The Conquest of Honduras

Modern-day Honduras was home to several Mesoamerican civilizations in pre-Columbian times, the most notable being the Maya. The city-state of Copan flourished on the Caribbean coast, and today are some of the most impressive ruins in the country. A cruise to Honduras will reveal ancient sites all over the country, but Copan should not be missed. The Lenca were another powerful group who occupied the west-central region.

Columbus landed on the coast of the country in 1502 and christened it Honduras, meaning the Depths, in honor of the deep waters off its shores. He was followed shortly thereafter by Hernan Cortes, the famous Spanish conquistador. Cortes left Pedro de Alvarado in his place to conquer Honduras and its people. However, a well-known warrior chief of the Lenca people, named Lempira, had pulled together more than 200 other tribes to fight the Spanish presence, tribes that has previously warred with each other and yet put aside ancient rivalries in order to defend their lands, culture, and lives.

The native force made their fortress on top of a great rock called Cerquin, where they ambushed an unsuspecting Spanish company. The Spanish governor, Montejo, found the fortress impossible to defeat alone, and so he mobilized natives from Guatemala and Mexico, as well as all Spanish troops at his disposal. Cerquin remained invincible, and Lempira ordered several Spanish strongholds to be placed under siege by his tribal forces.

Montejo was at a loss and desperate. He invited the noble Lempira to a peace conference, but Lempira refused to surrender. Montejo gave a signal and the Lenca chief was shot in the head by a hidden sniper. With the great leaderís death, nearly 30,000 natives fled or surrendered to the Spanish. The conquest moved rapidly through Honduras after that.