Honduras , a republic of Central America, lying between lat. 13° 10' and 16° 5' N, and Ion. 83° 12' and 89° 47' W., and bounded N. and E. by the Caribbean sea, S. by Nicaragua (from which it is separated for about half its length by the river Segovia), the Pacific, and San Salvador, and W. and N. W. by Guatemala; length from E. to W., 440 m.; greatest breadth N. to S., 200 m.; area, about 50,000 sq. m. The coast line on the Atlantic is much more extensive than that on the Pacific, its length being about 400 m.; it is comparatively even, low and marshy E. of Ion. 85°, and often high and rocky W. of that point. The Pacific coast line is but 60 m. in length, very irregular and low, and subject to inundation by spring tides. Both coasts are unhealthy, but the miasmatic influence does not extend far inland. Off the Atlantic coast are Ruatan, Guanaja or Bonaca, Utila, Helena, Barbaretta, Morat, and other smaller islands dependent upon the first, the whole group being known as the Bay islands, and under the jurisdiction of Jamaica. They are chiefly inhabited by British subjects, an occupation in violation of the express terms of a treaty made with the United States in 1850. Guanaja is celebrated as having been the point from which Columbus in 1502 descried for the first time the Central American mainland.
The principal ports of Honduras, which are among the most commodious in Central America, are Omoa, Trujillo, Puerto Cortes (formerly called Puerto Caballos), and Amapala; the first three are on the Caribbean sea, and the last on Fon-seca bay in the Pacific. That of Omoa, formed by a small bay opening to the N. W., and offering safe anchorage to vessels of the deepest draft, is the exporting and importing centre for the departments of Yoro, Olancho, and part of Tegucigalpa; the town, situated 1/2 m. from the harbor in a marshy region, is very unhealthy. Trujillo, on a delightful bay of the same name, was an important shipping town in colonial times; but being situated so far from the populous parts of the country and the more frequented paths (there being no roads), it has gradually lost its prestige. Puerto Cortes was for more than two centuries the principal entrepot on the coast; it stands on a bay 9 m. in circumference, at a short distance from Omoa, and may be entered by the largest ocean steamers, which there find secure mooring ground and convenient docks. Amapala, on the N. E. shore of the island of Tigre, facing the island of Sacate Grande, the only port of Honduras on the Pacific, has excellent anchorage, thorough shelter, and good facilities for repairing ships.
All the ports in the republic are now free; that of Amapala was declared so in 1857, the inhabitants being exempt from military service and all imposts, save in time of war, and from tithes and excise. The bay of Fonseca, washing the shores of San Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, is about 35 m. long and 45 m. wide, and contains the finest "constellation of ports" on the W. coast of America. Among its numerous islands are Sacate, the largest, and Tigre, rising like a huge cone to an altitude of 1,950 ft. Tigre is 20 m. in circumference, and is mainly covered with valuable timber. - Taken as a whole, the face of the country is essentially mountainous, and though nowhere attaining an elevation equal to the greatest in Guatemala, the surface is more diversified than in that state. The only consecutive chain of mountains is the Sierra Madre, which enters the republic at the west from Guatemala, and separates in the knot of Merendon into two great branches, N. E. and S. E. The former reaches to the bay of Honduras, terminating in the mountains of Omoa, the mean altitude there being 8,000 ft., and the maximum 9,000 ft.; it takes in its course thither the names of Sierra del Espiritu Santo and Grita. The latter, trending first S. E., then E., under the name of Pacaya mountains, deflects to the N. W., and forms the great knot designated as the Se-laque mountains, whose highest peak, 10,000 ft., may be regarded as the culminating point of Honduras. N. E. of the Selaque group are the Puca mountains, presenting also a lofty peak, and connected by a S. E. range of comparatively low hills with the Opalaca chain, which is in turn linked by another series of hills curving S. and W. to the mountains of San Juan, and these again to the Montecillos chain, N. of which are two parallel chains, Santa Barbara to the west and Canchia to the east, separated by the broad valley of Lake Yojoa. The republic is here bisected by the valleys of the Humuya-Ulua system and the Goascoran, which rivers, rising in the same ridge S. E. of the Montecillos, flow N. and S. respectively, the Ulua to the bay of Honduras, and the Goascoran to Fonseca bay.
