About Honduras – Country Guide: How Honduras Got its Name - New Era - Independence - Elections - Politics - Popular Perception - Soccer - World Cup - War on Drugs - Travel Warnings - Tourist Safety - Tourism - Bay Islands - Diving - Destinations - Attractions - Economy - Business - Debt - Education - Financial - Real Estate - Visit and Discover
Currency: Honduran lempira
Government: Constitutional republic
President: Porfirio Pepe Lobo
Population:Population: 8,296,693 (July 2012 est. CIA Fact Book)
Total Area: 112,090 sq km (CIA Fact Book)
GDP: $36.15 billion (2011 est. CIA Fact Book)
Official language: Spanish Language
How we got our name
Trujillo was an important part of providing a name for the Country as the “word” Honduras which many believe means fondura, and gets its origin from a Leonese language word meaning anchorage which is one of the first words for the region to appear on a map in the second decade of the 16th century applied to the bay of Trujillo. It was not until the end of the 16th century that Honduras was used for the whole province. Prior to 1580, Honduras referred to the eastern part of the province, and Higueras (Higueras – a reference to the gourds that come from the Jicaro tree, many of which were found floating in the waters off the northwest coast of Honduras); referred to the western part of the country. Honduras – literally means ”depths” in Spanish. Columbus is traditionally quoted as having written “Gracias a Dios que hemos salido de esas Honduras” (English: “Thank God we have come out of those depths”) while along the northeastern coast of the Bay Islands. However, William Davidson notes that there is no form of this quotation in the primary documents of Columbus’s voyage, and that it in fact comes from accounts over a century later.
The very exact Mayan Calendar just reached a milestone: the end of the 13 Baktun, which occurred on the 21st of December, 2012; this implies the end of a cycle of what is known as the long count Mayan Calendar. This calendar has a total of 5,125 of our years, and is based on astronomical observations that conclude that this is the period of time in which our solar system completes its rotation around the center of the galaxy.
Unfortunately, we do not have many written remains of the ancient Mayan civilization, and this led to speculation about what this actually meant; with many assuring that this was in effect a doomsday date, where our world would come to an end. Others imply that it marks the dawn of a new era, where humankind will reach a high level of awareness about its world and its society, and begin the construction of a new relationship between itself and Mother Nature. We are not certain how much the future of Honduras has to do with this vision, but we are definitely on the threshold of changes to come; and hopefully, this will, in effect, have a positive influence on the way things change. (Start at the top of this Article)
Although Honduras has been inhabited for several thousand years, it has existed as an independent country for only a short 192 years ( Honduras became an independent “state” declaring its independence from Spain in 1821 ). Despite its vast natural resources and enviable geographic location, its history as an independent country has been complicated since the beginning; however, the last four years have been especially rough. (Start at the top of this Article)
Since the 1980’s, Honduras was back on the track of having a democratically elected government. This meant writing up a new constitution, holding elections, and allowing the two main political parties to consolidate. There was even space for three small parties to form, and in effect, to participate in the electoral processes. They were even allocated a few seats in congress based on a principle of inclusivity and proportionality. The first part of implementing this political process was still heavily influenced by the cold war, and the United States of America played a very influential role in the Honduran politics during this time, especially since Honduras was the one and only ally in Central America that the US could count on. (Start at the top of this Article)
The two original political forces in Honduras were the Liberal Party and the National Party, with the first traditionally being left of center, and the second right of center. However, with the passing of time, both have come much closer to center, and in recent times, there has been no true philosophical distinction between them. The Country has grown, and with it, the population has doubled since the 1980’s; however, the government has not been able to provide employment to the ever growing population. This lack of employment opportunities has had three distinct effects: A large number of Hondurans are leaving the country and seeking to live the (North) American Dream. As such, there are more Hondurans than any other Central American nationals migrating, and most of them are heading to the USA. The second effect has been the growth of employment by the government. The government has become a large employer in an effort to provide a solution for the lack of work opportunities available in the country. Although this might sound like an ideal solution, the result has created an unfortunate situation in that Honduras has a huge, inefficient government, increased bureaucracy, and in the end, no budget left to build infrastructure because the vast majority of its resources goes into paying salaries. Worse yet, many of the Hondurans that went to the USA and were deported back to their homeland of Honduras, brought back with them affiliations with a very “American” institution: gangs. These gangs have taken advantage of a weak government and an extremely high population of youths, and drug lords have learned to use them both to their benefit. (Start at the top of this Article)
The general population has lost faith in the current political parties, and is therefore, looking for other alternatives. Perhaps the first to see an opportunity here was ex President Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales, who, as president of Honduras, decided to become a buddy of Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez, and began an effort to reform the political map in Honduras. Zelaya went too far too fast, and ended up being thrown out of the country and destituted as president of Honduras, sparking a political crisis that the country has not yet recovered from.
