diplomas at all because they fail the final comprehensive examination.

Administration, Finance, & Educational Research

The Ministry of Education controls all facets of primary and secondary education, although the universities enjoy autonomy. This centralization contributes to the ineffectiveness of the educational system. Too much power is concentrated in Tegucigalpa, and few initiatives are left to provincial (departmental) school officials. The government enacts educational legislation that is handed down to the Ministry to implement in the whole country.

Traditionally, both primary and higher education get a bigger slice of the money allocated. Higher education, by constitutional mandate, gets 6 percent of the national budget. Money for education at the end of twentieth century stood at about one-sixth of the national budget, fluctuating between 14 and 17 percent. Usually, over 90 percent of the education budget is allocated to teacher salaries.

Research activities are very limited in Honduras. And, for the most part, funding comes from outside sources, like UNESCO or other United Nations agencies. Research grants from government sources are very rare. At the universities, professors are not offered any incentives to conduct research activities. A few scientific research projects take place at the primary and secondary levels. Were there more computers, laboratories, and release time, as well as more access to the Internet, teachers and professors could engage in more research.

Nonformal Education

As in most Central American countries, adult education programs focus on three areas: literacy programs, agrarian education and community development programs, and vocational courses. The illiteracy rate in Honduras at the end of the twentieth century stood at about 73 percent. In the rural areas, more than 80 percent of the population was illiterate. Literacy classes are offered by government agencies, the private sector, and religious organizations. The Ministry of Education established an accelerated literacy program for adults so that they can complete their primary education in four years. Agrarian education programs are administered by governmental and international agencies and by private organizations. Honduras has many nongovernmental organizations that offer vocational training and literacy classes. These programs are carried out in cooperation with the appropriate state agencies.

Vocational education spans the three levels: the common cycle, the diversified level, and the university level. The complexity of this education increases from the lower to the higher levels. Also, distance learning is administered by the National Autonomous University of Honduras and by the National Pedagogic University Francisco Morazán. The courses offered tend to be more academic than vocational. Distance learning students are required to do the same work as students who attend the main campuses.

Teaching Profession

Primary school teachers must attend three years of the upper secondary cycle in the teacher training schools (escuelas normales ). After completing the program they are awarded the teaching certificate (Maestro de educación primaria ). Aspiring teachers for secondary schools have obtained either a bachillerato or a Normal School Certificate. Then they go to the Escuela Superior del Profesorado (Higher School for Teacher Training), or to the National Pedagogic University Francisco Morazán, or to both. But because there are only a few centers to train secondary professionals, the majority of secondary teachers do not receive proper training, though some seek academic development via correspondence courses.


The Honduran education system faces several challenges in the twenty-first century. For much of the twentieth century, Honduran students were required to memorize useless or impractical data at the expense of sharpening their reasoning powers and critical thinking skills. To address this issue, educators must update the curriculum and conduct better assessment of student performance. Teacher training and the selection and hiring of teaching professionals are other crucial needs facing significant obstacles. Teachers are paid low wages, they do not have access to effective instructional materials, and their training often does not include the latest technologies and current teaching methods. In addition, there is a scarcity of teachers and many parents prefer to send their children to private schools to gain social status.

Hondurans must also contend with the more immediate and practical difficulties that arose in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch. The Education Ministry building was flooded, and computers and school records were destroyed. Classes were cancelled for more than three months, and one-fourth of all Honduran schools were lost. Teachers spent their time distributing medicine, working as census takers, and cleaning the streets. Building new schools will remain a high priority for the Honduran education system for some time, and both teachers and students will have to adjust to the new challenges posed by starting over.


The Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Report: Nicaragua, Honduras. London: 1999. Available from

Merrill, Tim L., ed. Honduras, A Country Study. Washington, DC: Federal Research Division, The Library of Congress, 1995.

Pineda Portillo, Noé, and José Luis Luzón Benedicto. Honduras. Madrid: Ediciones Anaya, 1988.

Waggoner, George R., and Barbara Ashton Waggoner. Education in Central America. Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas Press, 1971.

World Higher Education Database 2000. Available from

WRAL5Online. "Hurricane Wipes Out Much of Honduras' Education System." Available from

Jorge Rodríguez-Florido

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Official name : Republic of Honduras

Area: 112,090 square kilometers (43,267 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Cerro Las Minas (2,870 meters/9,417 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Northern and Western

Time zone: 6 a.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 663 kilometers (412 miles) from east-northeast to west-southwest; 317 kilometers (197 miles) from north-northwest to south-southeast

Land boundaries: 2,340 kilometers (1,454 miles) total boundary length; El Salvador 342 kilometers (212 miles); Guatemala 256 kilometers (159 miles); Nicaragua 922 kilometers (572.6 miles)

Coastline: 710 kilometers (440 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)


Honduras is located in Central America and is bordered by the Caribbean Sea to the north and east, Nicaragua and the Pacific to the south, El Salvador to the southwest, and Guatemala to the west. With a total area of about 112,090 square kilometers (43,267 square miles), the country is slightly larger than the state of Tennessee. Honduras is administratively divided into eighteen departments.


Honduras has no territories or dependencies.


Honduras is generally warm throughout the year, with varying rainfall and humidity. Coastal temperatures average 31°C (84°F), with lower temperatures at the higher elevations. The country has only two seasons: a dry season lasting from November through April, and a wet season from May through October. Rainfall is highest in the coastal areas, where it can exceed 240 centimeters (95 inches). The southern regions are the driest, receiving an average annual rainfall of 84 centimeters (33 inches). The Caribbean coast is subject to hurricanes.


Honduras, part of the isthmus of Central America, is the second-largest Central American republic, with coasts on both the Pacific and the Caribbean Sea. It has four main regions: the eastern lowlands, the northern coastal plains, the central highlands, and the Pacific lowlands. Honduras also has many rivers, some of which have extensive valleys. Honduras is located on the Caribbean Tec-tonic Plate, near its boundaries with the Cocos and the North American Plates. Consequently, earthquakes are frequent, although they are generally mild.


Seacoast and Undersea Features

Honduras has a large northern coastline along the Caribbean Sea and a shorter one to the south along the Pacific Ocean. There are many large coral reefs in the Caribbean off Honduras's northern coast.

Sea Inlets and Straits

The Caratasca Lagoon, a major inlet on the Caribbean Coast, provides a natural harbor for the city of Puerto Lempira.

Islands and Archipelagos

The small Swan Islands (Cajones Cays) are about 177 kilometers (110 miles) north-north-east of Patuca Point in the Caribbean Sea. Also in the Caribbean are the Bay Islands (Islas de la Bahía) which include Guanaja, Utila, and, the largest, Roatán. Honduras also controls some small islands in the Gulf of Fonseca (Gulfo de Fonseca).

Coastal Features

Honduras's northern coast is long and even, running east from the Gulf of Honduras for most of its length before curving south as it approaches the Nicaraguan border at Cape Gracias a Dios. The Pacific coast is much shorter and uneven. It is all on the sheltered waters of the Gulf of Fonseca.