East of this bisecting line are the Comayagua mountains, with a few lofty summits; the Lepate-rique chain lies S. of these, and the remarkable Sulaco group N. E., sending down from their elevated crests waters to either ocean. Due S. of the Sulaco knot are the Chili mountains, forming part of the southern boundary with Nicaragua; and due N. of it, near the Atlantic coast, rise the Congrehoy peaks, ranging in height from 5,500 to 8,000 ft. Of the orography of the country stretching E. of Ion. 86° 30' nothing definite is known. The N. E. portion has successive mountain ranges, some of which descend to the very coast, while others dwindle at a considerable distance inland; and all are separated by vast terraced plains, such as those of Yoro and Olancho, celebrated for the number and excellence of their cattle, but inhabited only by tribes of savage Indians. A feature worthy of remark in the mountain system of Honduras is the absence of the volcanic coast range on the Pacific, which is so extensively developed in the other Central American states, especially in Guatemala and San Salvador, but which is here represented by the numerous volcanic islands dotting the bay of Fonseca, supposed to have been itself formed by volcanic agency.
The plain of Comayagua is of extraordinary beauty; it is about 40 m. long from N. to S., with a mean breadth of perhaps 10m.; and with it may be enumerated the plain of Espino immediately N. and almost contiguous to it; that of Sensenti, walled round by the Merendon, Pacaya, and Selaque mountains; and still others, all extremely picturesque and fertile. - In Honduras, as elsewhere in America, the principal rivers flow to the Atlantic. The Segovia, called also Coco, Oro, and Wanks, already mentioned as forming a portion of the southern boundary, receives its principal waters from Honduras, and hence should be regarded as forming a part of its river system; its course, about 350 m., through an unbroken wilderness, is over a rocky bed, which, together with a succession of rapids, • renders the river unnavigable except by canoes. The largest river entirely within the territory is the Ulua, formed by the united waters of the Santiago and Humuya, with their respective tributaries the Santa Barbara and Sulaco, and holding a course N. by E. to the Atlantic, into which it falls about Ion. 87° 49'; the Humuya is the main branch, rising in the mountains on the southern border of the plain of Comayagua. There is but 9 ft. of water on the bar traversing the mouth of the Ulua, but steamers of small draft can ascend as far as the junction of the Santiago, a distance of about 70 m. by the course of the stream.
The aggregate waters of the Santiago-Humuya system are computed to drain nearly one third of the territory of the republic. Next in order is the Rio Tinto, rising in the mountains bordering the valley of Olanchito, in the N. E. portion of the country, and with a course of perhaps 150 m.; but its shallowness, and a bar with but 7 ft. of water at the entrance, impede its navigation except by small craft, which go up about 60 m. The Patuca, still further E., is a powerful stream, receiving tributaries of considerable magnitude from most of the mountains in the vast department of Olancho; one of these tributaries, the Guayape, is about 250 m. long, and remarkable for its extensive gold washings; the whole course of the Patuca proper is probably not less than 200 m. Its bed presents similar obstructions to those of the other rivers named, but in spite of this the Patuca is said to be navigable for small steamers as far as the Portal del Infierno, and to be for commercial intercourse with the interior the best river on the E. coast of Central America. The Chamelican rises in the Merendon mountains, and after a serpentine course, generally N. E., discharges into the Caribbean sea a short distance W. of the Ulua; its valley abounds in valuable products, but it has little capacity for navigation.
The other streams, mostly descending from the Sulaco mountains, and the largest of which are the Lean and the Aguan, are relatively unimportant. Two fine rivers flow southward to Fonseca bay : the Goascoran, which rises but a few miles S. of the head waters of the Humuya, and is about 80 m. long, and easily fordable in the dry season; and the Choluteca, which rises on the northern slope of the Lepaterique mountains, around the N. E. extremity of which it sweeps, and then runs S. W., having a total length of more than 150 m., and passing the cities of Tegucigalpa and Choluteca. Large canoes (bongos) and other light craft navigate the latter to a com siderable distance from the sea. The only lake of note is that of Yojoa, in the bottom of the valley between the mountains of Santa Barbara and Canchia, at an elevation of 2,050 ft.; it is 25 m. long by about 7 wide, with an average depth of 4 fathoms; it sends to the Humuya two tributaries, the Santa Barbara from its southern extremity, and the Blanco from its northern, which join the Humuya within two or three miles of each other. Near the E. shore of Yojoa an immense spring of crystalline bluish water, 75 ft. in diameter, gushes from the earth, and flows into the lake in a volume equal to that of any of the outlets of the latter.
