Country Overview: Honduras

Flag of Honduras
Map of Honduras

Capital: Tegucigalpa
Currency: Lempira
President: Juan Orlando Hernandez
Official Language: Spanish 
Government: Presidential Republic
Population: 9,112,867 (2016)

Honduras is located in Central America with Caribbean Sea coastlines to the north and Pacific Ocean coastlines to the south. Honduras is bordered by Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua.

Land and Climate

Size: 112,090 square km.  The United States is 88 times larger than Honduras. 

Geography:  Honduras shares borders with three other Central American countries- Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador.  In the north Honduras is bordered by 669 km of Caribbean coastline, and to the south the Pacific Ocean.

The country is covered with a central mountain system running from east to west.  In these mountains are rivers that flow into both the Caribbean and Pacific Oceans.  The south is comprised of lowlands that form a plain along the coast. 

Mist over jungle in Honduras

Climate: Honduras has a tropical climate with a dry season in the winter and a rainy season in the summer.  Temperature is high year round in the plains while the mountainous areas become milder and cooler depending on the altitude.  Rainfall averages 900 to 2,000 mm per year with the dry season from November to April. The average daily temperature in Honduras reaches 86°F.  However, from December to March Honduras can feel the effects of cool air masses from the United States and the temperature at night can drop to 50°F.

Ruins in Honduras

History

For thousands of years indigenous peoples lived in Honduras. The greatest of them were 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. 

In the early 20th century exports of bananas came to dominate the economy of Honduras. In General Tiburcio Carías Andino was elected president of Honduras. He made himself a virtual dictator and he held onto power till 1949. General Oswaldo López 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. However the country slowly recovered. Nevertheless Honduras remains a very poor country. Today the population of Honduras is 9.1 million.

Government

Honduras is a low middle-income country that faces major challenges, with more than 60.9 percent of the population living in poverty in 2016, according to official data. In rural areas, approximately one out of 5 Hondurans live in extreme poverty (less than US$1.90 per day).

Since the 2008-2009 global economic crisis, Honduras has experienced a moderate recovery, driven by public investments, exports and higher remittances. In 2017, the country’s economy grew by 4.8 percent, according to the latest estimates and a 3.6 percent growth is expected for 2018.

Despite the favorable economic outlook, the country faces the highest level of economic inequality in Latin America. Another major challenge is the rampant crime and violence. Although in recent years the number of homicides has declined, Honduras continues to have one of the highest rates in the world (43.6 murders per 100,000 inhabitants in 2017, according to the Observatory of Violence at the National Autonomous University of Honduras).

The country is also vulnerable to external shocks. Its agricultural sector, for example, lost nearly one-third of its revenue over the past two decades, in part due to the declining prices of the country’s export crops, especially banana and coffee.
Additionally, Honduras is susceptible to adverse natural events such as hurricanes and droughts. Measures to mitigate the impact of these shocks focus on strengthening the adaptation capacity of households, expanding market-based risk management mechanisms, and developing effective social safety nets.
World Bank studies have highlighted the importance of improving the quality of education and diversifying sources of rural income, given that most of the country’s poor live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for their livelihoods.
Other studies have found that targeted social programs can potentially reduce poverty. http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/honduras/overview#3

President Juan Orlando Hernandez

Currency

The lempira was introduced in 1931, replacing the peso at par. In the late 1980s, the exchange rate was two lempiras to the United States dollar (the 20-centavos coin is called a daime as it was worth the same as a U.S. dime. As of June 20, 2017, the lempira was quoted at 23.44 HNL to 1 USD. 

Image of 20 lempira (Honduran currency)

Cuisine

Honduran food mixes up cuisines from the Caribbean, the indigenous Lenca people, the Spanish, and Africa. The Garifuna have their own way of cooking up a meal, too. It’s a little bit more adventurous and spicy than other Central American cuisines. For example, Hondurans are not afraid using a few jalapeños now and then.

Honduran cuisine

Of course, the staples are the same throughout Central America. Corn-based, as it has been for thousands of years. Tortillas come with pretty much everything, starting with breakfast. Tamales are popular too. Beans are a staple and help to fill up space in a tortilla not taken up by meat and cheese. Like the other nationalities in Central America, Hondurans also love their soup. Sopa de caracol (conch soup) is the best-known dish from Honduras. There is a fish that lives in Lake Yojoa, the largest lake in Honduras, set between San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa. That fish, when fried up and served with plantains and cabbage, is another one of Honduras’s national dishes. Meat is a thing here, too. Especially beef, of which is of good quality in Honduras. Ask for a plato tipico in any restaurant and you’ll get carneada, barbecued beef marinated in orange juice and other spices, and grilled. A carneada is also a social event where people get together as families or neighborhood to grill out and eat meat.

Religion

Although the Constitution of Honduras provides for religious freedom and freedom of worship, the country has Roman Catholicism as its dominant national religion. More than 80% of the population are Roman Catholics with only a small percentage belonging to the minority Protestant religion and other small religions. Despite a Constitutional provision for church and state, the government and the Catholic Church maintain a relationship especially on matters of consultation, occasional appointments of church leaders to quasi-official commissions on key issues of national concern, and registration of local churches and foreign missionaries. The Catholic Church is made up of dioceses located in Tegucigalpa, Comayagua, Choluteca, Olancho, Yoro, San Pedro Sula, Trujillo and Copan. It also maintains religious schools that receive government subsidies but not special treatment from the government. These schools provide professional training such as the seminaries, or general education such as those offered by parochial schools which are not limited to the church. The Protestant church, on the other hand, is structured in three religious alliances of the Shepherds Association of Honduras, Evangelical Brotherhood of Honduras, and the Apostolic Network of Honduras. Some of its prominent churches are the Abundant Life Church, Living Love Church, and the Grand Commission church.

The other minor religions in the country are Judaism, Greek Orthodox, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mennonite, Church of Christ of the Latter-Day Saints, Union Church, Muslims and Jews that have small numbers but are able to maintain a mosque and a synagogue in San Pedro Sula and the country’s biggest city Tegucigalpa.

Etiquette

Hondurans are easy going, and it’s unusual for them to be easily upset or annoyed by foreigners not knowing cultural norms.  It’s polite to greet people in Spanish when you first see them each day: buenas dias (in the morning), buenas tardes (after midday) or buenas noches (after dark).  Men tend to shake hands when they meet.  Women often embrace one another, but they tend to remain on nodding terms with men, unless they know them well. 

Common Words and Phrases

The sole official language of Honduras is Spanish.

English Phrase / Spanish Translation        
How are you? / Como estas?        
I’m fine / Estoy bien 
Thank you / Gracias
Please / Porfavor                
Can you help me? / Puedes ayudarme?
Do you speak English? / Hablas ingles?
I don’t speak Spanish / No hablo español    
Hello/Good bye / Hola / Adios 

Heath Statistics

Total population: 9,112,867 (2016)
Gross National income per capita: 4
Life expectancy at birth: 73/78
Probability dying between 15 and 60 years: 172/119
Total expenditure on health per capita: $400
Total expenditure on health as % of GDP: (2014)