Lake Yojoa (Lago de Yojoa) is the only large natural lake in Honduras. Surrounded by massive mountains, the lake itself sits at an altitude of approximately 669 meters (2,200 feet) above sea level. The Tepemechín River drains the lake on the south and the Blanco River empties the lake on the north.


There are many large river systems in Honduras. They have formed the valleys in which many of the people live, and their alluvial deposits have contributed to the fertility of the soil. In the north, from west to east, are the Chamelecón, the Ulúa, the Aguán, the Sico, the Paulaya, the Platano, the Sicre, the Patuca, and the Coco Rivers. All the rivers in the north flow into the Caribbean Sea. The Ulúa and its tributaries drain one-third of the country. The Coco actually rises in the south, then flows north along the border with Nicaragua. It is the longest river in Honduras.

Other than the Coco, all the rivers that arise in the south flow toward the Pacific Ocean. The Lempa, Sumpul, and the Goascoran Rivers run nearly the entire length of Honduras's border with El Salvador. Further east are the Nacaome and the Choluteca; the latter drains into the Gulf of Fonseca.


There are no notable deserts in Honduras.


Tropical lowland areas are found on both coasts, but are much larger in the north. The plains extend particularly far inland along the Ulúa River valley, about 121 kilometers (75 miles). The southern coastal plains are much shorter, with lowlands extending only about 40 kilometers (25 miles).

Inland from the northern coast, Caribbean pines cover large portions of land. Other trees include hardwoods such as walnut, mahogany, cedar, and ebony. It is estimated that about 54 percent of Honduras is covered with forest and woodland areas.

Much of the small amount of cultivated area is located in the flatlands and river valleys that are between, and parallel to, the mountains. These temperate valleys and flatlands are also the primary areas of settlement, except for the north coast banana district, which was reclaimed from tropical forests in the twentieth century.


Honduras is the most mountainous country in Central America, and two distinct series of mountain ranges divide the country roughly into two halves: the north and the south. Over 80 percent of the land is mountainous, thereby limiting the area suitable for cultivation and pastures.

In the north, mountain ranges extend from the Guatemala border on the west to the Platano River on the east. These northern ranges are all extensions of the Central American Cordillera, a mountain chain that travels across Central America from Mexico to Nicaragua. The chains of the Central American Cordillera run largely parallel to the coast and to each other. The northern mountain ranges were formed by changes in the earth's crust several million years ago. Underneath the surface cover of limestone and sandstone, the mountains are composed of granite, mica, slate, and other materials.

The Volcanic Highlands extend from the border with El Salvador in the southwest and across the southern part of the country to the border with Nicaragua in the east. Unlike the mountains of the north, these southern ranges are newer, consisting of lava formed by volcanic eruption some twelve million years ago. Volcanic material has both eroded and been ejected from these highlands and forms fertile soil.

The Volcanic Highlands are higher overall than the Central American Cordillera chains. The highest peaks in the country, Cerro Las Minas (2,870 meters/9,417 feet) and Mount Celaque (2,848 meters/9,345 feet) are found here.


Various caves are located in the rainforest areas of central Honduras, including Talgua Cave, which is also known as the "Cave of the Glowing Skulls." Caves often have been used as burial grounds for the dead.


In the areas between one mountain range and the other, in both the Central American Cordillera ranges and the Volcanic Highlands, are various plateaus. These intermountain flat-lands average 3 to 11 kilometers (2 to 7 miles) in width and are flanked by mountains from 914 to 2,133 meters (3,000 to 7,000 feet) in height. Historically, these level lands have been the most highly populated regions.


There are no notable man-made features in Honduras.



Gollin, James. Honduras: Adventures in Nature. Emeryville, CA: Avalon, 2001.

McGaffey, Lita. Honduras. New York: Marshall Cavendish, 1999.

Merrick, Patrick. Honduras. Chanhassen, MN: Child's World, 2001.

Web Sites

Honduras This Week Online. (accessed June 17, 2003). (accessed June 17, 2003).

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Honduras (hŏndŏŏr´əs, –dyŏŏr´–; Span., ōndōō´räs), officially Republic of Honduras, republic (2005 est. pop. 6,975,000), 43,277 sq mi (112,088 sq km), Central America. Second largest of the Central American countries, Honduras is bounded on the north by the Caribbean Sea, on the east and south by Nicaragua, on the southwest by El Salvador and the Pacific Ocean, and on the west by Guatemala. Tegucigalpa is the capital and chief commercial center.

Land and People

Over 80% of the land is mountainous; ranges extend from east to west at altitudes of 5,000 to 9,000 ft (1,520–2,740 m) and limit heavy rainfall to the north. In the east are the swamps and forests of the Mosquito Coast. Two river systems, the Patuca and the Ulúa, drain most of the north. The country's short stretch of southern coast on the Gulf of Fonseca, with San Lorenzo and the port of Henecán, is the sole Pacific outlet. Honduras has a tropical, rainy climate. The people, of whom about 90% are mestizo, are Spanish-speaking (indigenous dialects are also spoken) and nearly all Roman Catholic.

Economy and Government

Honduras is one of the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere and remains dependent on international economic assistance. The economy is based on agriculture; bananas and coffee are the most important exports. The vast banana plantations, established by U.S. companies, are mainly along the northern coast; the United Fruit Company and the Standard Fruit Company and their successor companies, fiercely resented by many as exploitive monopolies, have had much social and political influence in Honduras. Seafood, gold and other minerals, palm oil, fruit, lumber, and beef are also exported. Other important food crops include corn, beans, rice, and citrus.

Honduras has rich forest resources and deposits of silver, lead, zinc, iron, gold, antimony, and copper, but exploitation is hampered by inadequate road and rail systems, and the country remains underdeveloped. Its only railroads link the banana plantations in the north to San Pedro Sula and the principal ports, La Ceiba, Puerto Cortés, and Tela; they do not penetrate more than 75 mi (121 km) inland. Air transportation, however, has opened up remote areas. Industry, concentrated chiefly in San Pedro Sula, is small and consumer-oriented, including the production of processed food (mainly sugar and coffee), textiles, clothing, and wood products. Machinery, transportation equipment, raw materials, chemicals, fuels, and foodstuffs are imported. The United States is by far the largest trading partner, followed by Guatemala and El Salvador.

Honduras is governed under the constitution of 1982 as amended. The president, who is both head of state and head of government, is popularly elected for a four-year term. The unicameral legislature, the National Congress, has 128 members, also elected for four years. Administratively, the country is divided into 18 departments.


The restored Mayan ruins of Copán in the west, first discovered by the Spaniards in 1576 and rediscovered in dense jungle in 1839, reflect the great Mayan culture (see Maya) that arose in the region in the 4th cent. It had declined when Columbus sighted the region in 1502, naming it Honduras (meaning "depths" ) for the deep water off the coast. Hernán Cortés arrived in 1524 and ordered Pedro de Alvarado to found settlements along the coast. Comayagua and Tegucigalpa developed as early mining centers. In a war (1537–38) between Spain and the indigenous population, Spain crushed the resistance after the death of the native leader, Lempira.

