Republic of Honduras
Honduras offers tropical nature, archaeological experiences and cultural diversity within a rugged setting of mountains and jungle. Honduras's eco-tourism is on the rise and almost a quarter of Honduran territory is protected in an extensive network of national parks and reserves. The parks offer a wide array of flora and fauna amid some of the finest stretches of tropical forest in Central America. Honduras is home to the famous ruins of Copán, one of the world's finest Mayan sites, and the beaches and clear Caribbean waters of the Bay Islands.The second-largest country in Central America, Honduras's 112,492 sq km/43,870 sq mi spreads from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast, from the ethnically diverse Caribbean flatlands through the cooler mountainous interior, to the south shores of the Golfo de Fonseca. West to east, the forested highlands on the border with Guatemala lead to the vast, undeveloped tropical rainforest of the Mosquitia.Columbus landed on the mainland near present-day Trujillo on his fourth and final voyage. The Spanish conquered the indigenous people and ruled until 1821 when Central America became independent. The Spanish imparted their religion and language to Honduras during three centuries of rule. Spanish is the principal language throughout the country, although Creole-English is the language of choice of Bay Islanders. The remaining Indian tribes have their own distinct languages.Honduras was the original banana republic. The United Fruit Company held the country in its grip for 40 years by buying up almost three-quarters of Honduras's arable land and establishing its own railroads and banks. Honduras is one of the least industrialized countries in Central America with eighty percent of Hondurans in poverty. Shantytowns that ring the main cities absorb much of rapidly growing population of nearly seven million. Honduras's reputation suffered from its short role in the 1980's as a base for U.S. covert operations and the country was devastated by Hurricane Mitch in 1998, one of the strongest hurricanes of the 20th C. Much of the infrastructure has been repaired and tourism has returned to pre-Mitch levels, although as an aftermath, street crime has escalated.