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Honduras: Historical Setting
Country Study > Chapter 1 > Historical Setting


Throughout its history, Honduras has been an underdeveloped area. Its rugged topography and lack of good ports on the Pacific coast have combined to keep it relatively isolated from the mainstream of social and economic development. The capital, Tegucigalpa, is located high in the central mountains, removed from the isthmus's main north-south transportation routes.

The rugged topography and semi-isolation have provided Honduras some advantages as well as disadvantages. Unlike the neighboring republics of El Salvador and Guatemala, Honduras did not produce a totally dominant landholding oligarchy. It also escaped the turmoil over transisthmian transit routes that plagued Nicaragua and Panama. Finally, Honduras, alone among Central America's republics, is not dominated by a single city. The isolation of the capital led to the rise of San Pedro Sula in the twentieth century as the nation's commercial and industrial center.

However, lack of development produced, for much of Honduras's history, relatively weak social and political institutions. Much of the nation's history has been marked by long periods of political instability, frequent military coups, and considerable government corruption and inefficiency. External powers have consistently exploited and aggravated these problems. Neighboring Central American nations have repeatedly intervened in Honduran internal affairs, giving Hondurans a strong fear of foreign attack. Countries outside the region also have manipulated Honduran politics from time to time to suit their own national interests. During the first half of the twentieth century, the Honduran economy was so dominated by the United Fruit Company and the Standard Fruit Company that company managers were frequently perceived as exercising as much power as the Honduran president. Increased nationalism and economic diversification have changed this situation in recent decades, but in the early 1990s, Honduras remained a nation highly sensitive to and dependent on external forces. Despite both national and international efforts, Honduras remained poor and vulnerable. In the 1980s, security concerns centered on the Nicaraguan border; in the early 1990s, concern centered on El Salvador because of its insurgency problems and its boundary dispute with Honduras.

Both a product and a victim of its past, in the mid-1990s, Honduras was striving to find some means of gaining the benefits of modernization while avoiding the violent conflicts that wracked its neighbors in the 1980s.

Data as of December 1993

Last Updated: December 1993

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Honduras was first published in 1995. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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Section 6 of 160


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