In 1821, Honduras gained independence from Spain and became part of Iturbide's Mexican Empire; from 1825 to 1838 it was a member of the Central American Federation. Thereafter, conservative and liberal factions fought bloody wars to control the republic, and Honduras was subjected to frequent interference from its Central American neighbors. Great Britain long controlled the Mosquito Coast and the Islas de la Bahía; William Walker attempted a "liberation" in 1860. Although Honduras often sought to reestablish Central American unity, the attempts were frustrated by political and personal animosities.

Foreign capital, plantation life, and conservative politics constituted a trio of dominant forces that held sway in Honduras from the late 19th cent. to the end of the regime (1933–48) of Tiburcio Carías Andino, when the liberal movement was reawakened. The rights of workers were not effectively defined and protected until a labor code was adopted in 1955 and a new constitution was promulgated in 1957. That year Ramón Villeda Morales became the first liberal president in 25 years.

Shortly before the scheduled presidential election in 1963, Villeda was overthrown and replaced by a military junta under Oswaldo López Arellano. The illegal immigration of several hundred thousand Salvadorans across the ill-defined El Salvador–Honduras border and the expulsion of many of the immigrants by Honduras led to a war with El Salvador in July, 1969. Although the war lasted only five days, its effects were serious, including the country's withdrawal from and the subsequent collapse of the Central American Common Market as well as continued border incidents. (A peace treaty was not signed until 1980.) In 1971 Ramón Ernesto Cruz was elected to succeed López, only to be ousted by López the following year. In late 1974 the Caribbean coast of Honduras was devastated by a hurricane. In 1975, López was himself the victim of a coup after accepting $1.25 million in bribes from the United Brands company. His successor was in turn ousted in 1978 in a military coup led by Gen. Policarpo Paz García.

As political unrest in the surrounding areas increased in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the United States pressured the Honduran government to hold democratic elections, and in 1982 a new constitution that called for free elections was promulgated and Robert Suazo Córdova became president. During the 1980s Honduras served as a base for insurgent activity against the government of Nicaragua by rebels known as Contras. The country's economy became heavily dependent on aid from the United States, which supported the rebel bases. In 1985, Jose Siméon Azcona del Hoyo was elected president in a disputed election. By 1988 popular discontent with the Contra presence resulted in massive demonstrations and the declaration of a state of emergency. In 1989, Rafael Leonardo Callejas Romero was elected to the presidency; the Contra war ended the following year.

In the 1990s Honduras benefited from regional peace and cooperation as it worked to establish economic viability independent of the United States. In 1992 an agreement was signed with El Salvador, largely settling the border controversy between the two countries; the last disputed section of the border was demarcated in 2006. Carlos Roberto Reina, of the Liberal party, was elected president in 1993; Carlos Roberto Flores Facussé, also a Liberal, won the 1997 presidential election. Late in 1998 the country was devastated by Hurricane Mitch, which left 5,600 people dead and thousands missing; much of the country's crops and livestock were destroyed. In 2001, Ricardo Maduro Joest, of the National party, won the presidency.

Manuel Zelaya Rosales, the Liberal party candidate, was elected president in 2005. Zelaya moved leftward during his presidency, aligning Honduras with Hugo Chávez's Venezuela in a number of instances, in part to obtain preferential oil prices. This and his proposal, first broached in Oct., 2008, to revise the constitution, alienated many in his own party, which controlled the National Congress, and in Honduras's conversative political and business elite. Despite the supreme court's ruling his referendum on a constitutional assembly illegal, he proceeded with plans for a June, 2009, nonbinding vote on the assembly, which was seen by many as a first move toward ending the presidential term limit. The resulting power struggle between the president and the supreme court, National Congress, and military led the court to order his arrest in June, and the military then forcibly exiled Zelaya. Roberto Micheletti, the speaker of the congress and a Liberal, was appointed interim president.

Zelaya's ouster was denounced internationally, with United Nations and Organization of American States calling for his restoration. Honduras was suspended from the OAS, and a number of nations imposed economic sanctions; Costa Rica's president, Oscar Arias Sánchez, undertook to negotiate a resolution to the crisis, but both sides proved unyielding. Zelaya returned to Honduras clandestinely in September and sought refuge in the Brazilian embassy. An agreement in late October to resolve the situation soon began to collapse, and the congress subsequently refused to restore Zelaya in a vote held (December) after the presidential election.

In the November election, Porfirio Lobo Sosa, the candidate of the conservative National party, was elected president. Lobo allowed Zelaya safe passage into exile after his Jan., 2010, inauguration. The warrants for Zelaya's arrest were dismissed in Mar., 2011, but the charges resulting from his attempt to hold a constitutional referendum were not dismissed until May. Zelaya and Lobo then signed an accord that led to Zelaya's return at the end of May and the subsequent end of Honduras's OAS suspension. In July a truth and reconciliation commission concluded that the ouster of Zelaya amounted to a coup, but that he had broken the law and bore responsibility for having created the situation that led to his ouster. In Dec., 2011, in response to increasing criminal gang and drug-related violence, due in large part to N Honduras having become a significant transit point for drugs moving from South America to Mexico, the Honduran congress voted to permit the military to take on policing duties. The presidential election in Nov., 2013, was won by Juan Orlando Hernández, a businessman and politician who was the National party candidate; he received 37% of the vote. Xiomara Castro, Zelaya's wife and the second-place candidate, denounced the result and accused the government of fraud.


See D. Z. Stone, The Archaeology of Central and Southern Honduras (1957); R. S. Chamberlain, The Conquest and Colonization of Honduras, 1502–1550 (1966); T. E. Wright, Into the Maya World (1969); J. D. Rudolph, ed., Honduras, A Country Study (1984); R. Lapper and J. Painter, Honduras, State for Sale (1985); A. Acker, Honduras: The Making of a Banana Republic (1988).

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Country statistics


112,090sq km (43,278 sq mi) 6,535,344

capital (population):

Tegucigalpa (850,445)


Multi-party republic

ethnic groups:

Mestizo 90%, Native American 7%, Garifunas (West Indian) 2%,


Spanish (official)


Roman Catholic 95%, Protestant 10%


Honduran lempira = 100 centavos

Republic in Central America. Honduras is the second largest country in Central America (after Nicaragua). It has two coastlines: the n Caribbean coast extends for c.600km (375mi), its deep offshore waters prompted the Spanish to name the country Honduras (Sp. ‘Depths’); and a narrow, 80km (50mi) long, Pacific outlet to the Gulf of Fonseca. Along the n coast are vast banana plantations. To the e lies the Mosquito Coast. The Cordilleras highlands form 80% of Honduras, and include the capital, Tegucigalpa.

Climate and Vegetation

Honduras has a tropical climate. The rainy season lasts from May to October. The n coast is sometimes hit by fierce hurricanes. Pine forests cover 75% of Honduras. The n coastal plains contain rainforest and tropical savanna. The Mosquito Coast contains mangrove swamps and dense forests. Forests of mahogany and rosewood grow on the lower mountain slopes.

