The History of Honduras

Honduras History Book

Honduras History Book

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The Lenca chief, Lempira, a warrior of great renown, by October of 1537, had managed to unify more than two hundred Indian tribes that had been ancient rivals in order to offer an organized resistance against further penetration by the Spanish conquerors. In the village of Etempica he announced his plans to expel the Spaniards and gave instructions to all his allies for a general uprising when he gave the signal. On top of the great rock of Cerquín, an impenetrable fortress, he gathered all the neighboring tribes as well as abundant supplies and made trenches and fortifications. He finally gave the signal to attack by killing three unsuspecting Spaniards, who happened to be in the region.

Governor Montejo ordered Captain Alonso de Cáceres to attack the stronghold, but it was impossible to take. Montejo then gathered a large number of Indians from Guatemala and Mexico as auxiliary forces, mobilized nearly all the Spanish troops at his disposition, and ordered them to storm the rock. Yet Cerquín remained invincible. At the same time, Lempira ordered a general insurrection, Comayagua was set on fire, and the Spanish inhabitants had to flee to Gracias. Gracias was threatened by the surrounding tribes; San Pedro de Puerto Caballos and Trujillo were placed under siege and the Spaniards were hard pressed to maintain their ground.

While Montejo sought help desperately from Santiago de los Caballeros in Guatemala, San Salvador, and San Miguel and even from Spain, Alonso de Cáceres resorted to treason to get rid of Lempira. He invited the chief to a peace conference; and when Lempira reaffirmed his desire to continue the fight, a hidden marksman shot him in the forehead. Lempira fell from the high cliffs; and with his death, his 30,000 warriors either fled or surrendered. (Read more on the history of Lempira here.)

Montejo regained the Valley of Comayagua, established Comayagua city in another location, and vanquished the natives in Tenampúa, Guaxeregui, and Ojuera. The conquest of Honduras was consummated and later consolidated by the founding of new settlements.

Honduras was a mining province of Spain, and the Spanish government used the resources that were extracted from its numerous mineral deposits to sustain the ‘Captaincy General’ of Central America, which had its headquarters in Guatemala.

On September 15, 1821, the independence of Central America was proclaimed in Guatemala City. The declaration was drafted by the Honduran lawyer José Cecilio de Valle, “el sabio”.

Prior to 1821, there had been other insurgencies against the Spanish crown in Honduras. In 1812 the inhabitants of la Plazuela, Comayaguela and Jacaleapa demonstrated in protest against the system of perpetuating peninsular Spaniards as municipal office holders. Owing to intervention by the priest Francisco Máoquez, the protesters were pacified; and a new municipality was created to represent the will of the people. At the battalion of Olancho there had also been the beginnings of an insurrection with a few people landing in jail for their ideas of independence.

The traditional rivalry between Comayagua and Tegucigalpa was rekindled by the declaration of independence. While Tegucigalpa favored unification of Central America, Comayagua favored joining the monarchy that was incubating in Mexico under Agustin de Iturbide. In 1822 a maneuver by the Guatemalan conservatives along with the Archbishop Casaus y Torres resulted in the annexation of Central America to Mexico. However, in 1823 the empire of Agustin I was toppled and replaced by a republic. As a result of the negotiations of José Cecilio del Valle, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Mexican empire, the provinces of Central America once again were separated from their forced union with Mexico.

A National Constituent Assembly was gathered in Guatemala, which after approving a second declaration of independence, enacted the Constitution of November 22, 1824, thus creating the Federal Republic of Central America. The Federation included Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica with Guatemala City as its capital. Its first President was the Salvadoran General Manuel José Arce; however, civil war soon broke out in Central America due to the differences between the conservatives, who preferred the traditional values of Spain, and the liberals, who leaned towards the political and economic models of the United States and Western Europe.

President Arce, siding with the conservatives, forced the removal of Dionisio de Herrera, the first Chief of State of Honduras, who resented the president’s authoritarianism. Arce invaded the Salvadoran territory to overthrow the Salvadoran Chief of State, Mariano Prado. In Guatemala he had already incarcerated the Guatemalan Chief of State, Juan Barrundia; and the mobs had assassinated the Vice Chief of State, Cirilo Flores in the city of Quezaltenango. As a result, President Arce was in a position to fill the resulting vacant seats at will. (Refer to this page for a list of the Rulers and Presidents of Honduras.)

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