The eastern portion of the Caribbean coast is lined with salt-water lagoons and marshes, some of the former being of considerable extent, such as the Laguna de Cartago, 40 m. long, and the Laguna de Cartine, 50 m. long. - Mining, in early times the absorbing industry of the country, has dwindled almost to insignificance for lack of capital and enterprise, and of suitable roads for the transport of adequate machinery to the mining districts. Civil strife has also contributed to restrict operations, and hundreds of mines susceptible of being profitably worked are abandoned in every part of the country. Silver and gold are the most abundant metals; the silver mines lie mostly in the S. W. ranges of mountains, while gold is more plentiful toward the Atlantic. The chief silver mines are those of Tegucigalpa and Gracias; the mineral is there found in various combinations with iron, load, copper, and sometimes antimony, while chlorides are among the richest of all the ores. Few gold mines are now worked, those of San Andres in the department of Gracias, and others near San Juan Cantaranas in Tegucigalpa, forming almost the only exceptions.
The rivers Guayape and Jalan, as also the Guayambre, in the department of Olancho, abound in auriferous sands, the washing of which is still extensively carried on, and yields handsomely. Copper mines are numerous and of great value; but most of them have been abandoned, or rather were never worked except in the search for silver. Coal exists in several localities, and there is an abundance of limestone, veined, white, and blue, in every part of the republic, and especially in the transverse valley extending from Fonseca bay to the bay of Honduras; and there are quarries of beautiful marble suited for statuary in the Omoa mountains. Ancient monuments in the vicinity of Copan, near the Guatemala frontier, and of the same or a kindred type with those of Palenque, would seem to point to the early occupation of that region by a civilized people. (See Copan.) - The climate is hot on the Caribbean coast, but remarkably mild and equable in the highlands, the temperature varying for the whole year from 62° to 86° F., according to elevation. In the interior the months of April, May, and June are the hottest, while in November, December, and January the atmosphere is sufficiently cool to admit of fire.
Elsewhere than on the Caribbean coast the dry season lasts from November to June, little rain falling during that period. The rainy season is usually ushered in by violent thunderstorms, which rarely occur in the forenoon; while thunder, accompanied by northers, is frequent at the end of that season. Squier says that "there can be no generalization on the subject of the climate of Honduras, except so far as to say that it has a variety adapted to every caprice, and a temperature suitable for the cultivation of the products of every zone." Miasmatic and intermittent fevers are only known on the coast; goitre is prevalent in the highlands. - The soil of Honduras is extremely fertile; in the coast regions the various species of tropical vegetation are luxuriant; and on the elevated table lands of the interior maize and the several European grains yield ample harvests with the rudest cultivation. The sugar cane is indigenous in Honduras as in the other Central American states, and of a distinct species from that cultivated in the Antilles; it thrives well in all parts of the country, even at elevations of 4,000 ft.
Coffee likewise flourishes, but its culture is greatly neglected; indigo and other dyes are produced in limited quantities; but cochineal is no longer an object of care, although the nopal abounds in the plain of Comayagua, and its leaves are covered with the webs of the cochinilla sihestre or wild cochineal. Tobacco of excellent quality is raised, and even exported at times to Cuba, where it is prepared and sold as of native production. Pimento, capsicum, and many other spices are plentiful. The various fruits and vegetables of the temperate zone abound in the interior and require but little care; manioc is everywhere produced; and the yams of Omoa are celebrated alike for their prodigious size and exquisite flavor. The arboreal vegetation of Honduras is unsurpassed by that of any other region N. of the Orinoco; the mahogany, rosewood, and other precious cabinet woods, together with the vast forests of timber for constructions of all kinds, may be classed among the chief sources of the national wealth.
