Honduras: Mountains, a biosphere reserve, and culture

Between El Salvador and Nicaragua is Honduras, the second-largest country in Central America.  It is said that the country received its name — which means “great depths” in Spanish — once Columbus reached Honduran soil, after he survived a tropical storm off the coast and said, “Thank God we have departed these depths.” Honduras is generally mountainous, and is marked by fertile plateaus, river valleys, and narrow coastal plains. It also enjoys coastlines both in the Caribbean Sea as well as in the Pacific Ocean.

In Honduras, we find the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve, an area surrounded by mountainous and lowland tropical rainforest with vast wildlife and plant life that has been a World Heritage site since 1982.  The area also includes more than 200 archeological sites and it is home to more than 2,000 indigenous people. The reserve contains part of the largest surviving area of undisturbed tropical rainforest in Honduras and one of the few remaining in Central America, with numerous endangered species — including the giant anteater, jaguar, ocelot, margay, and many others. There are more than 2,000 species of plants, 40 species of mammals, 370 species of birds and 120 species of reptiles and amphibians throughout the reserve.

Food and music are an intrinsic part of Hispanic culture, and Honduras is no exception. Honduran cuisine is a fusion of indigenous Lenca, Spanish, Caribbean, and African influences. Many of the sweet and savory dishes feature coconut or coconut milk, with some of the more regional specialties including fried fish, tamales, carne asada, and baleadas (flour tortillas with refried beans, quesillo, or cheese and sour cream, plus other fillings, such as roasted meat, vegetables, or eggs). Punta is a dance and music style originated in Honduras by the Garifuna people — a cultural group of mixed Amerindian, Caribbean, and African origin — that is performed in various festivities. It involves rapidly moving the hips in a circular motion. Other sounds, such as Caribbean salsa, merengue, reggae, and reggaeton, are widely heard in Honduras as well.

Did you know…? Don’t be confused if you hear both the terms “British Honduras” and “Honduras” being used, as they do not mean the same thing. The former refers to what is known today as Belize, while the latter refers to the country of Honduras. The term “Banana Republic” was first applied to Honduras by the American writer O. Henry, for the influence the U.S. banana companies had at one time.

This is the fourteenth in a series of articles spotlighting different countries in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month. To see a complete list of previous entries, click here.