The history of Honduras is easily seen in the country’s numerous Mayan archaeological sites and structures from early Spanish colonization. The Honduran people are an ethnic mix of native Indian, Garifuna, Spanish and other nationalities.
Early Honduras History
The history of Honduras is comprised of the history of its people. The country was inhabited by indigenous tribes of great linguistic and cultural diversity. The most powerful and advanced of these were the Maya, who also populated the Yucatán, Belize, and the northeast of Guatemala, and who built their sacred city and ceremonial metropolis in Copán, in the western part of Honduras.
After the collapse of the Mayan civilization, the history of Honduras becomes a series of struggles for the people who slowly settled in various parts of the Honduran territory. MayanIndians.com has an in depth account of the Maya History of Honduras.
Their languages reveal a relationship with the Toltecs and Aztecs of Mexico, the Chibchas of Colombia, and even tribes from the southwestern United States. The western-central part of Honduras was inhabited by the Lencas, who spoke a language of unknown origin. Throughout the history of Honduras, these autonomous groups had their conflicts, but maintained their commercial relationships with each other, and with populations as distant as Panama and Mexico.
Descendants of these peoples and of the Mayas were the aborigines, who would later oppose the Spanish conquest and produce the legendary figures of Tecún Uman, Lempira, Atlacatl, Diriagúacutan, Nicarao and Urraca, leaders for autonomy among the native populations of Central America.
The vast history of Honduras tells us of the Garifuna people of the north coast who have overcome many obstacles. Theirs is an interesting piece of Honduras history. Garifuna.com has detailed information on the Garifuna History of Honduras.
Columbus and the History of Honduras
On July 30, 1502, during his fourth and last trip through the Americas, Christopher Columbus reached the Bay Islands and soon afterwards the coast of the mainland. This was the first time he saw Honduran soil. From the Island of Guanaja, which he is said to have named, Columbus set sail toward the northern continental coast and in Punta Caxinas, now Puerto Castilla, he ordered the celebration of the first mass on the Honduran main land. In the Rio Tinto (Tinto River), which he named Rio de la Posesion, he claimed the territory in the name of his sovereigns, Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile.
The first expeditionary forces arrived in Honduras in 1523 under the command of Gil Gonzáles de Avila, who hoped to rule the new territory. In 1524 Cristóbal de Olid arrived heading a well organized regiment sent by the conqueror of Mexico, Hernán Cortés. On Honduran soil, Olid founded the colony Triunfo de la Cruz and tried to establish an independent government. When Cortés learned of this, he decided to reestablish his own authority by sending a new expedition, headed by Francisco de las Casas. Olid, who managed to capture his rivals, was betrayed by his men and assassinated. Cortés had to travel to Honduras to resolve the struggle for power in the new colony. He established his government in the city of Trujillo and returned to Mexico in 1526.
Those first years of the conquest were filled with many perils according to the history of Honduras. The colony was almost abandoned. Upon the arrival from Guatemala of the adelantado Don Pedro de Alvarado, the foundation of San Pedro de Puerto Caballos, now San Pedro Sula, was established. Alvarado also ordered the founding of the city of Gracias a Dios, where he began to exploit the gold mines. Later, with the arrival of the adelantado Don Francisco de Montejo, the conquest was consummated, the city of Santa Maria de Comayagua was founded, the great insurrection stirred up by Lempira was put down, and the city of Gracias a Dios was re-founded where it is now located.
History of Honduras – Timeline
- 1502 – Christopher Columbus lands in Honduras
- 1525 – Spain begins conquest of Honduran territory
- 1539 – Spain succeeds in the conquest of Honduran territory after bitter struggles with the native population
- 1810 – Overthrow of the king of Spain by Napoleon
- 1800’s – Northern coast falls to British buccaneers and British protectorate established over the coastal areas
- 1821 – Independence gained from Spain
- 1821 – Honduras becomes part of the Mexican empire
- 1823 – Honduras breaks away from Mexico
- 1823 – Honduras becomes part of the Federal Republic of Central America, (also known as the United Provinces of Central America) which includes Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica
- 1840 – Honduras becomes fully independent following the dissolution of the Federal Republic of Central America
It is said that Columbus, while exploring the eastern coasts of Honduras, reached a cape where he found shelter from the wrath of a tropical storm and declared, “Gracias a Dios que hemos salido de estas honduras!” [Thank God we’ve escaped these treacherous depths!]. According to many historians, as a result of this exclamation, the cape became known as Gracias a Dios and the territory as Honduras.