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HISTORY OF HONDURAS
 
 

HISTORY OF HONDURAS
     Within Guatemala
     Central American Federation
     Independence




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Within Guatemala: to1821

Within the Spanish empire the long narrow strip of central America is known as Guatemala. It is among the earliest of colonial conquests on the mainland. Pedro de Alvarado, a leading member of Cortés' small party in the conquest of Mexico (1519-21), is sent south in 1523 to subdue the smaller area now known as Guatemala. In 1524 he pushes on into El Salvador. In the same year Spanish conquistadors enter Costa Rica and Nicaragua from the east, invading from Panama.

Honduras, the buffer region between east and west, is disputed between the rival groups of Spaniards. An advance guard from Panama gets there first. Cortés sends a force from Mexico, which eventually prevails.
 









These rivalries persuade the Spanish crown to treat central America as a special case. In 1539 it is established as the captaincy general of Guatemala. This is part of the wider viceroyalty of New Spain (administered from Mexico City) but the captain general, operating from his own capital at Antigua, has considerable autonomy in local affairs.

The arrangement survives until the end of the colonial period (except that the capital moves to Guatemala City after Antigua is destroyed by an earthquake in 1773), and it is this larger region of Guatemala which declares independence on 15 September 1821 - just three weeks after neighbouring Mexico, under Agustín de Iturbide, has won freedom from Spain.
 






Central American Federation: 1823-1838

Recognizing the forceful leadership of Iturbide, the colonists of Guatemala offer to merge their region in 1821 with Mexico - uniting as one nation the previous viceroyalty of New Spain. The link holds when Iturbide makes himself emperor, in 1822. But with his sudden fall and flight from Mexico, in 1823, Guatemala decides to assert its own independence.

The region from the southern border of Mexico to Panama now declares itself to be a new nation. It is to be known as the Central American Federation, with its capital in Guatemala City.
 









The transition to statehood is far from smooth, for the other constituent provinces of the old captaincy general of Guatemala (El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica) have intentions which are often at odds with the central government in Guatemala City. And even when established, the new nation is soon in political chaos. There is almost permanent civil war between Liberal and conservative factions.

The dominant figure is the Honduran general Francisco Morazán, who is president from 1830. He attempts to introduce liberal reforms, but by 1838 the federation is in such chaos that it has effectively ceased to exist. The five regions carry on as independent nations.
 






Independence: 1838-1999

Honduras is under the control of a conservative faction when it breaks away from the Central American Federation in 1838. It is leaving an organization headed by a Honduran, Francisco Morazán, who is liberal and passionately committed to the idea of central American unity. So Honduras has at its heart, from the beginning, the essential 19th-century clash between Liberal and conservative interests. As in most of Latin America, the conservatives are more often the ones in power.

In 1838 the Caribbean coast of the nation (the Mosquito coast) is of little economic use. Indeed during the Spanish colonial period it has largely been abandoned to buccaneers. But this changes in the late 19th century.
 









The reason is the introduction of bananas. The discovery that the soil and climate of the region is ideal for bananas forges a close link between Honduras and the USA, where there is a massive market for the fruit. The United Fruit Company and other American competitors in the same market eventually account for half of all Honduran exports.

An early sign of this close economic link is the decision by President Taft to send US marines in 1911 to protect American interests during a spell of political turmoil in Honduras. More recently US bases in Honduras have been used, in the 1980s, to train Contras to destabilize neighbouring Nicaragua.
 







For much of the 20th century there are military governments in Honduras, often surviving in power with American support. In 1981 there is a return to civilian rule, with subsequent presidents being duly elected but frequently finding themselves subject to military interference (and with much international concern during the 1980s about civil rights violations).

Elections in 1997 give the Liberal party a majority in the single-chamber congress. They also bring into office a Liberal president of the republic, Carlos Roberto Flores.
 






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