Fustic, Brazil wood, annatto, and other dyewoods, and also gum and medicinal trees and plants, as copaiba, copal, liquid-amber, and India-rubber trees, ipecacuanha, the palma Christi (yielding castor oil), and many others, are very abundant. - The indigenous fauna includes animals both of more northerly and of the equatorial regions. The felidae comprise the jaguar, puma, black tiger (felis discolor), and ocelot; the coyote or Mexican wolf is common; there are several varieties of armadillos and ant-eaters; pacas are numerous, and their flesh is by some accounted a delicacy; and to these may be added two species of deer, red and brown, peccaries, warees (wild hogs), tapirs, raccoons, opossums, squirrels, and hosts of monkeys of different varieties. Alligators abound in every river and lake, and sharks along both coasts. Lizards of various kinds are extremely numerous, among them being the iguana, often 4 ft. in length, the flesh of which is commonly eaten. The rattlesnake and corral are the only venomous serpents, but many harmless species exist. The green and hawksbill turtles, the latter furnishing the tortoise shell of commerce, and many kinds of land turtles, are found.
Endless varieties of edible and other fish inhabit the rivers and lakes, and abound on the coasts; and there are several species of edible mollusks, and crustaceans, such as oysters, lobsters, crabs, etc. Bees are plentiful and yield large quantities of honey. Mosquitoes are unknown, save in the marshy regions of the Caribbean coast, where the nigua, a small insect which burrows under the skin of the feet producing sluggish sores, is also found in considerable numbers. Tarantulas, scorpions, and enormous scolopendrae infest all regions; and myriads of locusts sometimes visit the country, darkening the air as their column passes, and utterly destroying every green thing where they alight. Hawks, vultures, and zopilotes or turkey buzzards are the only predatory birds; pelicans and many other aquatic birds abound; partridge, quail, snipe, pigeons, wild turkeys, plovers, and similar birds are numerous in the interior; humming birds of many varieties are found, as are also numerous species of warblers. - Agriculture is extremely backward; laborers are scarce, and the natives are strongly opposed to continuous exertion, especially in the open air; so that even the comparatively small portion of the country under cultivation is very imperfectly tilled.
In the plains of the interior large numbers of cattle, horses, asses, and mules find rich and abundant pasture; yet little care is taken of these animals, except the mules, by which almost all the carrying trade is performed; and the quantities of hides and other animal products exported are comparatively insignificant. - The manufactures consist exclusively of coarse woollen stuffs and rude utensils for domestic and field uses, and are analogous to those of Guatemala and Mexico. Mahogany cutting is an important occupation during the months of August, September, and October. Of the commerce of the republic it is difficult to give accurate statements, there being no official returns published. The chief staples of export are mahogany, tobacco, cattle, hides, sarsaparilla, indigo, and other dye-stuffs. According to a communication of President Medina in 1872, the value of the exports may be estimated at $1,230,000, distributed as follows: bullion, $600,000; indigo, $200,000; cattle, $150,000; timber (mahogany, &c), $180,000; hides, etc, $100,000. The imports comprise cotton and silk fabrics, hardware, and machinery, the first two mainly from Great Britain, and much of the others from the United States. The internal communication is chiefly effected, as already observed, by mules; on some of the rivers, however, the transportation is carried on in bongos or large canoes.
There is an interoceanic railway in process of construction from Amapala to Puerto Cortes, through the transverse valley of the Goascoran and Humuya rivers; the total length is to be 232 m.; the first section, extending from Puerto Cortes southward 56 m., is built, and it was reported in 1873 that the traffic was already sufficient to almost meet the running expenses. The line, according to the terms of the contract, was to have been completed in 1872; but it has been retarded by civil wars and the lack of adequate capital. A material drawback to the public welfare is the want of suitable roads, very few worthy of the name as yet existing. In 1873 some measures were taken by the government for repairing a road leading from the capital to Potrerillos, and otherwise facilitating the transportation of merchandise. Honduras is divided into the seven departments of Choluteca, Comayagua, Gracias, Olancho, Santa Barbara, Tegucigalpa, and Yoro, each of which is subdivided into districts. The same uncertainty attends the statistics of population as those of commerce; no official census has ever been taken, nor has the government published any data on the subject.
