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History of Honduras

Honduras was occupied by many indigenous peoples when the Spanish arrived in the 16th century. The western-central part of Honduras was inhabited by the Lencas, the central north coast by the Tol, the area east and west of Trujillo by the Pech, the Maya and Sumo; these autonomous groups maintained commercial relationships with each other and with other populations as distant as Panama and Mexico. Archaeologists have demonstrated. An important part of that prehistory was the Mayan presence around the city of Copán in western Honduras near the Guatemalan border. Copán was a major Maya city that began to flourish around 150 A. D. but reached its height in the Late Classic. It has left behind stelae; the ancient kingdom, named Xukpi, existed from the 5th century to the early 9th century, had antecedents going back to at least the 2nd century. The Mayan civilization began a marked decline in population in the 9th century, but there is evidence of people still living in and around the city until at least 1200.

By the time the Spanish came to Honduras, the once great city-state of Copán was overrun by the jungle, the surviving Ch’orti' were isolated from their Choltian linguistic peers to the west. The non-Maya Lencas were dominant in western Honduras. Honduras was first sighted by Europeans when Christopher Columbus arrived at the Bay Islands on 30 July 1502 on his fourth voyage. On 14 August 1502 Columbus landed on the mainland near modern Trujillo. Columbus named the country Honduras for the deep waters off its coast. In January 1524, Hernán Cortés directed captain Cristóbal de Olid to establish a colony in Honduras. Olid sailed with several ships and over 400 soldiers and colonists to Cuba to pick up supplies Cortés had arranged for him. There Governor Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar convinced him to claim the colony he was to found as his own. Olid sailed to the coast of Honduras and came ashore east of Puerto Caballos at Triunfo de la Cruz where he settled and declared himself governor. Cortés got word of Olid's insurrection however, sent his cousin Francisco de las Casas with several ships to Honduras to remove Olid and claim the area for Cortés.

Las Casas, lost most of his fleet in a series of storms along the coast of Belize and Honduras. His ships limped into the bay at Triunfo; when Las Casas arrived at Olid's headquarters, a large part of Olid's army was inland, dealing with another threat from a party of Spaniards under Gil González Dávila. Olid decided to launch an attack with two caravels. Las Casas sent boarding parties to capture Olid's ships. Under the circumstances, Olid proposed a truce. Las Casas agreed, did not land his forces. During the night, a fierce storm destroyed about a third of his men were lost; the remainder were taken prisoner after two days of no food. After being forced to swear loyalty to Olid, they were released, but Las Casas was kept prisoner, soon joined by González, captured by Olid's inland force. The Spanish record two different stories about what happened next. Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas, writing in the 17th century, said that Olid's soldiers rose up and murdered him. Bernal Diaz del Castillo, in his Verdadera Historia de la Conquista de Nueva España, says that Las Casas captured Olid and beheaded him at Naco.

In the meantime Cortés marched overland from Mexico to Honduras, arriving in 1525. Cortés ordered the founding of two cities, Nuestra Señora de la Navidad, near modern Puerto Cortés and Trujillo, named Las Casas governor. However, both Las Casas and Cortés sailed back to Mexico before the end of 1525, where Las Casas was arrested and returned to Spain as a prisoner by Estrada and Alboronoz. Las Casas returnef to Mexico in 1527, returned again to Spain with Cortés in 1528. On 25 April 1526, before going back to Mexico, Cortes appointed Hernando de Saavedra governor of Honduras with instructions to treat the indigenous people well. On 26 October 1526, Diego López de Salcedo was appointed by the emperor as governor of Honduras, replacing Saavedra; the next decade was marked by clashes between the personal ambitions of the rulers and conquerors, which hindered the installation of good government. The Spanish colonists rebelled against their leaders, the indigenous people rebelled against the Spanish and against the abuses they imposed.

Salcedo, seeking to enrich himself clashed with Pedro Arias Dávila, governor of Castilla del Oro, who wanted Honduras as part of his domains. In 1528, Salcedo arrested Pedarias and forced him to cede part of his Honduran domain, but Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor rejected that outcome. After the death of Salcedo in 1530, settlers became arbiters of power. Governors removed. In this situation, the settlers asked Pedro de Alvarado to end the anarchy. With the arrival of Alvarado in 1536, chaos decreased, the region was under authority. In 1537 Francisco de Montejo was appointed governor, he set aside the division of territory made by Alvarado on arriving in Honduras. One of his principal captains, Alonso de Cáceres, quelled the indigenous revolt led by the cacique Lempira in 1537 and 1538. In 1539 Alvarado and Montejo disagreed over, governor, which caught the attention of the Council of India. Montejo went to Chiapas, Alvarado became governor of Honduras. During the period leading up to the conquest of Honduras by Pedro de Alvarado, many indigenous people along the north coast of Honduras were captured and taken as slaves to work on Spain's Caribbean plantations.

It wasn't until Alvarado defeated the indigenous resistance headed by Çocamba near Ticamaya that the Spanish began to conquer the country in 1536. Alv

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