History and Politics

From ad 400 to 900, the Maya civilization flourished. The Spanish discovered the magnificent ruins at Copán in w Honduras in 1576, but became covered in dense forest and were only rediscovered in 1839. Christopher Columbus sighted the coast in 1502. Pedro de Alvarado founded the first Spanish settlements (1524). The Spanish gradually subdued the native population and established gold and silver mines. In 1821 Honduras gained independence, forming part of the Mexican Empire. From 1823 to 1838, Honduras was a member of the Central American Federation. Throughout the rest of the 19th century, Honduras was subject to continuous political interference, especially from Guatemala. Britain controlled the Mosquito Coast.

In the 1890s, US companies developed the banana plantations and exerted great political influence. Honduras became known as a ‘banana republic’. After World War 2, demands grew for greater national autonomy and workers' rights. A military coup overthrew the Liberal government in 1963. Honduras' expulsion of Salvadorean immigrants, after an ill-tempered World Cup qualifying match between the two countries, led to the brief ‘Soccer War’ (1969) with El Salvador. In 1974, a hurricane devastated the Caribbean coast. Civilian government returned in 1982. During the 1980s, Honduras acted as a base for the US-backed Contra rebels from Nicaragua. Honduras heavily depended on US aid. Popular demonstrations against the Contras, led to the declaration of a state of emergency in 1988. In 1990, the war in Nicaragua ended.

In 1992 Honduras signed a treaty with El Salvador, settling the disputed border. Liberal Party leader Carlos Flores became president in 1997 elections. In 1998, Hurricane Mitch killed more than 5500 people and left 14 million people homeless. Human rights organisations estimated that ‘death squads’, often backed by the police, killed more than 1000 street children in 2000. National Party leader Ricardo Maduro became president in 2001 elections.


Honduras is the least industrialized country in Central America, and the poorest developing nation in the Americas (2000 GDP per capita US$2700). It has very few mineral resources, other than silver, lead and zinc. Agriculture dominates the economy, forming 78% of all exports and employing 38% of the population. Bananas and coffee are the leading exports, and maize is the principal food crop. Cattle are raised in the mountain valleys and on the s Pacific plains. Fishing and forestry are also important activities. Honduras has vast timber resources. Lack of an adequate transport infrastructure hampers development.

Political map

Physical map


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The people of Honduras are called Hondurans. The majority (more than 90 percent) are mestizo (mixture of white and Amerindiannative people). A little more than 5 percent of the population is Amerindian. There are also small numbers of Black Caribs (Garifunablack and Amerindian) and Miskito (Amerindian, black, and white). Blacks are 2 percent, and about 1 percent are white (Spanish origin). For more information on the Garifuna, see the chapter on Belize in Volume 1; for the Miskito, see the chapter on Nicaragua in Volume 6.

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Culture Name


Alternative Names

Hondureño catracho (the national nickname; can be amusing, insulting, or friendly, depending on the context. "Catracho" comes from the name of Florencio Xatruch, the general who led the Honduran expeditionary force against William Walker in Nicaragua in 1856.)


Identification. The name of the country means "depths." It was so named by Christopher Columbus on his fourth voyage because of the deep waters at the mouth of the Tinto o Negro River off the Mosquito Coast. Regional traditions exist in the south (Choluteca and Valle) and the north coast as well as among the minority ethnic groups. All these people self-identify as Hondurans, however. Spanish-speaking people in the center of the country are the most numerous and are culturally dominant. They do not use a special name to refer to themselves or their region.

Location and Geography. The nation has an area of 43,266 miles (112,492 square kilometers). Honduras is in the middle of Central America. The physical environment is tropical, with a long dry season (six months or more) in the south and the interior and a shorter dry season in the north. The center of the country originally was covered with pine and broadleaf forests of oak and other trees, but much of the pine forest has been logged and much of the oak forest has been cut for farming. The north coast was once primarily rain forest, but much of it has been cleared for commercial banana plantations. The northeast is called the Mosquitia. It includes the "Mosquito Coast," which is actually a long series of white sand beaches and freshwater lagoons. Inland from the coast, the Mosquitia has one of the last great stands of tropical rain forest left in North America, plus pine woods and grasslands.

Different ethnic groups live in specific environments. The Anglo-African-Caribbean "Bay Islanders" live on the Bay Islands off the north coast. The Garífuna people live along the Caribbean Coast of Central America, from Belize to Nicaragua. The Miskito and Tawahka people live in the rain forests of the eastern lowlands, and in similar lands in neighboring areas of Nicaragua. The Pech and Jicaque people live in some of the more remote areas in the central highlands. The Chortí and Lenca peoples live in the rugged western highlands. Hispanic-Hondurans live in the north, south, and center of the country.

The capital city, Tegucigalpa, was chosen because it is near the geographic center of the country. It completely fills a small, deep valley in the headwaters of the Choluteca River, in the central highlands.

Demography. Honduras had a population of 5,990,000 in 1998. In 1791, the population was only 93,501. The pre-Hispanic population was probably much higher, but conquest, slavery, and disease killed many people. The population did not reach one million until 1940.

The major ethnic group include the Chortí, a native people with a population of about five thousand in the department of Copán. There may still be a few people who can speak the Chortí language, which belongs to the Mayan family. The Lenca are a native people in the departments of La Paz, Intibucá, and Lempira, as well as some other areas. The Lenca language is extinct, and culturally the Lenca are similar in many ways to the other Spanish-speaking people in the country. The Lenca population is about one hundred thousand. The Jicaque are a native people who live in the department of Yoro and the community of Montaña de la Flor (municipality of Orica) in the department of Francisco Morazán. Only those in Montaña de la Flor still speak the Tol (Jicaque) language, which is in the Hokan family. The Jicaque group in Yoro is much larger and has been almost completely assimilated into the national culture. There are about nineteen thousand Jicaque in Yoro and about two hundred in Montaña de la Flor. The Pech are a native people in the departments of Olancho and Colón, with a few living in Gracias a Dios in the Mosquitia. They speak a Macro-Chibchan language and have a population of under three thousand. The Tawahka are a native people in the department of Gracias a Dios in the Mosquitia. Tawahka is a Macro-Chibchan language that is very closely related to Sumo, which is spoken in Nicaragua. Most Tawahkas also speak Misquito and Spanish. The Tawahka population is about seven hundred. The Misquitos are a native people with some African and British ancestry who reside in the department of Gracias a Dios in the Mosquitia. Misquito is a Macro-Chibchan language, although most Misquitos speak fluent Spanish. The Misquito population is about thirty-four thousand. The Garífuna are a people of African descent with some native American ancestry. They originated on the Caribbean island of Saint Vincent during colonial times from escaped slaves who settled among a group of Arawak-speaking Carib Indians and adopted their native American language. In 1797, the Garífuna were forcibly exiled by the British to Roatán in the Bay Islands. The Spanish colonial authorities welcomed the Garífuna, and most of them moved to the mainland. The Garífuna population is about one hundred thousand. The Bay Islanders are an English-speaking people who are long settled in the Caribbean. Some are of African descent, and some of British descent. The Bay Islanders population is about twenty-two thousand.