On one side, you have the ruling oligarchy that desperately clings to the circles of influence that it has had for years, and on the other, a very disenchanted electoral force that is fed up with the current players, and has lost their trust in the two main political actors. In the middle are several new political forces that are seeking to become main players in this still evolving political storyline. In the last three years, politics in Honduras has evolved from a bipartisan system to a multipartisan system, with a total of nine political entities legally established and preparing themselves to participate in the upcoming 2013 elections in Honduras. It appears that for the first time ever, no party will have absolute control in congress, and it seems that at least four parties have a chance to obtain enough of the 128 seats to have an interesting bargaining position in that branch of the government. (Start at the top of this Article)
As for the presidency, there are four candidates that actually have a chance to secure that position. In any case, for the first time in the relatively young Honduran democracy, the president will not have control of congress. The 2013 elections in Honduras will unmistakably mark the single most important event taking place in the country this year.
No matter what is going on in the country of Honduras (politically or otherwise), however, there is one thing for certain: EVERYTHING stops when the Selección national soccer team plays! For years, Hondurans have cherished their team, win or lose. If everyone around the world thinks that tourism is the biggest source of revenue for this country, think again. Okay, there are no official revenue numbers published by the government, but one only has to be in Honduras when the “Bi-Color H” plays to see the money flowing. Don’t even dream of getting any business, or for that matter, anything, done that does not involve watching the team play on one of the Honduras TV stations, or listening, as many of the “Campesinos” and those in remote rural areas do, to the live game on any of the Honduras radio stations. Every single bar, restaurant with a tv, nightclub with projection tv’s and then some, is packed.
Hondurans take their soccer seriously, and the aggregate fans within the country spend thousands of dollars every year to make sure they have the latest home and away jersey, the latest official soccer ball, and of course, noise makers. In the budget as well, is the means to attend the games, even if it is just to sit outside the stadium. Every one of the financial institutions in Honduras that has an advertising budget, and even those without, has all kinds of promotions for free t-shirts, wristbands, noisemakers, you name it.
Although “La Selección” does not receive much press world-wide, you will still find Catrachos around the globe spending thousands of dollars buying up all the same stuff to proudly show their support of the Honduras National Soccer Team, as well as many come home for important matches. Those away from home try to, at the very least, attend a few games every year.
Even the President of Honduras himself “recommends” that businesses give their employees time off for the games. Sometimes, for really important do or die matches, he even tries to get Congress to pass a bill authorizing time off for the game, or at the very least, to make sure no one is penalized for “playing hooky”. A political move maybe, but it keeps our countrymen happy. Government employees are granted flexible hours on game day, allowing them to either show up late or leave early for the game. Top that NFL!!! Read More on Honduras Soccer (Start at the top of this Article)
Honduras is kicking off 2013 with the Hexagonal World Cup qualifying matches. This year is the prelude to the Brazil 2014 World Cup, and Honduras is right in the thick of it, hosting the USA in San Pedro Sula in February. There will be matches almost every month. We may be electing a new president this year, but nothing is more important to Hondurans in 2013 than qualifying for Brazil in 2014. (Start at the top of this Article)
War on Drugs
The truth is, that due to the geographic location of Honduras, together with the fact that there is a population in the United States that demand large quantities of cocaine, and South American producers who seek to supply that demand, the country of Honduras has found itself unwillingly caught in the middle of highly lucrative illicit activity that is fueled by millions of US dollars that are spent to purchase this bootleg drug. The huge amounts of profits secured from drug activity allows for generous bribes at all levels; including, of course, the police and army in Honduras. Different factions that seek to control the territory recruit Honduran citizens to help them move the drugs towards the USA, and this has resulted in a fierce competition, wherein many are gunned down by their opponents. (Start at the top of this Article)
Although Hondurans are aware that the vast majority of this happens in areas where a tourist would not even venture, it has sparked countries to issue travel warnings that seek to discourage their citizens from visiting Honduras. Many good, earnest Hondurans believe these travel warnings are particularly unfair, as they do not take into consideration the hard work the country has put into ensuring tourist areas are safe, comfortable, and that one can still experience a spectacular vacation here. It could be argued that it is as ludicrous as other countries issuing a travel warning against the USA because the United States has had a rough 2012, with many senseless and tragic incidents affecting public gatherings places, schools, malls, theaters, mass transit systems, and even during rescue operations carried out by law enforcement and fire fighters. (Start at the top of this Article)
