On a high plain surrounded by mountains in the centre of the country, Tegucigalpa is the capital of Honduras and of the Francisco Morazán department. It is traversed by the Choluteca, the Guacerique and the San José Rivers.
Pre-Columbian Honduras was populated by Maya and Lenca peoples. Attracted by the abundance of silver, colonists founded Tegucigalpa as a mine in 1578. Originally known as Real de Minas de San Miguel de Tegucigalpa, the municipality of Tegucigalpa was created the following year. The name was taken from the Nuhuatl word for silver mountain. It quickly developed into the most important mining centre in Central America and the town expanded to accommodate increasing numbers of settlers.
Tegucigalpa developed gradually. In 1821 a bridge was built connecting the city to the settlement of Comayaguela. From 1537 until the late nineteenth century the Honduran capital and political centre was Comayague, a city to the northwest. Tegucigalpa became the capital in 1880. In the twentieth century, the city continued to grow, incorporating Comayaguela in 1938. New barrios were created, as were three additional bridges to Comayaguela. In the second half of the century a migration of the rural population to the capital led to shantytowns on the outskirts. From the 1970s improved transport connections allowed for more industry. In 1998 the city, and the entire country, was devastated by Hurricane Mitch. In 1999 torrential rains forced the Choluteca River to burst its banks, covering much of the capital in mud and causing widespread damage. Nationwide hurricane damage forced many living in rural areas to migrate to Tegucigalpa in search of food and employment. By the turn of the twenty-first century, much of the city’s infrastructure had been restored.
Tegucigalpa is the industrial centre of Honduras with food processing, brewing and distilling plants. Manufactures include textiles and chemicals while silver, zinc and lead are mined in the surrounding region. The capital is accessible by road and plane, although there is no rail network. The Toncatin International Airport is 7 km from the city, and bus services from Comayaguela link the capital to other cities and Central American capitals. The Inter-Oceanic Highway connects Tegucigalpa with the Pacific and Atlantic coasts.
Places of Interest
Many colonial buildings remain. The sixteenth century San Francisco church is the oldest church in the city. The San Miguel Cathedral was built between 1765–82 and contains a gold Baroque altar. Next to the cathedral, the Parque Central is the focal point of the city. Opened in 1996, the Galeria Nacional de Arte displays Mayan artefacts, silver work and contemporary art. Other museums include the Museo Antropología e Historia and an art museum housed in the old university, the Antiguo Paraninfo Universitaria. 21 km northeast of the city, the Parque Nacional la Tigra contains acres of cloud forest inhabited by ocelots, pumas and monkeys and abundant in orchids. 11 km away, the Valle de Angeles is a sixteenth century mining town restored to its original state. It is famous for its artesanía, or handicrafts.