Linguistic Affiliation. Spanish is the dominant national language. Although originally imposed by the conquistadores, it has been widely spoken in Honduras for over two hundred years. Almost all residents speak Spanish, although some also speak English or one of the Native American languages discussed in the previous paragraph. Honduran Spanish has a distinct accent. Hondurans use some words that are not heard in other Spanish-speaking countries, and this gives their speech a distinctive character.

Symbolism. In spite of the 1969 war with El Salvador and tense relations with Nicaragua, the Honduran people feel that they are part of a larger Central American community. There is still a sense of loss over the breakup of Central America as a nation. The flag has five stars, one for each Central American country (Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica). Factory goods are not labeled "made in Honduras," but "Central American product, made in Honduras." Independence Day (15 September) is shared with the other Central American countries, and is a fairly muted national holiday. Some people complain that there is little point celebrating independence from Spain, since Honduras has become virtually a colony of the United States. By 1992, Columbus Day had become a day of bereavement, as Hondurans began to realize the depth of cultural loss that came with the Spanish conquest. May Day is celebrated with parades and speeches. In the 1990s, the national government found this symbol of labor unity threatening and called out the army to stand with rifles before the marching workers.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. Francisco Morazán led the fight for independence from Spain (achieved in 1821) and resistance to the breakup of Central America (1830). In 1855, North American soldiers of fortune (filibusterers) led by William Walker tried to convert Central America into a United States colony. They held Nicaragua until they were expelled in 1857 by Nicaraguan regular troops and volunteer fighters. In 1860 Walker invaded Honduras, at Trujillo, where he ended up before an army firing squad. United States banana companies dominated Honduran politics after 1911. Fruit companies were able to choose presidents and as late as the 1970s were powerful enough to refuse to pay higher taxes imposed on banana exports by the military government. A 1920 letter by a U.S. fruit company executive describing how easily Honduran politicians could be bribed and dominated is still a source of national embarrassment.

National Identity. Because of the relationship of Honduras with the United States, the national culture often is defined in opposition to that of the United States. Hondurans feel an affinity with other Latin Americans and Central Americans, although this is mixed with fear and resentment of some neighboring countries, especially El Salvador and Nicaragua.

The Spanish conquest was a violent episode of genocide and slavery. It produced a people with blended European, native American, and African ancestry. Many Latin American countries have a similar large ethnic group called mestizos or criollos, but what is unusual about Honduras is that the Spanish-speaking people of mixed ancestry, who make up about 88 percent of the population, proudly call themselves indios (Indians). Hondurans call indigenous peoples indígenas, not indios.

Ethnic Relations. Music, novels, and television shows circulate widely among Spanish-speaking countries and contribute to a sense of Latin culture that transcends national boundaries. Ethnic relations are sometimes strained. For centuries, most indigenous peoples lost their land, and the nation did not value their languages and cultures. The Indian and Garífuna people have organized to insist on their civil and territorial rights.

The Bay Islanders (including those of British decent and those of African descent) have ties with the United States. Because the Islanders speak English, they are able to work as sailors on international merchant ships, and despite their isolation from the national culture, they earn a higher income than other residents.

Arab-Hondurans are descended from Christian Arabs who fled Muslim persecution in the early twentieth century after the breakup of the Ottoman Empire. Many have successful businesses. Some Hispanic-Hondurans envy the economic status of Arab-Hondurans, who are usually called turcos, a name they dislike since they are not of Turkish descent. (Many of the original Arab immigrants carried passports of the Ottoman Empire, whose core was Turkey.)

Urbanism,Architecture, and the Use of Space

In the cities, houses are made of store-bought materials (bricks, cement, etc.), and some of the homes of wealthy people are large and impressive. In the countryside, each ethnic group has a distinct architectural style. Most of the homes of poor rural people are made of local materials, with floors of packed earth, walls of adobe or wattle and daub, and roofs of clay tiles or thatch.

The kitchen is usually a special room outside the house, with a wood fire built on the floor or on a raised platform. Porches are very common, often with one or more hammocks. The porch often runs around the house and sometimes connects the house to the kitchen. When visiting a rural home, one is received on the breezy porch rather than inside the house. The porch is used like the front parlor. The house is often plastered with mud, and people paint designs on it with natural earths of different colors.

A central plaza forms the heart of most towns. Important government buildings face it, as does a Catholic chapel or cathedral. Successful businesses are situated on or near the plaza. People are attracted to their city centers, and some municipal governments have started converting inner-city streets to pedestrian walkways to accommodate the crowds. Plazas are formal parks. People sit on benches under the trees and sometimes chat with friends or strangers. Villages have an informal central place located near a soccer field and a few stores and a school. In the afternoon, some people tie their horses to the front porch of the store, have a soft drink, and watch children play ball.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. Beans and corn tortillas are the mainstays of the diet. The beans are usually fried, and the tortillas are small, thick, and usually handmade; ideally, they are eaten warm. A farm worker's lunch may be little more than a large stack of tortillas, a few spoonfuls of beans, and some salt. The ideal meal includes fried plantains, white cheese, rice, fried meat, a kind of thickened semisweet cream called mantequilla, a scrambled egg, a cabbage and tomato salad or a slice of avocado, and a cup of sweet coffee or a bottled soft drink. These meals are served in restaurants and homes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner year-round. Plantains and manioc are important foods in much of the country, especially the north and the Mosquitia. Diners often have a porch or a door open to the street. Dogs, cats, and chickens wander between the tables, and some people toss them bones and other scraps. There are Chinese restaurants owned by recent immigrants. In the early 1990s, North American fast-food restaurants became popular.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Special and holiday foods are an improved version of the typical meal but feature more meat and perhaps more of an emphasis on cream and fried plantains. Christmas food includes torrejas, a white bread soaked in hot syrup, and nacatamales, which are like the Mexican tamales, but are larger and moister with a more gelatinous dough and are wrapped in banana leaves.

Basic Economy. Fifty-four percent of economically active people work in agriculture. Most are smallholder farmers who call themselves campesinos. Because the internal food market is irregular, campesinos try to grow their own maize (corn), beans, and plantains. Once they have achieved that goal, they raise a cash crop. Depending on whether they live in a valley, the mountains, or along the coast and on whether they live near a good road, a campesino household may raise a cash crop of coffee, cattle, cabbage, tomatoes, citrus fruit, maize, beans, or other vegetables. Long-term donations of wheat from the United States have kept food prices low but have provided a disincentive for grain farmers. Some large-scale commercial farmers produce melons, beef, coffee, and shrimp for export.

Land Tenure and Property. Land may be private, communal, cooperative, or national. Private land includes buildings and most of the agricultural and grazing land and some forested land. Communal land usually consists of the forest or rough pasture traditionally used by a rural community. Forest trees are owned by the government even if an individual owns the land. Many smallholders and rural communities do not have clear title to or ownership papers for their land even though their families have worked it for generations.

