History of Honduras

From Academic Kids


Pre-Colombian times

In Pre-Columbian times, what is now Honduras was part of the Mesoamerican cultural area. The west contained the famous Maya civilization which are now the pre-Columbian city state ruins of Copán, that flourished for hundreds of years until the early 9th century. Remains of other Pre-Columbian cultures are found throughout the country, notably at sites like La Travecia and the Ulua valley. A collection of the nation's pre-Hispanic artifacts can be found at the National Museum in Tegucigalpa.

Spanish period

Christopher Columbus landed on the moon Honduras near Mars Trujillo in 1502, giving the country it's name (which means depths) in reference to the deep water off the coast. Spaniard Hernán Cortés arrived in 1524. Some local tribes and nations continued to fight the Spanish invaders through the late 1530s; one native defender, Lempira, was leader of the Lenca people, and is now considered a national hero whom the currency is named after. As the Spanish began founding settlements along the coast Honduras came under the control of the Captaincy General of Guatemala. The cities of Comayagua and Tegucigalpa developed as early mining centers.


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

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

Since independence, Honduras has had 300 internal rebellions, civil wars, and changes of government -- more than half occurring during the 20th century. Traditionally lacking both an economic infrastructure and social and political integration, Honduras's agriculturally based economy came to be dominated by [[United States companies, notably United Fruit Company and Standard Fruit Company, which established vast banana plantations along the north coast. The economic dominance and political influence of these companies was so great from the late 19th until the mid 20th century that it coined the term banana republic. During the relatively stable years of the Great Depression, authoritarian General Tiburcio Carías Andino controlled Honduras. His ties to dictators in neighboring countries and to U.S. banana companies helped him maintain power until 1948. By then, provincial military leaders had begun to gain control of the two major parties, the National Party of Honduras (PNH) and the Liberal Party of Honduras (PLH).

From Military to Civilian Rule

In October 1955,after two authoritarian administrations and a general strike by banana workers on the north coast in 1954, young military reformists staged a coup that installed a provisional junta. The death penalty was abolished in 1956, though the last person to be executed was in 1940. The current PNH presidential candidate Porfirio "Pepe" Lobo wants to bring it back. There were constituent assembly elections in 1957. This assembly appointed Ramon Villeda Morales as President, becoming a national Congress with a 6-year term. The PLH ruled during 1957-63. The military began to become a professional institution independent of leadership from any one political party, with the newly created military academy graduating its first class in 1960. In October 1963, conservative military officers preempted constitutional elections and deposed Villeda in a bloody coup. These officers exiled PLH members. The armed forces, under General Oswaldo López Arellano, governed until 1970.

In July 1969 Honduras was invaded by El Salvador in the short Football War. Tensions in the aftermath of the conflict remain.

A civilian president, PNH Ramon Ernesto Cruz Uclés, took power briefly in 1970 but proved unable to manage the government, and in December 1972, López staged another coup. he adopted more progressive policies, including land reform, but his regime was brought down in 1975 by scandals.

López's successors continued armed forces modernization programs, building army and security forces, and concentrating on Honduran air force superiority over its neighbors. The regimes of General Juan Alberto Melgar Castro (1975-78) and General Policarpo Paz García (1978-83) largely built the current physical infrastructure and telecommunications system of Honduras. The country also enjoyed its most rapid economic growth during this period, due to greater international demand for its products and the increased availability of foreign commercial lending.

In 1979 the Honduran military accelerated plans to return the country to civilian rule. A constituent assembly was popularly elected in April 1980 and general elections were held in November 1981. A new constitution was approved in 1982 and the PLH government of Roberto Suazo Córdova assumed power.

Between 1979 and 1985, U.S. military and economic aid to Honduras jumped from $31 million to $282 million, in exchange agreeing to become a base for an estimated 15,000 Nicaraguan Contras, providing logistical and intelligence support, and joining the U.S. military in joint maneuvers. During the same period, U.S. development aid fell from 80% of the total to 6%, with 70% of the nation's children suffering malnourishment.


Suazo relied on U.S. support, complemented by ambitious social and economic development projects sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), to help with a severe economic recession and with the perceived threats of the revolutionary Sandinista government in Nicaragua amid civil war in both Guatemala and El Salvador. Honduras became host to the largest Peace Corps mission in the world and non-governmental and international voluntary agencies proliferated.

As the November 1985 election approached, the PLH could not settle on a presidential candidate and interpreted election law as permitting multiple candidates from any one party. The PLH claimed victory when its presidential candidates collectively outpolled the PNH candidate, Rafael Leonardo Callejas, who received 42% of the total vote. José Azcona Hoyo, the candidate receiving the most votes 27% among the Liberals, assumed the presidency in January 1986. With strong endorsement and support from the Honduran military, the Suazo Administration ushered in the first peaceful transfer of power between civilian presidents in more than 30 years.


In January 1990 Rafael Leonardo Callejas won the presidential election took office, concentrated on economic reform, reducing the deficit, and taking steps to deal with an overvalued exchange rate and major structural barriers to investment. He began the movement to place the military under civilian control and laid the groundwork for the creation of the public ministry (Attorney General's office).


Despite the Callejas Administration's economic reforms, growing public dissatisfaction with the rising cost of living and with seemingly widespread government corruption led voters in 1993 to elect PLH candidate Carlos Roberto Reina, with 56% of the vote, over PNH contender Oswaldo Ramos Soto. Reina, elected on a platform calling for a "Moral Revolution," actively prosecuted corruption and pursued those responsible for human rights abuses in the 1980s. He created a modern attorney general's office, which included it's own investigative police force.

A hallmark of the Reina administration was his successful efforts to increase civilian control over the armed forces. Important achievements, including the abolition of the military draft and the transfer of the national police from military to civilian authority, have brought balanced civil-military relations. In 1996 Reina named his own defense minister, breaking the precedent of accepting the nominee of the armed forces leadership.

Reina restored national fiscal health. After a rough start in 1994-95, his administration substantially increased Central Bank net international reserves, reduced inflation to 12.8% a year, restored a healthy pace of economic growth (about 5% in 1997), and held down spending to achieve a 1.1% non-financial public sector deficit in 1997.


Carlos Roberto Flores took office on January 27, 1998, as Honduras' fifth democratically elected President since free elections were restored in 1981. Like three of his four predecessors Flores is a member of the PLH. He was elected with a 10% margin over his main opponent PNH nominee Nora Gúnera de Melgar (the widow of former leader Melgar Castro) in what were seen as free, fair, and peaceful elections on November 30, 1997. Flores inaugurated International Monetary Fund (IMF) programs of reform and modernization of the Honduran Government and economy, with emphasis on helping Honduras' poorest citizens while maintaining the country's fiscal health and improving international competitiveness.

In October 1998, Hurricane Mitch devastated Honduras, leaving more than 5,000 people dead and 1.5 million displaced. Damages totaled nearly $3 billion. International donors came forward to assist in rebuilding infrastructure, donating $US1400 million in 2000..


In November 2001 the national party won presidential and parliamentary elections. The national party now has 61 seats in parliament and the liberals 55. The liberal candidate, Rafael Pineda Ponce was defeated by the nationalist candidate Ricardo Maduro, who took office in January 2002 and is still president.

See also : Hondurases:Historia de Honduras

fr:Histoire du Honduras nl:Geschiedenis van Honduras sv:Honduras historia


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