(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)
|Introduction||Once part of Spain’s vast empire in the New World, Honduras became an independent nation in 1821. After two and a half decades of mostly military rule, a freely elected civilian government came to power in 1982. During the 1980’s, Honduras proved a haven for anti-Sandinista contras fighting the Marxist Nicaraguan Government and an ally to Salvadoran Government forces fighting leftist guerrillas. The country was devastated by Hurricane Mitch in 1998, which killed about 5,600 people and caused approximately $2 billion in damage.|
|History||Archaeologists have demonstrated that Honduras had a rich, multi-ethnic prehistory. An important part of that prehistory was the Mayan presence around the city of Copán in western Honduras, near the Guatemalan border. A major Mayan city flourished during the classic period (150-900) in that area. It has many carved inscriptions and stelae. The ancient kingdom, named Xukpi, existed from the fifth century to the early ninth century, with antecedents going back to at least the second century. The Mayan civilization began a marked decline in the ninth century, but there is evidence of people still living in and around the city until at least 1200. By the time the Spanish came to Honduras, the once great city-state of Copán was overrun by the jungle, and the Lencas, not the Mayans, were the main Amerindian people living in western Honduras.
On his fourth and final voyage to the New World in 1502, Christopher Columbus reached the Bay Islands on the coast of Honduras. Landing near the modern town of Trujillo, in the vicinity of the Guaimoreto Lagoon. After the Spanish discovery, Honduras became part of Spain’s vast empire in the New World within the Kingdom of Guatemala. Trujillo and Gracias were the first city-capitals. The Spanish ruled what would become Honduras for approximately three centuries. During this period a clock which had been built by the Moors in the twelfth Century was transferred to the Cathedral of Comayagua in 1636: it is now the oldest functioning clock in the Americas.
Spain granted independence to Honduras, with the rest of the Central American provinces on September 15, 1821. In 1822 the United Central American Provinces decided to join the newly declared Mexican Empire of Iturbide. The Iturbide Empire was overthrown in 1823 and Central America separated from it, forming the Federal Republic of Central America, which disintegrated in 1838. As a result the states of the republic became independent nations.
Silver mining was a key factor in the Spanish conquest and settlement of Honduras, but has been only a minor part of the national economy in recent years. The American-owned Barger Mining Company was a major gold and silver producer, but shut down its large mine at San Juancito in 1954.
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Honduras joined the Allied Nations on December 8, 1941. Less than a month later, on the first day of 1942, Honduras, along with twenty-five other governments, signed the Declaration by United Nations.
In 1969, Honduras and El Salvador fought what would become known as The Soccer War. There had been border tensions between the two countries after Oswaldo López Arellano, a former president of Honduras, blamed the deteriorating economy on the large number of immigrants from El Salvador. From that point on, the relationship between the two countries grew acrimonious and reached a low when El Salvador met Honduras for a three-round football elimination match as a preliminary to the World Cup. Tensions escalated, and on July 14, 1969, the Salvadoran army launched an attack against Honduras. The Organization of American States negotiated a cease-fire which took effect on July 20, and brought about a withdrawal of Salvadoran troops in early August.
Contributing factors in the conflict were a boundary dispute and the presence of thousands of Salvadorans living in Honduras illegally. After the week-long football war in July 1969, many Salvadoran families and workers were expelled. El Salvador had agreed on a truce to settle the boundary issue, but Honduras later paid war damage costs for expelled refugees.
During the 1980’s, the United States established a very large military presence in Honduras with the purpose of supporting the Iran-Contra Affair, anti-Sandinista Contreras fighting the Nicaraguan government, and to support the El Salvador military fighting against the FMLN guerrillas. The U.S. built the airbase known as Palmerola, near Comayagua, with a 10,000-foot (3,000 m) runway so that C5-A cargo planes could land there, rather than at the public airport in San Pedro Sula. The U.S. also built a training base near Trujillo which primarily trained Contras and the Salvadoran military, and in conjunction with this, developed Puerto Castilla into a modern port. The United States built many airstrips near the Nicaraguan border to help move supplies to the Contra forces fighting the Sandinista’s in Nicaragua. Though spared the bloody civil wars wracking its neighbors, the Honduran army quietly waged a campaign against leftists which included extra judicial killings and forced disappearances of political opponents by government-backed death squads, most notably Battalion 316.
Hurricane Fifi caused severe damage while skimming the northern coast of Honduras on September 18 and 19, 1974.
In 1998, Hurricane Mitch caused such massive and widespread loss that former Honduran President Carlos Roberto Flores claimed that fifty years of progress in the country were reversed. Mitch obliterated about 70% of the crops and an estimated 70-80% of the transportation infrastructure, including nearly all bridges and secondary roads. Across the country, 33,000 houses were destroyed, an additional 50,000 damaged, some 5,000 people killed, 12,000 injured, and total loss estimated at $3 billion USD.
|Geography||Location: Central America, bordering the Caribbean Sea, between Guatemala and Nicaragua and bordering the Gulf of Fonseca (North Pacific Ocean), between El Salvador and Nicaragua
Geographic coordinates: 15 00 N, 86 30 W
Map references: Central America and the Caribbean
Area: total: 112,090 sq km
land: 111,890 sq km
water: 200 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly larger than Tennessee
Land boundaries: total: 1,520 km
border countries: Guatemala 256 km, El Salvador 342 km, Nicaragua 922 km
Coastline: 820 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: natural extension of territory or to 200 nm
Climate: subtropical in lowlands, temperate in mountains
Terrain: mostly mountains in interior, narrow coastal plains
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
highest point: Cerro Las Minas 2,870 m
Natural resources: timber, gold, silver, copper, lead, zinc, iron ore, antimony, coal, fish, hydropower
Land use: arable land: 9.53%
permanent crops: 3.21%
other: 87.26% (2005)
Irrigated land: 800 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 95.9 cu km (2000)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 0.86 cu km/yr (8%/12%/80%)
per capita: 119 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: frequent, but generally mild, earthquakes; extremely susceptible to damaging hurricanes and floods along the Caribbean coast
Environment – current issues: urban population expanding; deforestation results from logging and the clearing of land for agricultural purposes; further land degradation and soil erosion hastened by uncontrolled development and improper land use practices such as farming of marginal lands; mining activities polluting Lago de Yojoa (the country’s largest source of fresh water), as well as several rivers and streams, with heavy metals
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: has only a short Pacific coast but a long Caribbean shoreline, including the virtually uninhabited eastern Mosquito Coast
note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality and death rates, lower population and growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 39.3% (male 1,500,949/female 1,439,084)
15-64 years: 57.2% (male 2,142,953/female 2,140,432)
65 years and over: 3.5% (male 117,774/female 142,571) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 19.7 years
male: 19.4 years
female: 20.1 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 2.091% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 27.59 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 5.32 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: -1.36 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.043 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.001 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.826 male(s)/female
total population: 1.011 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 25.21 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 28.3 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 21.95 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 69.35 years
male: 67.78 years
female: 70.99 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 3.48 children born/woman (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: 1.8% (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 63,000 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: 4,100 (2003 est.)
Major infectious diseases: degree of risk: high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: dengue fever and malaria
water contact disease: leptospirosis (2008)
Nationality: noun: Honduran(s)
Ethnic groups: mestizo (mixed Amerindian and European) 90%, Amerindian 7%, black 2%, white 1%
Religions: Roman Catholic 97%, Protestant 3%
Languages: Spanish, Amerindian dialects
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 80%