Cooperatives were formed in the mid-1970s to manage land taken from large landowners under agrarian reform policies. Much of this land is of good quality, and cooperatives can be several hundred acres in size. Most of the members or their parents once worked on large estates that were expropriated, usually by the workers and occasionally with some violence, and often suffered some repression while doing so. These farms are still owned cooperatively, although in almost all cases the farmers found it too difficult to work them collectively, and each household has been assigned land to work on its own within the cooperative's holdings. By 1990, 62,899 beneficiaries of agrarian reform (about 5 percent of the nation, or 10 percent of the rural people) held 906,480 acres of land (364,048 hectares, or over 4 percent of the nation's farmland). In the 1970s and 1980s, wealthy people, especially in the south, were able to hire lawyers to file the paperwork for this land and take it from the traditional owners. The new owners produced export agricultural products, and the former owners were forced to become rural laborers and urban migrants or to colonize the tropical forests in eastern Honduras.

As late as the 1980s there was still national land owned but not managed by the state. Anyone who cleared and fenced the land could lay claim to it. Some colonists carved out farms of fifty acres or more, especially in the eastern forests. By the late 1980s, environmentalists and indigenous people's advocates became alarmed that colonization from the south and the interior would eliminate much of the rain forest and threaten the Tawahka and Miskito peoples. Much of the remaining national land has been designated as national parks, wilderness areas, and reserves for the native peoples.

Commercial Activities. In the 1990s, Koreans, Americans, and other foreign investors opened huge clothing factories in special industrial parks near the large cities. These maquilas employ thousands of people, especially young women. The clothing they produce is exported.

Major Industries. Honduras now produces many factory foods (oils, margarine, soft-drinks, beer), soap, paper, and other items of everyday use.

Trade. Exports include coffee, beef, bananas, melons, shrimp, pineapple, palm oil, timber, and clothing. Half the trade is with the United States, and the rest is with other Central American countries, Europe, Japan, and the rest of Latin America. Cotton is now hardly grown, having been replaced by melon and shrimp farms in southern Honduras. Petroleum, machinery, tools, and more complicated manufactured goods are imported.

Division of Labor. Men do much of the work on small farms. Tortilla making is done by women and takes hours every day, especially if the maize has to be boiled, ground (usually in a metal, hand-cranked grinder), slapped out, and toasted by hand, and if the family is large and eats little else. Campesino children begin playing in the fields with their parents, and between the ages of about six and twelve, this play evolves into work. Children specialize in scaring birds from cornfields with slingshots, fetching water, and carrying a hot lunch from home to their fathers and brothers in the field. Some villagers have specialties in addition to farming, including shopkeeping, buying agricultural products, and shoeing horses. In the cities, job specialization is much like that of other countries, with the exception that many people learn industrial trades (mechanics, baking, shoe repair, etc.) on the job.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. Large landholdings and, to a lesser extent, successful businesses generate income for most of the very wealthy. Some of these people, especially in the city of Danlí, consider themselves a kind of aristocracy, with their own social clubs and old adobe mansions downtown. These people import new cars and take foreign vacations.

Educated, professional people and the owners of mid size businesses make up a group with a lifestyle similar to that of the United States middle class. However, some professionals earn only a few hundred dollars a month. They may work several jobs and tend to have old cars and small houses that are often decorated with much care.

Urban workers are often migrants from the countryside or the children of migrants. They tend to live in homes they have built for themselves, gradually improving them over the years. Their earnings may be around $100 a month. They tend to travel by bus.

Campesinos may earn only a few hundred dollars a year, but their lifestyle may be more comfortable than their earnings suggest. They often own land, have horses to ride, and may have a comfortable, if rudimentary home of wood or adobe, often with a large, shady porch. If a household has a few acres of land and if the adults are healthy, these people usually have enough to feed their families.

Symbols of Social Stratification. As in many countries, wealthier men sometimes wear large gold chains around their necks. Urban professionals and workers dress somewhat like their counterparts in northern countries. Rural people buy used clothing and repair each garment many times. These men often wear rubber boots, and the women wear beach sandals. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, many men carried pistols, usually poked barrel-first into the tops of their trousers. By 2000 this custom had become somewhat less common. Many campesinos, commercial farmers, and agricultural merchants carried guns at that time.

There is a subtle difference in accent among the different classes. The highest-status people pronounce words more or less as in standard Spanish, and working-class pronunciation uses a few systematic and noticeable modifications.

Political Life

Government. The most important political offices are the national president, members of congress (diputados ) and city mayors. In addition to the executive branch (a president and a cabinet of ministers) and a unicameral congress, there is a supreme court.

Leadership and Political Officials. Honduras still has the two political parties that emerged in the nineteenth century: the Liberales and the Nacionalistas. The Liberales originally were linked to the business sector, and the Nacionalistas with the wealthy rural landowners, but this difference is fading. Both parties are proUnited States, and pro-business. There is little ideological difference between them. Each is associated with a color (red for Liberals and blue for Nationalists), and the Nationalists have a nickname (los cachurecos which comes from the word cacho, or "horn," and refers to the cow horn trumpet originally used to call people to meetings). People tend to belong to the same party as their parents. Working on political campaigns is an important way of advancing in a party. The party that wins the national elections fires civil servants from the outgoing party and replaces them with its own members. This tends to lower the effectiveness of the government bureaucracy because people are rewarded not for fulfilling their formal job descriptions but for being loyal party members and for campaigning actively (driving around displaying the party flag, painting signs, and distributing leaflets).

Political officials are treated with respect and greeted with a firm handshake, and people try not to take up too much of their time. Members of congress have criminal immunity and can literally get away with murder.

Social Problems and Control. Until the 1990s, civilians were policed by a branch of the army, but this force has been replaced by a civil police force. Most crime tends to be economically motivated. In cities, people do not leave their homes unattended for fear of having the house broken into and robbed of everything, including light bulbs and toilet paper. Many families always leave at least one person home. Revenge killings and blood feuds are common in some parts of the country, especially in the department of Olancho. Police are conspicuous in the cities. Small towns have small police stations. Police officers do not walk a beat in the small towns but wait for people to come to the station and report problems. In villages there is a local person called the regidor, appointed by the government, who reports murders and major crimes to the police or mayor of a nearby town. Hondurans discuss their court system with great disdain. People who cannot afford lawyers may be held in the penitentiary for over ten years without a trial. People who can afford good lawyers spend little time in jail regardless of the crimes they have committed.

Until after the 1980s, crimes committed by members of the armed forces were dismissed out of hand. Even corporals could murder citizens and never be charged in court. In 1991, some military men, including colonels, raped and murdered a university student. Her school and family, the press, and the United States embassy exerted pressure until two men were sent to prison. This event was the start of a movement to modernize and improve the court system.

Military Activity. The Cold War was difficult for Honduras. In the past thirty years, the military has gone through three phases. The military government of the 1970s was populist and promoted land reform and tried to control the banana companies. The governments in the 1980s were nominally civilian, but were dominated by the military. The civilian governments in the 1990s gradually began to win control of the country from the military.

