By Suellen Pineda, RND, CDN
Honduras, a hidden gem in Central America, offers to the world from majestic mountains, beaches, natural reserves, the world’s second largest coral reef, ancient pre-Columbian sites, to world-renowned coffee, top-quality seafood, precious metals, textiles and so much more. Its strategic location makes Honduras a fantastic tourist destination to explore, where exquisite cuisine and the warmth of its people kindly welcome their visitors with open arms.
Hondurans are colloquially known as Catrachos. There is some history behind the term that dates back to the 18th century. In an article published in November 2018 by Presencia Universitaria and written by Jorge Armando Ramirez Calderon, Honduran historian, Dennis Ramirez, explains the origin of the word Catracho. Ramirez says the word derives from Honduran General Florenzo Xatruch who led Honduras and El Salvador soldiers and defeated American freebooter William Walker in 1852. Xatruch followers were known as Xatruches, but the term eventually morphed into Catracho.
Charisma from Catrachos makes visitors fall in love with Honduras. Alyssa Katz, the Club Adviser to the Lawrence High School of Students Helping Honduras, visits the country every year through her social program. Her interactions with local communities have shaped her opinion on the country. “Honduran people are extremely warm, kind, and humble. I always feel so welcomed when I am there,” she continues “I can honestly say that anyone who has the chance to get to know the people of Honduras up close and personal will be forever changed for the better and develop an even greater appreciation and understanding of the culture of a truly amazing and unique people.”
- Emblematic Sites -
Among the many sites to visit, perhaps the most popular is the Bay Islands. Bay Islands is a cluster of three islands north to mainland Honduras in the Caribbean Sea. Roatán, Utíla, and Guanaja have become a very popular vacation destination for their spectacular white sand beaches, crystal-clear turquoise waters, and world-renown snorkeling and diving. Roatán is the largest of all three and home to the second largest coral reef in the world. This makes Bay Islands so attractive to those seeking a unique and nature-filled experience.
The Mayan Ruins in Copán is another notorious destination. Although not as extensive as Xichen Itza in Mexico, Copan Ruinas are undoubtedly a testament of the glorious Mayan civilization with its advanced numerical, irrigation and agricultural systems.
The Rio Plátano Biosphere Reserve in the eastern region of La Mosquitia was inscribed as a World Heritage SIte in 1982 by UNESCO. In an article published in October 2015 in the National Geographic Magazine, American journalist Douglas Preston highlights this protected area and the international efforts to learn more about the Pre-Columbian Misquito civilization. The reserve is considered the most biodiverse region, enclosing the largest rain forest in Central America, the article cites. Ethnobotanist Mark Plotkin once said, “the importance of this place can’t be overestimated.”
Zuha K. Diaz, a Honduran journalist, says, “Honduras is A five-star country, with a strategic location in the heart of the American Continent.” Diaz has traveled extensively throughout the country and has seen first-hand its beauty and magnificence. “With its agriculture and touristic richness, Honduras entices local and foreign tourists who visit Bay Islands, some of its main city ports such as Puerto Cortés, Amapala, and Nacaome, to its most recondite municipalities that serve as a testament of hundreds of years of mining history such as San Juancito, Yuscaran, Santa Barbara, Ojojona and many more.”
- Gastronomy & Special Celebrations -
Each year, Hondurans look forward to celebrating national holidays and observations. Día del Indio Lempira (Lempira Day), observed July 20th, has traditionally been one the main civic holidays where Hondurans celebrate the legacy of Cacique Lempira, Indigenous Lenca leader who fought against the Spaniard Conquistadores. In fact, Honduran currency is named after this national hero. Public and private schools prepare folkloric programs that include traditional dance, also known as Xique, foods, and parades full of color and essence of the pride of indigenous traditions.
Hondura’s industrial capital city of San Pedro Sula is the host city of Feria Juniana— June Fair—in honor of its Patron Saint, St. Peter the Apostle. All month long in June, people celebrate with flamboyant parades and festivals, live concerts, and fireworks in a unique festive affair. Carne asada (grilled meat, chorizo sausage), anafre de frijoles con queso fundido (bean with cheese fondue) served on a hot clay pot are sought by many.
Carnaval de Ceiba (Ceiba Carnaval), like Feria Juniana, attracts thousands of people who gather to celebrate St. Isidore the Farmer, its patron saint. Many consider El Carnaval de la Ceiba the best nationwide.
As the main pre-Columbian indigenous crop, Honduras’ gastronomy is primarily based on corn. However, its cuisine also has strong African and European influences brought to Honduras by conquistadores. Each region offers distinctive foods, making Honduran cuisine very versatile. For instance, in the western part of the country, one can enjoy ticucos (corn tamales stuffed with beans and chipilin leaves wrapped in corn husk), flor de izote with eggs (izote flower with scrambled eggs), loroco, and choros (a type of edible mushrooms only found in the department of Intibuca). In fact, in the city of La Esperanza, there is a festival to celebrate the Choro harvest, which occurs from May to June each year.