It may fairly be presumed, however, that Honduras has 400,000 inhabitants, of whom some 184,000 are Indians, 205,000 mestizos, 5,750 whites, and 5,250 negroes. The whole country E. from the longitude of the river Aguan is almost exclusively occupied by independent aboriginal tribes, the two best known of which are the Jicaques and the Poyas, both probably being branches of the Carib stock. Numbers of them have embraced the Catholic faith, and are fairly entered upon the career of civilization; their chief occupation is husbandry. There is in the region adjacent to the Laguna de Cartago a people called black Caribs, who have evidently a large admixture of African blood. The whites are mostly descended from the early Spanish settlers; they inhabit the larger towns, especially the seaports, and the extensive haciendas scattered through the interior in the western portion of the country. - The government is based upon a charter promulgated in November, 1865. The executive power is vested in a president elected for a term of four years, and aided in the administration by a council of state composed of two ministers appointed by himself, a senator elected by both houses of congress, and the judge of the supreme court.
The legislative power rests in a congress consisting of a senate and a chamber of deputies. The finances of the republic are in great disorder, nor can any definite statements thereof be obtained, inasmuch as the receipts of the custom house are usually farmed out to merchants and other capitalists, whose interest it is not to make regular returns. The revenue, one third of which is derived from imports, is estimated at $400,000 annually. Nothing is known of the home debt; the foreign debt amounted at the end of 1872 to $29,950,540, made up of three loans: the first contracted at the London stock exchange in 1867, for the nominal amount of £1,000,-000; the second issued at the Paris bourse in 1868, for the nominal amount of 62,252,-700 francs; and the third negotiated at the London stock exchange in 1870, for the nominal amount of £2,500,000. The English loans were at 10 per cent. interest, and issued at the price of 80; and the French loan at 6 per cent., issued at the price of 75; and all were raised for the purpose of constructing the in-teroceanic railway.
In May, 1872, the Honduras government issued in London the prospectus of a "0 per cent. ship railway loan" of £15,000,000, " for the purpose of adapting the railway now in course of construction to a chip railway across the republic of Honduras," that is, "a railway capable of conveying ships of heavy tonnage, without disturbing the cargo, between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, to and from Puerto Cortes and Fonseca bay." This loan, which was to be in 150,000 bonds of £100 each, at the price of 80, and to be repaid in 15 years, met with no subscribers in England. - Education is at a low ebb, there being, besides the so-called universities of Coma-yagua and Tegucigalpa, very few schools, and those existing devoted only to the primary branches. Indeed, the children of such as can afford the expense are sent either to Guatemala or to Europe for their education. President Arias, shortly after his accession in 1872, signified a desire that an adequate number of public schools should be established throughout the country.
The religion of the people is the Roman Catholic, under the jurisdiction of the bishop of Comayagua. - The coast of Honduras was discovered by Columbus in 1502; and in 1526 Cortes, at the head of an army which he brought from Mexico, composed of Europeans and Indians, took possession of the country, and founded the towns of Trujillo and Puerto Caballos (now Puerto Cortes). The whole known portion of Central America was shortly afterward proclaimed to belong to Spain, and placed under the government of the audiencia de los confines, the seat of which was fixed at the present town of Gracias, which from that circumstance rose rapidly in importance. In 1823 Honduras entered into the Central American confederation; but it became an independent republic in 1839, and took part in the wars and intrigues which followed each other in rapid succession till 1862. Civil strife also contributed to retard the material progress of the country. In 1861, for instance, many attempts were made at insurrection, the principal instigators being the clergy, who preached dissension from the pulpit. Guardiola, who was at that time president of the republic, thwarted all their designs, but granted a universal amnesty, not excluding even the vicar, who was the chief promoter of the discontent.
Guardiola was shortly after assassinated, and Montes succeeded him. One of his first acts was to make a treaty of alliance with San Salvador against Guatemala and Nicaragua. His army was defeated at Santa Rosa in Guatemala, and one of his generals, Medina, joined the victorious army of the enemy, overthrew Montes, and caused himself to be proclaimed president (July, 1863). Medina resigned the government in 1864, but was immediately reelected; and he continued in the presidency until his deposition in 1872 by Don Celeo Arias, now (1874) provisional president of the republic. A treaty of peace and amity with Spain was signed March 15, 1866.