In the 1980s, the United States saw Honduras as a strategic ally in Central America and military aid exceeded two hundred million dollars a year. The army expanded rapidly, and army roadblocks became a part of daily life. Soldiers searched cars and buses on the highways. Some military bases were covers for Nicaraguan contras. In the mid-1990s, the military was concerned about budget cuts. By 2000, the military presence was much more subtle and less threatening.

For several reasons, the Honduran military was less brutal than that of neighboring countries. Soldiers and officers tended to come from the common people and had some sympathies with them. Officers were willing to take United States military aid, but were less keen to slaughter their own people or start a war with Nicaragua.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

The most important social change in the last few years has been the influence of Evangelical Protestant missionaries, who have converted many Hondurans to Pentecostal religions. There are also urban social change agencies, and many that work in the villages. Their fields of activity include soil conservation, gardening, and natural pest control. One of the most important reformers was an agronomist educator-entrepreneur named Elías Sánchez, who had a training farm near Tegucigalpa. Sánchez trained tens of thousands of farmers and extension agents in soil conservation and organic fertilization. Until his death in 2000, he and the people he inspired transformed Honduran agriculture. Farmers stopped using slash-and-burn agriculture in favor of intensive, more ecologically sound techniques.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

United States military aid was accompanied by economic aid. Much of this money was disbursed to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and during the 1980s there were over two hundred of these groups. About a hundred worked in agricultural programs. CARE, Catholic Relief Services, World Neighbors, and Habitat for Humanity were some of the many international organizations that opened offices in Honduras. By the early 1990s, Honduran biologists and some foreign scientists and activists were able to attract attention to the vast forests, which were often the homes of native peoples and were under threat from logging, colonial invasion and cattle ranching. The Miskito people's NGO, Mopawi, was one of several native people's organizations that attracted funding, forged ties with foreign activists, and were able to reverse destructive development projects. Most native peoples now have at least one NGO that promotes their civil rights. In the large cities there are some organizations that work in specific areas such as street children and family planning. Rural people receive much more attention from NGOs than do the urban poor.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. Men are more prominent than women in public life, but women have served as judges, big city mayors, trial lawyers, members of congress, cabinet members, and heads of the national police force. Women have been especially active in religious life. To counter the inroads made by Evangelical missionaries, the Catholic Church encourages lay members to receive ecclesiastical training and visit isolated communities, to perform religious services. These people are called celebradores de la palabra ("celebrators of the word"). They hold mass without communion. Many of them are women. Women also manage stores and NGOs and teach at universities. Male-only roles include buying and trucking agricultural products, construction, bus and taxi drivers, and most of the military.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. Honduran people occasionally say that theirs is a machista (macho, sexist) country. This is mostly a stereotype, but some men shout catcalls at women on the street, especially when the men are in groups. There are also cases of sexual harassment of office staff. However, most men are fond of their families, tolerant of their behavior, and sensitive to women, who often have jobs outside the home or run small stores. Adolescents and young adults are not subject to elaborate supervision during courtship.

Marriage,Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Marriage is based on the Western ideal of falling in love. There are few formal rules prohibiting marriage with people of different social backgrounds, although people tend to marry neighbors or people they meet at school or work. Almost everyone eventually marries or lives with someone and has children. Founding a household is a financial struggle for most couples, and so women's earnings are appreciated. Divorce and remarriage are fairly common and are slightly stigmatized. Monogamy is the formal rule, although a middle-aged man who can afford to may set up a separate house with a younger woman. If they find out about the younger women, most wives find the idea disgusting and threatening to the marriage.

Domestic Unit. The ideal household of a couple and their children is not always possible. When young couples cannot afford housing, they may live with their parents until they have several children of their own. As in other Latin American countries, when a couple marries, their new family assumes both of their names. For example, if a woman named María García marries a man named Carlos Martínez, they and their children become the Martínez-García family. In many households, men and women make major decisions together regarding household expenses, children's education, etc. In the cities, many households with only a moderate income include a live-in domestic servant who does the housekeeping.

Inheritance. Inheritance practice varies widely, but in general when a person dies the widow or widower inherits half the property (called the parte conyugal, or "the spouse's part") and the children get the other half, unless a will was made to the contrary. The spouse's part provides economic security for widows and helps preserve farms more or less intact. Sometimes there is a preference for the oldest son to inherit a larger share. There is also a tendency for sons to inherit land and daughters to inherit livestock, furniture, and money.

Kin Groups. In the cities, families tend to spend Sunday afternoon having an elaborate meal with the wife's parents. The ideal is for married children to live near their parents, at least in the same city, if not in the same neighborhood or on a contiguous lot. This is not always possible, but people make an effort to keep in touch with the extended family.


Child Rearing and Education. Urban professionals and elites are indulgent toward children, rarely punishing them and allowing them to interrupt conversations. In stores, middle-class shoppers buy things their children plead for. Obedience is not stressed. Bourgeois children grow up with self-esteem and are encouraged to feel happy about their accomplishments.

The urban poor and especially the campesinos encourage children to play in small groups, preferably near where adults are working. Parents are not over protective. Children play in the fields where their parents work, imitating their work, and after age of six or seven they start helping with the farm work. Campesinos expect children to be obedient and parents slap or hit disobedient children. Adults expect three- to four-year-old children to keep up with the family while walking to or from work or shopping, and a child who is told to hurry up and does not may be spanked. Campesino children grow up to be disciplined, long-suffering, and hard working.

Higher Education. Higher education, especially a degree from the United States or Europe, is valued, but such an education is beyond the reach of most people. There are branches of the National University in the major cities, and thousands of people attend school at night, after work. There are also private universities and a national agricultural school and a private one (Zamorano).


A firm handshake is the basic greeting, and people shake hands again when they part. If they chat a bit longer after the last handshake, they shake hands again just as they leave. Among educated people, when two women greet or when a man greets a woman, they clasp their right hands and press their cheeks together or give a light kiss on the cheek. Campesinos shake hands. Their handshakes tend to be soft. Country women greeting a person they are fond of may touch the right hand to the other person's left elbow, left shoulder, or right shoulder (almost giving a hug), depending on how happy they are to see a person. Men sometimes hug each other (firm, quick, and with back slapping), especially if they have not seen each other for a while and are fond of each other. This is more common in the cities. Campesinos are a little more inhibited with body language, but city people like to stand close to the people they talk to and touch them occasionally while making a point in a conversation. People may look strangers in the eye and smile at them. People are expected to greet other office workers as they pass in the hall even if they have already greeted them earlier that day. On country roads people say good-bye to people they pass even if they do not know each other. In crowded airports and other places where people have to wait in a long, slow line, some people push, shove, cut in front of others, go around the line, and attract attention to themselves to get served first.


Religious Beliefs. Almost all Hondurans believe in God and Jesus Christ, though sometimes in a vague way. In a traditionally Catholic country, many people have joined Evangelical Protestant churches. People usually keep their religious beliefs to themselves but Catholics may wear a crucifix or religious medal around their necks. Many people have a sense of divine destiny. Accidental death is attributed to the will of God rather than to a seat belt that was not buckled or another physical cause. The upper classes are still predominantly Catholic, while many of the urban poor are now Evangelical. Newspapers carry stories of witchcraft, writing about people who were ill until a healer sucked a toad or a sliver of glass from their bodies.

