History of Honduras
Honduras has a colorful history from Spanish conquistadores battling with pirates to espionage almost taking down a US President. The people of Honduras had to deal with the Spaniards, British, French, and even the US messing with their way of life.
The Mayans came into Honduras around 300-900 AD. They built an advanced civilization, with a highly organized political system built around independent city-states. Honduras has many Mayan ruins but the biggest and most well known is Copán. Copán was the central ceremonial hub and the capital of an ancient kingdom called Xukpi. The Mayans’ advanced civilization fell before the Spanish came.
The Spaniards came in and started to rule the land with an iron fist and in the process decimated the population with diseases. Due to the lack of labor the Spanish brought in slaves from Africa. Soon the Spanish were not the only ones wanting and using Honduras, the British and French buccaneers started to attack Spanish treasure galleons. The famous buccaneer Henry Morgan made Port Royal on Roatan his base and it became a regular pirate town.
The British controlled the Bay Islands from 1643 until 1872. In 1821 the United Provinces of Central America declared their independence from Spain. In 1838 Honduras withdrew from the federation and became a sovereign country. In the 1850’s William Walker came into Central America and took control of Nicaragua. He wanted to take over the other four nations but the British captured him and he was executed in Trujillo where he is buried.
In the late nineteenth century the US and European companies carved out economic empires in Central America with mining and banana companies. The companies gained control over enormous areas along the North Coast. For decades the companies ran much of Honduras as if it was their own private country. There were even points in which the US military intervened when the Hondurans started to disagree with the companies.
In 1979 a party called the Sandinistas overthrew the Nicaraguan dictatorship and established a left-leaning socialist government. The US government got a little nervous that there might be a Communist state on their doorstep so they decided to help the Contas who were opposed to the Sandinistas. When the world found out that the Contras were indulging in attacks on civilians, torture, rape and other typical guerilla behavior, as well as destroying schools, health clinics and power stations, the US decided to stop supporting the group. Ronald Reagan’s administration tried to find new and unique ways of supporting the group. The shady doings culminated in the so-called Iran-Contra Affair of 1986-1987, in which high-ranking officials of the Reagan administration were found guilty of selling weapons to the US’s enemies in Iran, and funneling the profits to the Contras.
Even through all of these problems the people of Honduras kept on going but in 1998 Hurricane Mitch dealt the worst blow. 5,000 people were killed and 1.5 million made homeless. Not only were the coasts devastated but landslides killed many in the shantytowns around Tegucigalpa. Even to this day the people are still trying to get back physically as well as psychologically.