Honduras is approximately 1000 miles southwest of Miami and has a mainly mountainous area of 48,200 square miles. To the North it has a large coastal line with the Caribbean sea and to the South it enjoys a small access to the Pacific.
Honduras lies at what was the southern tip of the Mayan civilization that spread southwards from the Yucatán peninsula through modern Guatemala to the city of Copán, now in north-west Honduras. The Mayan civilization collapsed long before the arrival of Christopher Columbus, who visited Trujillo in north-east Honduras in 1502 on his third voyage to the new world. The country was colonized by Spain after some resistance by the Lenca peoples of the central highlands. Their chief, Lempira, who was murdered by the Spaniards, became a national symbol after independence.
On independence in 1821 Honduras joined the Central American Federation, and the Honduran general, Francisco Morazán, became its first president. He also entered the phatheon of national heroes after he was killed in the break-up of the federation in 1839. Honduras' liberal revolution took place in the 1870s under the presidency of Marco Aurelio Soto.
In 1899 the first banana concession was granted to the Vacarro brothers; their company would later become Standard Fruit. In 1907 Sam Zemurray set up the Cuyamel Fruit Company; later bought by United Fruit. The unequal relationship that would exist between the companies and the Honduran state for the first half of the 20th century gave rise to the description "banana republic." Between 1932 and 1948 Honduras was ruled by a dictator, Tiburcio Carias Andino.
After the fall of Carias, Honduras began an uneven process of political and economic modernization. In 1954, Honduras signed a military treaty with the US government, which was concerned for its strategic interests in the region following the rise of the Arbenz government in Guatemala.
In 1957 a Liberal president, Ramón Villeda Morales, was elected. His administration promoted the first agrarian reform and saw the beginning of social welfare legislation. He also took Honduras into the Central American Common Market, the Mercado Común Centroaméricano which was founded in 1960.
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...southwest, near the Guatemala border, close to the most important Indian centres of the pre-Columbian period. Small, isolated groups of non-Spanish-speaking Indians—such as the Jicaque, Miskito (Mosquito), and Paya—continue to live in the northeast, although their numbers are declining. Of the total population, about nine-tenths is mestizo. Blacks of West Indian origin and Garifuna make up a significant part of the population along the Caribbean coast, an area where English is widely spoken.
The official language of Honduras is Spanish, and the predominant religion is Roman Catholicism, more than four-fifths of the population being adherents. The largest of the remaining groups are Protestant, with notable congregations in the east and on the Bay Islands. There has been rapid growth in Protestant churches, especially since the upheaval caused by Hurricane Mitch in 1998.
Honduras was governed under the constitution of 1965 until 1972, when it was largely suspended after a coup. A new constitution was adopted in 1982.
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