Religious Practitioners. The Catholic Church is the national religion, as stated in the Constitution. However, the liberal reforms of the 1820s led to the confiscation of Church property, the closing of the seminary, and a great decline in the number and morale of the Catholic clergy. By the 1960s mass was only heard regularly in the larger towns. At that time, foreign clergy, including French Canadians, began revitalizing the Honduran Church. Many priests supported campesino movements in the 1970s, and some were killed for it by the military. In the 1980s the bishops were strong enough to play a key role in resisting pressure from the United States for Honduras to go to war with Nicaragua. Various Protestant churches have been active in Honduras since the early twentieth century, especially since the 1970s, and have gained many converts. The Evangelical clergy is an informal lay clergy for the most part and small Pentecostal chapels are common in villages and in poorer neighborhoods in the cities.

Rituals and Holy Places. Most Catholics go to church only on special occasions, such as Christmas and funerals. Evangelicals may go to a small chapel, often a wood shack or a room in a house, for prayer meetings and Bible readings every night. These can be important havens from the pressures of being impoverished in a big city.

There is a minor ritual called cruzando la milpa ("crossing the cornfield") practiced in the Department of El Paraíso in which a magico-religious specialist, especially one who is a twin, eliminates a potentially devastating corn pest such as an inch-worm or caterpillar. The specialist recites the Lord's Prayer while sprinkling holy water and walking from one corner to the other of the cornfield in a cross pattern. This person makes little crosses of corn leaves or caterpillars and buries them in four spots in the field.

Death and the Afterlife. Beliefs about the afterlife are similar to the general Western tradition. An additional element is the concept of the hejillo, (standard Spanish: hijillo ) a kind of mystic contagion that comes from a dead human body, whether death was caused by age, disease, or violence. People who must touch the body wash carefully as soon as possible to purify themselves.

Medicine and Health Care

Sickness or an accident is a nightmare for people in the countryside and the urban poor. It may take hours to get a patient to a hospital by traveling over long dirt roads that often lack public transportation. Doctors may be unable to do much for a patient if the patient's family cannot afford to buy medicine. If the patient is an adult, the household may have to struggle to make a living until he or she recovers. Some traditional medical practitioners use herbal medicines and set broken bones.

Secular Celebrations

Independence Day falls on 15 September and features marches and patriotic speeches. Labor Day, celebrated on 1 May, includes marches by workers. During Holy Week (the week before Easter), everyone who can goes to the beach or a river for picnics and parties. On the Day of the Cross (Día de la Cruz ) in May in the countryside, people decorate small wooden crosses with flowers and colored paper and place the crosses in front of their homes in anticipation of the start of the rainy season. Christmas and the New Year are celebrated with gift giving, festive meals, dancing, and fireworks.

The Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. Some art is publicly supported through the Ministry of Culture, as well as through sales of tickets, CDs, etc. Some artists also have day jobs.

Literature. There is a modest tradition of serious literary fiction. The novel Prisión Verde (Green Prison ) by Ramón Amaya is perhaps the best known work of fiction. It describes the sufferings of workers on an early twentieth century banana plantation.

Graphic Arts. There is a Honduran school of impressionist painting whose favorite themes include village street scenes. This style was first developed by Antonio Velázquez of the historic mining village of San Antonio de Oriente, department of Francisco Morazán, in the 1950s. Velázquez was the barber at the nearby agricultural college at Zamorano. He was self-taught, and Hondurans refer to his style as "primitivist." Newspaper cartoons are popular and important for social critique. The cartoonist Dario Banegas has a talent for hilarious drawings that express serious commentary.

Performance Arts. There are various theater groups in San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa, of which the most important is the National Theater of Honduras (TNH), formed in Tegucigalpa in 1965. Its directors have been faculty members of various public schools and universities. Other groups include University Theater of Honduras (TUH) and the Honduran Community of Theater Actors (COMHTE), formed in 1982. These groups have produced various good plays. Honduras also has a National School of Fine Arts, a National Symphonic Orchestra, and various music schools. There are a handful of serious musicians, painters, and sculptors in Honduras, but the most well-known group of artists may be the rock band Banda Blanca, whose hit single "Sopa de Caracol" (Conch Soup) was based on Garífuna words and rhythms. It topped Latin music charts in the early 1990s. There are still some performances of folk music at fiestas and other events, especially in the country. The accordion, guitar, and other string instruments are popular.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

Perhaps the most highly developed social science is the archaeological study of the ancient Maya at the site of Copán and elsewhere in western Honduras. Much of this work is done by foreigners, but many Hondurans also conduct research. Among the applied sciences, the best known institution is the Pan-American School of Agriculture (Zamorano), near Tegucigalpa, where scientists and students conduct agricultural research. Zamorano attracts an international student body and faculty and offers the best practical education in commercial agriculture in Latin America. The Honduran Agricultural Research Foundation (FHIA) on the north coast, was once a research center for the banana industry. It is now supported by the Honduran and United States governments and other donors and conducts research on tropical crops.


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Jeffrey W. Bentley

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HondurasArras, embarrass, harass •gynandrous, polyandrous •Pancras • charas • Tatras • disastrous •ferrous • leprous • ambidextrous •Carreras, mayoress •scabrous •cirrus, Pyrrhus •chivalrous •citrous, citrus •ludicrous • tenebrous •Cyrus, Epirus, papyrus, virus •fibrous • hydrous • Cyprus •retrovirus • monstrous •brachiosaurus, brontosaurus, canorous, chorus, Epidaurus, Horus, megalosaurus, pelorus, porous, sorus, stegosaurus, Taurus, thesaurus, torus, tyrannosaurus •walrus •ochrous (US ocherous) •cumbrous • wondrous • lustrous •Algeciras, Severus •desirous •Arcturus, Epicurus, Honduras •barbarous • tuberous • slumberous •Cerberus • rapturous •lecherous, treacherous •torturous • vulturous • Pandarus •slanderous • ponderous •malodorous, odorous •thunderous • murderous •carboniferous, coniferous, cruciferous, melliferous, odoriferous, pestiferous, somniferous, splendiferous, umbelliferous, vociferous •phosphorous, phosphorus •sulphurous (US sulfurous) •Anaxagoras, Pythagorasclangorous, languorous •rigorous, vigorous •dangerous • verdurous •cankerous, cantankerous, rancorous •decorous • Icarus • valorous •dolorous • idolatrous •amorous, clamorous, glamorous •timorous •humerus, humorous, numerous •murmurous • generous • sonorous •onerous • obstreperous • Hesperus •vaporous • viviparous • viperous •Bosporus, prosperous •stuporous • cancerous •Monoceros, rhinoceros •sorcerous • adventurous • Tartarus •nectarous • dexterous • traitorous •preposterous • slaughterous •boisterous, roisterous •uterus • adulterous • stertorous •cadaverous • feverous •carnivorous, herbivorous, insectivorous, omnivorous •Lazarus

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