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The country of Honduras, officially known in Spanish as República de Honduras, is a country rich in diversity of culture and geography. It is located in Central America, bordered by Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, the Pacific Ocean through its southern Gulf of Fonseca, as well as the Gulf of Honduras and the Caribbean Sea. Honduras also includes the Islas de la Bahía and Swan Islands.
The Mayans dominated the area that is now Honduras, and was the first known civilization to have made their mark, from 1200 to approximately 900 BC. Many archaeological sites which demonstrate the thriving civilization remain throughout Honduras. Although some Mayan descendants remained when the first Spanish explorers arrived on the shores of Central America, they found primarily Lencan people in the area.
When Christopher Columbus found the coast of Honduras in 1502 he ushered in a period of Spanish rule that would last more than 300 years. On 15 September 1821, Honduras declared their independence from Spain and for a short time was part of the Federal Republic of Central America. Today, Honduras is a democratic republic with a democratically elected president, although a military coup brought Honduras under military rule from 1963 to 1981. The country currently has five political parties, including the Social Democrats, Social Christians and Democrat Unification.
Honduras as a nation is very poor— it is in the top ten poorest western countries. Approximately half of its 7.1 million people live below the poverty line, and 27.9% are unemployed. Honduras’ 2006 GDP per capita was a mere $3100 US Dollars (USD). Although its population is very diverse, the majority is made up from indigenous groups which include the Ch’orti’, Garifuna, Pech, Tolupan, Lenca and Miskito peoples.
The geography of Honduras is just as diverse as its population. Although it is primarily mountainous, approximately 81%, it boasts beautiful coastlines as well. It is home to a portion of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, the second largest of its kind in the world. The “last lungs of South America,” the Rio Plátano Biosphere Reserve rainforest, is protected as a UNESCO world heritage site.
Many visitors are drawn to the beauty of Honduras’ reefs where the snorkeling and diving is unrivaled. The whale shark is primarily found in the waters off the reef, drawing divers who dream of swimming with these gentle beasts. Mayan ruins attract those interested in archeology, as well as the Caves of Glowing Skulls, caves with ritualistically painted skeletons dating back thousands of years. Honduran cities such as its capitol city Tegucigalpa, as well as San Pedro Sula, Copán Ruinas and La Ceiba attract visitors interested in historic sites and churches as well as colonial history.