The Honduran government and upstanding members of society are working hard to address the safety issues in the country. Laws to speed up the cleansing of the police force are in effect and beginning to yield results. Efforts to ensure that tourist areas, such as the Bay Islands, Copan, Tela, La Ceiba, and many others, are safe, are ongoing, and the tourist police force has recently doubled, and will be doubled again before the end of 2013. The truth is that Honduras is a safe country to visit, and those travellers who do come, truly enjoy their vacations. We can say that there is one fringe benefit of the travel warnings, that being for the tourists who can enjoy their vacations without having to deal with an over crowded destination! (Start at the top of this Article)
Although tourism is not the number one revenue generator in the country, it is the foremost employer, generating more jobs that any other economic activity in Honduras. The main stars in the Honduras travel scene have always been the magnificent Ruins of Copan, and the jewels of the Caribbean, the Bay Islands of Utila, Roatan and Guanaja. These are unique destinations with their own personality, offering very different experiences that complement each other perfectly. Copan provides culture, a colonial atmosphere, and high mountains where coffee is grown; the Bay Islands offer some of the last unspoiled Caribbean left to enjoy, with inviting white sand beaches, part of the most bio diverse barrier reef in the World, and a lovely combination of British and Afro Antillean architecture. (Start at the top of this Article)
Bay Islands and Diving
The Bay Islands are known for their excellence in providing top notch diving entertainment and certification to scuba divers. This is why many dive groups, clubs, and communities are heading to Honduras this year, including The PADI Diving Society, which is heading to the island of Roatan. Utila will hold its second annual Utila Dive Festival, and legendary fish identifiers, Ned and Anna DeLoach, of the Caribbean Fish Guides REEF.org will be in Utila counting and identifying over 300 species of reef fish. One can dive anywhere in the waters of the Bay Islands from Cayos Cochinos to the Swan Islands. Also, each of the Bay Islands of Roatan, Guanaja, and Utila are offering multiple Lionfish Derby competitions throughout 2013.
In 2013, the fate of the lobster fisheries will be established as well. Beginning in 2011, there was a two year ban on purchasing lobsters from Honduras by the Lobster Symposium. This year, the government of Honduras will establish a transitional diving plan for the Association of Active Divers in the Moskitia, in hopes of a safer environment for divers and lobsters alike. (Start at the top of this Article)
Overall, 2013 will be a significant year for the reefs of the Bay Islands and those floating among them! (Start at the top of this Article)
Destinations and Attractions
Other up and coming destinations, attractions and activities are: the Caribbean coast cities of Tela, where the new Los Micos Golf Resort and Marina is under construction, and scheduled to open its doors in 2013; La Ceiba, a major tourism hub from where the ferry service to the Bay Islands of Roatan and Utila departs, and also where the Cangrejal River is located in the heart of Pico Bonito one of Honduras most well known rain-forest and National Parks, which is slowly becoming the foremost ecotourism and has always been known as a world class rafting destination in Honduras; and Trujillo, a city that was founded by Christopher Columbus himself during his fourth and final voyage to the Americas. San Pedro Sula, located on the north of Honduras, close to the Caribbean Sea, has become the main gateway into Honduras, and offers great highways to access all of the aforementioned mainland destinations. Tegucigalpa, the capital city, is a charming old colonial mining city that has grown in the last century, but still retains many buildings with a colonial architecture. Located halfway between these two metropolises is the old colonial capital, Comayagua, which has recently been restored to regain much of its colonial heritage. Comayagua is also the site where the joint US and Honduran military post, known as Palmerola, or Soto Cano Air Force Base, is located. Nearby, the Western Highlands of Honduras offer some of the best sightseeing and rural tourism in Central America, with the cities of La Esperanza, Gracias a Dios, and Santa Rosa being the crowning attractions of the area. Last but not least, the Pacific coast offers a unique volcanic island, Amapala, where much of the early history of Honduras was written, as well as the cities of Choluteca and San Lorenzo, where the Pacific port of Henecan is located. The only natural lake in Honduras, Lake Yojoa, sustains very good fishing, nature trails, and water sport activities, including sailing. The lake is located on the main Tegucigalpa to San Pedro Sula road, and is about one hour from San Pedro Sula, and two from Tegucigalpa. (Start at the top of this Article)
The town of Copan, in addition to being home of the Mayan Copan Ruins, is a large coffee farming area. In 2012, coffee exports from Honduras generated a very important source of income, and it must be said, saved the economy. Honduras exported record amounts of high quality coffee and obtained worldwide recognition as a first class coffee producer, having become the second world exporter of coffee! Coffee is an intense job-creating economic activity, since coffee picking must all be done strictly by hand. During the coffee picking season (which begins in November and ends in February), over one million persons are employed, and during this period of time, coffee becomes the number one employer in the country – with over one million persons working at the peak of the season. Unfortunately, last year was a very rainy year, with above average rain fall, and this has resulted in a fungus which has not affected the quality of coffee, but it has had a serious affect on the quantity of the harvest. This said, coffee will continue to be a very significant generator of hard currency for Honduras in 2013, despite its income and production most likely being less than that of 2012. Read More on Honduras Coffee. (Start at the top of this Article)
