Saturday, 16 February 2013

Honduras - Free, Sober and Single

Okay, it's Valentine's weekend and I'm paraphrasing!  Honduras' motto en espanol is Libre, Soberana e Independiente, 'Free, Sovereign and Independent', a rather unusual motto for a country that, by all accounts, believed in Central American federation more than most of its neighbours.

I'm looking forward to learning about Honduras, as it's a country I know very little about.  Were I to start with the stereotypes that most people have in their minds, then I would talk about gangs, bananas and the Contras.  I'm sure there's more to Honduras than that and I look forward to spending a few weeks exploring the music, culture and food of this Central American nation. 

Tegucigalpa by topsafari
Slightly bigger than Bulgaria, slightly smaller than Ohio, Honduras has a population of around 8 million people.  I usually do okay with the pronunciation of place names, but I must admit that the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa has me stumped! 

Honduras has coastlines on the Pacific, as well as the Caribbean and it's an interesting mix of people - Mestizo, Maya-Chorti, Pech, Tawakha, Lenca, Tolupan, Moskito and Garifuna being the main ethnic groups. 

Until I started reading for this blog, I didn't know that Trujillo, on the Caribbean coast was the first place on the American mainland that Christopher Columbus landed.  Sadly, 95% of the indigenous population of western and central Honduras died within 50 years of Columbus' landing, mostly due to European diseases.

Copan ruins by maxid
Since then, Honduras seems to have had a fairly rough ride - being ruthlessly exploited for its silver, but remaining a backwater of the Spanish Empire, later colonised by the Mexicans, seeing its dreams of Central American unity fail, only to be dominated by the big US fruit companies and successive governments who seemed to care less about the prosperity of their people than about the profits to be made from the land. 

Having said that, Honduras remained relatively calm during the 70's and 80's, a turbulent time for its neighbours, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala.  The role that Honduras played during that period reminds me of Thailand during the Vietnam war or Uzbekistan during the more recent invasion of Afghanistan - ie. it became the main ally of the US in a region where the US had few friends.  It's well-known now that the Honduran government turned a blind eye to the activities of the Contras or the counter-insurgency guerrillas that the US hoped would overthrow Nicaragua's revolutionary Sandinistas

I'm wondering if all that capitalism has paid off, considering Honduras is one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere?  It certainly seems to be worse off than other Latin American countries I've blogged about, like Guatemala and Paraguay.  Of the Central American nations, only Nicaragua has lower GDP. 

Copan ruins by maxid
One theory for the origin of the name Honduras comes from a quotation by Columbus:

Gracias a Dios que hemos salido de esas Honduras
Thank God that we have got out of those depths (of water)

As a true 21st-century explorer, I want to discover the hidden depths of Honduras - I hope you'll join me on this virtual voyage!

Image credits:

The image of Tegucigalpa is by flickr member topsafari who is an avid traveller and has been to many places I've also been, especially in Eastern Europe.  You can see more of his photos on his Flickr photostream

The other images of Mayan ruins at Copan are by flickr member maxid who is from Argentina.  You can see more of maxid's photos on his photostream

Thanks to topsafari and maxid for sharing these images with us using the Creative Commons license.   

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