Mayan civilization flourished in Honduras in the centuries before Columbus arrived in 1502. Following independence from Spain in 1821 and from Mexico in 1822, Honduras joined the United Provinces of Central America. In 1839, the country declared its independence. Dictatorships and frequent revolution characterized the country through the rest of the 19th century and into the 20th.
During a stable period from 1955 to 1957, important social progress was made. Most notable were the passage of labor laws and the growth of labor unions. Ramón Villeda Morales, elected in 1957, also initiated programs for agriculture reform and education. He was followed by Colonel Osvaldo López Arellano in a 1963 coup. López held the reigns of government until he was ousted by the army in 1975 under the charge that government officials had accepted $250,000 in bribes.
Through the late 1970s and 1980s, the central problem for Honduras was political instability in neighboring countries. In 1993, Carlos Roberto Reina Idiaquez, a longtime human rights and political activist, was elected president with the promise to institute economic reforms and exert civilian control over the powerful Honduran army.
At the turn of the century, one of Honduras' major social problems was the involvement of youth in violent gangs. A law against illicit associations, such as gangs, was approved in 2003 and many have been put in jail since then. However, the country still faces challenges when atrocious acts are committed by gangs, and many citizens are still living in fear.
Source: The World Factbook, 2014.
The typical school year runs from February through November. Education is compulsory from ages 7 through 12.
In urban areas of the country, Hondurans are more aware than their rural neighbors of the importance of education. Although many parents desire education for their children, it is often more important for children to help provide for their families, especially in the country; and because of this, the dropout rate is higher. In addition, the education provided by the government is poor in most cases, from inadequate facilities to teachers going on strike. There is a sense of helplessness among parents who desire a good education for their children but can barely afford a public education.
There is no state religion in Honduras. However, the armed forces have an official Roman Catholic patron saint. The government consults with the Roman Catholic Church and occasionally appoints Catholic leaders to quasi-official commissions on key issues of mutual concern, such as anticorruption initiatives.
The government does not require religious groups to register but requires churches and organizations to register. Foreign missionaries must obtain entry and residence permits and a local institution or individual must sponsor a missionary's application for residency, which is submitted to the Ministry of Government and Justice. The ministry generally grants such permits.
There are both religious schools that provide professional training, such as seminaries, and church-operated schools that provide general education, such as parochial schools. They receive no special treatment from the government and do not face restrictions.
Source: International Religious Freedom Report, released in 2012 by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.
Holidays and Festivals
Honduran culture is laid back; this attitude is more pronounced among the people living in coastal areas. The majority of Hondurans are passionate about soccer and politics. In general, Hondurans, like those in other Latin American countries, are close to extended family and many families live either in the same house or close to each other. There is a friendly and welcoming attitude toward international visitors.
Many writers, such as José Trinidad Reyes and José Cecilio del Valle, have emerged in Honduras; however, many people cannot afford books, so the market for authors is limited. Many authors publish their work in newspapers to gain access to the public.
López Rodezno is a Honduran painter who founded the National School of Arts and Crafts in Comayagüela, which maintains a permanent contemporary art exhibit featuring many murals by various artists. A traditional Amerindian theme, the "rain of fish" (a "tornado" that travels over the ocean, sucks up fish and then drops them over villages), frequently occurs in Honduran art.
Brightly colored handicrafts, such as model animals of clay or wood and jewelry, are everywhere in Honduras.
Honduran music has a folk style with a Spanish beat and uses guitars and marimbas. Honduran folk music is played during traditional Honduran celebrations. However, in general, Hondurans prefer music from Mexico or the United States, in different rhythms.
Sports and Games
The Feast Day of the Virgin of Suyapa, Feb. 3: Celebration in honor of the patron saint of Honduras
Easter, March or April: a two-week celebration with festivals and parades. All schools and most businesses shut down from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. Traditionally, the majority of the population travels to the beaches during this time.
Carnaval at La Ceiba, held during the third week of May
Independence Day, Sept. 15
Columbus Day, Oct. 12
Christmas, Dec. 25; Hondurans celebrate with their families on Christmas Eve and rest on Christmas Day. Hondurans set up a nativity scene where they cover the baby Jesus with a blanket. On Christmas Eve, the blanket is removed to unveil the baby.
Soccer is the main sport in Honduras. Baseball, volleyball and basketball are also popular. Children play a game similar to "jacks" using stones.
Rice, beans, tamales and corn are included in the basic diet, along with a soup of beef or chicken stock. Black coffee and soft drinks are popular.
Sautéed Plantains Recipe
- 2 ripe plantains
- 1 jalapeno chili, seeded and sliced in thin rings
- 2 Tb. butter, more if needed
- 1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature
Peel plantains and cut into quarters. Cut each quarter in half lengthwise. Sauté plantains and chilies in butter over medium heat, turning frequently. Remove when browned. Drizzle sour cream over plantains. Serves 4.
Compassion in Honduras
- ¿Qué ondas? (What's up?)
- ¡Nos vemos! (See you!)
- ¡Todo cheque! (Roughly translated, "It's all cool," when asked how things are going.)
- Bendiciones. (Literally means "Blessings," but is used as "God bless you"; a common greeting within the Christian circle used to either say "hi" or "goodbye.")
Honduras Facts and Figures
Compassion began its ministry in Honduras in 1974 when child development centers were opened by the Guatemala and El Salvador offices in Honduras. In 1998, Compassion Honduras officially opened in response to the impact of Hurricane Mitch. In 1999, operations began from the Honduras country office and the Child Sponsorship Program was started. In 2007, the Leadership Development Program began.
Child Sponsorship Program
Children age 14 and younger attend the child development center 6 hours per week, spread out over 2 to 3 days after school. Older children attend 4 hours a week over the course of 2 days.
The process of giving Bibles to registered children takes place every two fiscal years. Each church partner identifies the children who need a new Bible, and each of those children receives a Bible appropriate to his age.
The children get a snack every time they attend the child development center. Malnourished children receive extra food or additional nutrients. Snacks are usually fruit, cereal and milk. Meals include meat, cereals, vegetables, fruit and natural juice. The center staff try to provide every child with a full meal every two to three visits.
Children participate in sports tournaments, service in churches, retreats, camps and educational visits as part of their extracurricular activities. The child development centers also offer a variety of workshops covering welding, beauty, sports, baking, music and computers.
Parents attend regular “School for Parents” meetings featuring such topics as domestic violence, child abuse, alcoholism and child discipline, among others. These meetings are planned every two to three months, depending on the church partner.
Visit the Compassion blog to learn more about our work in Honduras and see how life in Honduras is viewed through the eyes of a child.
8,598,561 (2014 estimate)
Note: Estimates for this country take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS, which results in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality, higher death rates, and lower population growth rates than otherwise expected.
||Spanish, Amerindian dialects
||Christian 100% (Roman Catholic 97%, Protestant 3%)
Definition: Age 15 and over can read and write.
|Percentage of population using improved drinking water sources
|Percentage of population using adequate sanitation facilities
||Subtropical in lowlands, temperate in mountains
|Percentage of population urbanized
||52% (2010 estimate)
||Male: 69.24 years
Female: 72.55 years
|Under-5 mortality rate
||23/1,000 (2013 estimate)
|GDP per capita
||$4,800 (2013 estimate)
||Honduran lempira (HNL)
|Number of people living with HIV/AIDS
||25,600 (2012 estimate)
|Percentage of population living below $1.25 a day
||18% (2007-11 study)
Sources for facts: The World Factbook, 2014; The State of the World's Children, 2014