Previous successes in Honduras have come from San Pedro Sula and Puerto Cortes, home of the bond manufacturing companies (also known as “maquiladoras”). During the 1990’s Honduras created the proper environment to attract manufacturing enterprises and to establish them in the country, by creating a series of tax incentives. These incentives, together with the relatively low salaries that were paid in Honduras during those times, made it so attractive to investors that many closed their operations in Mexico and moved to Honduras. This sector of the economy has slowed down a great deal in recent years, mainly due to the increase in local salaries, as well as an overvalued local currency. As a result, Honduras has struggled to retain the maquilas that are already established, and many have actually left for more attractive economies, such as neighbouring Nicaragua. A new business trend has begun, however, where Honduras does have an advantage, and this is in call centers. It turns out that Honduras has the highest percentage of bilingual people in Central America. This, together with the fact that there is a high unemployment rate, makes it very affordable for businesses to hire these bilingual persons. As such, we will surely see growth continuing in this segment of the economy of Honduras during 2013. (Start at the top of this Article)
Because it is an election year, we can expect no significant change in the course of government and the local economy. The Lobo regime will continue to be at odds with the IMF, and the 2013 budget will still have a strong deficit. The idea of devaluation will continue to be shunned by the Central Bank of Honduras, and it is safe to say that the lempira will continue to slide against the US dollar at the same rate it did in 2012, closing 2013 at just over 21 lempiras to one USA dollar. This being said, the decision to devalue the currency will either be taken by Lobo himself after the election, or will be left to whoever is elected president in November 2013 to make this politically expensive decision. (Start at the top of this Article)
Regarding education in 2013, Honduras can continue to expect the conflict between teachers unions and the government to continue, and most likely, increase. This is attributed to two different facts: First, the government will continue to have cash flow problems, and therefore is likely to be behind in salary payments to the teachers; Second, most of the teachers are akin to the new Libre party, and Zelaya will use his influence on them to continue the confrontation with the Lobo regime in an effort to prove that his Libre party offers a solution to these problems. (Start at the top of this Article)
Financially, despite the fact that the 2012 budget had to be reduced due to insufficient tax collections, the Honduras 2013 budget is almost 10% higher than that of 2012. It is unlikely that the economy will recover enough to generate these taxes needed to finance the budget; and therefore, the government will continue its efforts to find money elsewhere, even if it means getting deeper into debt. Local banks have already closed the doors on more government lending, which is forcing the government to become creative. They have been preparing the issue of government backed bonds to offer in the international market during the first semester of 2013. It will be interesting to see if they can get any support for these bonds, as they will surely be seen as a high risk investment. The other option is to use the foreign currency reserves that are at the Central Bank of Honduras. This is a less expensive option; however, it is highly risky, as the Central Bank can end up without any US dollars to purchase commodities such as fuel in the international market. In any case, there will be many perils for the economy of Honduras during 2013 due to the unbalanced budget. (Start at the top of this Article)
Honduras, however, will continue to be a great buy as far as real estate is concerned. The slow economy is pushing many locals into selling their properties before they are forced to forfeit on the mortgage and lose them altogether. So, if you are looking to purchase a property as an investment or a future retirement home, Honduras has many options that are easily amongst the most affordable, not only in Central America, but also in the Caribbean.
You may ask why anyone would want to live in a country that has such a bad rap from the press? Well actually, the press, international correspondents included, live and take their news from the big cities, where all the gangs and organized crime have their headquarters, just like anywhere else in the world! But if you leave the big cities, and come to the areas like the Bay Islands of Utila, Roatan or Guanaja, the Caribbean port cities of La Ceiba, Tela and Trujillo, the mountain towns of Copan, Santa Rosa de Copan, Gracias and La Esperanza, you will find that there are many, many foreigners who have purchased property here, and live happily in paradise, and who would not even think of going back to the hectic way of life they managed to escape from. (Start at the top of this Article)
Most of the aforementioned destinations offer a large variety of real estate options with truly motivating prices. If investing in Honduras has always been a bargain by international standards, it is even more so these days. Thousands of happy investors from around the world have done so, and are living proof that real estate in Honduras is not only a safe investment, it is also a good one. Also of interest is the fact that the Bay Islands have the only digitalized satellite maps with land surveys in all of Central America, making this the easiest, safest place in Central America to purchase real estate.
Visit and Discover
Come and discover for yourself the many great opportunities that our country has to offer; Honduras 2013, don’t let it pass without you!
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