A Brief History of Honduras

By Tim Lambert

Early Honduras

For thousands of years, indigenous peoples lived in Honduras. The greatest of them was the Mayans. However, the first European to reach Honduras was Christopher Columbus on 30 July 1502. Columbus later sailed as far south as Panama. The area became known as Honduras from the Spanish word for depths.

The Spanish conquest of Honduras began in 1523. The native people resisted bitterly but by 1539 the Spanish were in control. The native people were forced to work for the Spanish but their numbers fell drastically partly due to European diseases to which they had no resistance such as smallpox.

In the early 19th century the Spanish colonies in Central and South America gained their independence. Honduras became independent from Spain in 1821 but in 1822 it was joined with Mexico and 4 other nations, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua.

However, the 5 Central American nations broke away from Mexico in 1823. Honduras finally became completely independent in 1839.

Modern Honduras

In the early 20th century exports of bananas came to dominate the economy of Honduras. In 1932 General Tiburcio Carias Andino was elected president of Honduras. He made himself a virtual dictator and he held onto power till 1949. General Oswaldo Lopez seized power in Honduras in 1963. Then in 1969, Honduras fought a war with El Salvador. Lopez resigned in 1974 but civilian rule was not restored until 1981. Unfortunately, Honduras suffered badly when Hurricane Mitch struck in 1998.

But the country slowly recovered. Nevertheless, Honduras remains a very poor country. In 2023 the population of Honduras was 10 million.

Last revised 2023