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. Under President Maduro's administration in 2003, a law against illicit associations, such as gangs, was approved and many have been put in jail since then. However, the country still faces challenges as atrocious acts are still committed by gangs. Honduras' last election was in November 2005 with Manuel Zelaya elected president.
The typical school year runs from February through November. Education is compulsory from ages seven through 12. Only 58 percent of primary-school-age students reach the fifth grade. According to Honduras' National Statistics Institute (INE), on average, Hondurans complete 5.4 years of schooling. Undergraduate education is only reached by 5.3 percent of the population and graduate studies by 0.2 percent. There is one government-run and several private-run universities in Honduras, along with various trade schools.
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 constantly going on strike and delaying the school year. There is a sense of helplessness among parents who desire good education for their children but can only 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 any restrictions.
Source: International Religious Freedom Report, released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, November 8, 2005, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2005/51644.htm.
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.
- 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 four.
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 & Figures
Compassion's work in Honduras began in 1974. Currently, more than 39,900 children participate in more than 165 child development centers. Compassion partners with churches to help them provide Honduran children with the opportunity to rise above their circumstances and become all God has created them to be.
Visit the Compassion blog to learn more about our work in Honduras.
7,639,327 (July 2008 estimate)Note: Estimates for this country take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality and death rates, lower population and growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected.
|307,212,123 (July 2010 estimate)|
|Languages||Spanish, Amerindian dialects||English 82.1%, Spanish 10.7%, other Indo-European 3.8%, Asian and Pacific island 2.7%, other 0.7% (2000 census)|
|Religions||Christian 100% (Roman Catholic 97%, Protestant 3%)||Christian 78.5% (Protestant 51.3%, Roman Catholic 23.9%, Mormon 1.7%, other Christian 1.6%), Jewish 1.7%, Buddhist 0.7%, Muslim 0.6%, other or unspecified 2.5%, unaffiliated 12.1%, none 4% (2007 est.)|
Definition: Age 15 and over can read and write.
|Percentage of population using improved drinking water sources||Urban: 95%
|Percentage of population using adequate sanitation facilities||Urban: 87%
|Climate||Subtropical in lowlands, temperate in mountains||Mostly temperate, but tropical in Hawaii and Florida, arctic in Alaska, semiarid in the Great Plains west of the Mississippi River and arid in the Great Basin of the southwest; low winter temperatures in the northwest are warmed occasionally in January and February by chinook winds from the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains.|
|Percentage of population urbanized||47% (2006 estimate)||82% (2008 estimate)|
|Life expectancy||Male: 67.81 years
Female: 71.01 years
|Male: 75.65 years
Female: 80.69 years
|Under-5 mortality rate||27/1,000 (2006 estimate)||8/1,000 (2008 estimate)|
|GDP per capita||$4,300 (2007 estimate)||$46,000 (2009 estimate)|
|Monetary unit||lempira (HNL)||U.S. dollar (USD)|
|Number of people living with HIV/AIDS||63,000 (2003 estimate)||1.2 million (2007 estimate)|
|Percentage of population living below $1.25 a day||15% (1995-2005 study)||Data not available|
Sources for facts: The World Factbook, 2008; The State of the World's Children, 2008