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Culture & History

Spanish is the principal language and is spoken throughout the country, although English (spoken with a broad Caribbean accent) is the language of choice in the Bay Islands. The remaining Indian tribes have their own distinct languages.

Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion, but there are also many other Christian sects and denominations, including Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, Baptists, Pentecostals, Assemblies of God, Evangelicals and so on. The indigenous tribes have their own religions, often existing alongside Christianity and incorporating elements of African and Indian animism and ancestor worship.

Honduran crafts include woodcarving (notably wooden instruments), basketry, embroidery and textile arts, leather craft and ceramics. The country's cuisine is based around beans, rice, tortillas, fried bananas, meat, potatoes, cream and cheese.

Honduras achieved independence in 1821, along with the other four states of the Central American Confederation (Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua). The confederation soon broke up, and Honduras became an independent nation in 1838. Thereafter, conflict between conservative and liberal forces kept the country in turmoil, with numerous coups and rebellions. In the 1850s, William Walker tried to take over Central America. Hondurans helped foil his plans and executed him in 1860.

By the 1900s, Honduras was the quintessential banana republic - bananas provided 66% of the country's exports, and U.S. companies held 75% of Honduran banana fields. These powerful companies - supported by U.S. troops on occasion - were partly responsible for the development of Honduras' strong military and repressive government agencies. In the 1980s, Honduras became involved in the struggle between the U.S. in neighboring Nicaragua.

The country faced a crisis of a different sort in 1998, when Hurricane Mitch struck. At least 5,600 people were killed, 1.4 million lost their homes, and the country's businesses - particularly agriculture - were dealt a harsh blow. Repairs and rebuilding began shortly after the storm's passing, however. Today, visitors will see little if any evidence of the damage, though the economic and psychological effects of the storm are still being felt.

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