The picturesque western colonial town of Santa Rosa de Copán—known as La Sultana de Occidente (The Western Sultana)—, still possesses cobbled streets and edifications reminiscent of the Conquista. Sarah Lopez, a Honduran business owner, based in the Spring Valley, NY, remembers her childhood surrounded by what she refers to as “enchanting pine tree forests,” all of which are typical of the scenery of the area. Lopez is very proud of the traditional foods she and her family grew up eating. She says, “we were brought up eating soy, beans, loroco flowers, squash, atol chuco (made with corn and spices), radishes leave fritters, izote flower and so on.”
Even when Honduras’ subtropical climate reaches very high temperatures, especially from March through July, Hondurans will enjoy a good bowl of soup. It is not surprising to find puestos de sopa (small soup stands) in the main markets or streets of the industrial city of San Pedro Sula, and its capital Tegucigalpa. Horchata (rice with morro seeds drink) is served everywhere, to cool ones down on a hot day.
Food photography by Suellen Pineda
The traditional bean soup is one of the most beloved ones. Green bananas, hard boiled eggs, pork rinds, and some cured or smoked meats are commonly used in its preparation. Another favorite is the Sopa de Mondongo (beef tripe soup).
In the north, it is common to find family-owned restaurants along the beach in the Garífuna communities. Visitors are greeted with some great coastal ambiance, Punta music (autochthonous Garifuna music), and great food. Sopa de caracol (conch soup) is a must when visiting the north coast. Garífuna and Mestizos alike make this succulent soup all year round. However, it is especially sought by many during Lent. The conch is caught by local fishermen in the early hours of dawn, ensuring the freshest and most delicate texture and flavor. Freshly pressed coconut milk, yucca root, plantains, fresh herbs, and spices complement this dish so representative of the Garífuna culture.
Machuca—mashed ripe and green plantains—is typically served with coconut and seafood soup. Ashantty Lacayo shares that Machuca is one of those dishes that identifies her Garífuna culture. “Through its components, food helps preserve the historical traditions that our ancestors have transmitted onto us.”
However, one Honduran food that is transcending borders is the baleada. This humble food traces its origins to the port city of La Ceiba. It consists of a hand-kneeled wheat flour tortilla, with refried beans, cream and crumbly cheese. The tortilla is then folded over in a taco-style. However, this is just the ‘base’ to any variety of fillings one can add to a baleada. The add-ons depend largely on whether the baleada is eaten as breakfast or dinner. This is where it gets creative! If it is eaten as breakfast, it will most likely have beans, scrambled eggs, cream, crumbly cheese, and avocado slices. If it is eaten as dinner, baleadas can have grilled meats, pulled pork or chicken, chorizo, pickled vegetables, and much more.
In the western, but towards the central region, one can enjoy fried whole tilapia at many local restaurants that surround Lake Yojoa.
During Semana Santa (Holy Week), Hondurans prepare a variety of special dishes and desserts. Seafood is usually the preferred protein. In the western, but towards the central region, one can enjoy fried whole tilapia at many local restaurants that surround Lake Yojoa. Other dishes include fried whole fish with green plantain chips and pickled onion, sopa de tortas de pescado (dried salted fish fritters soup), sopa de capirotadas (masarina and cheese ‘dumplings’ soup) and desserts such as ayote en miel (squash in brown sugar syrup), torrejas (sweet bread in syrup), and coyoles en miel (coyol is the palm tree fruit from which oil is extracted).
Christmas is yet another special celebration treasured by Hondurans. Nacatamales or tamales are a must during Christmas. Tamales are made with corn dough that is seasoned with herbs and spices, cooked slowly until the right consistency is achieved and stuffed with either pork or chicken. The tamales are then steamed in green banana leaves imparting a unique flavor and aroma. Tamales are very labor intensive to make; thus, their elaboration is mostly taken as a family endeavor, where women are usually in charge. Traditionally, Honduran tamales use lard as the main fat ingredient; however, more recently, people are substituting oil for lard, as the latter is more difficult to get.
- Religion -
Roman Catholicism is still the predominant religion in the country. However, Protestantism has become the second most professed creed in recent decades. Similar to most Latin-American countries, Honduras has its own Saint Patron, Nuestra Senora de Suyapa (Our Lady of Suyapa). Honduran newspaper La Prensa reported that on February 3rd, the Basilica of our Lady Suyapa receives hundreds of thousands of people from all over Honduras, many of which start the peregrinaje (pilgrimage) days in advance. Some others visit from outside Honduras to thank “La Morenita” —as she is also endearingly known— or to petition for miracles.
- Developing Economy -
Honduras’ exports are possible in part to free trade deals with international markets that include the European Union, Panama, Mexico, Chile, Taiwan, and Colombia. These trade deals have allowed Honduras to export some of its most acclaimed products, such as coffee and manufacturing goods.
Tilapia is also another major export of the country. n a report published in April 2017, the Monterey Aquarium Seafood Watch reported that in 2015, Honduras was the leading exporter of fresh tilapia to the United States comprising 35% of total tilapia imports at a 66 million dollars value.
As an Emerging Market and Developing Economy, Honduras is a country with current pressing challenges to overcome, yet, Honduras is also home to vast natural resources and a human candor that cannot be overshadowed. – GM
GUILD MAGAZINE - THE TRAVEL ISSUE