Honduras Gracias a Dios!

Thank God Honduras!

Historical Facts about Honduras

Honduras gracias a dios
Playa El Soldado, Columbus landing spot in Guanaja

Honduras was discovered by Christopher Columbus himself back in 1502. During his fourth and last voyage to the “Indies” he landed on the island of Guanaja on July 30th of that year. There he encountered some Paya “Indians” that were navigating in a large canoe. This was first European contact with cacao. That native fruit that is the main ingredient in Chocolate! After negotiating some Cacao, he replenished the water from an outstanding source in Guanaja. Then continued his voyage to the mainland.


Two weeks after having arrived in Guanaja, Columbus disembarked in Puerto Castilla. He got there, on the 14th of August, 1502. There the priest on board went to the mainland to celebrate the Holy Eucharist. This celebrating the first Catholic mass on the American Continent for the first time! According to records, the first landing of a European in America took place in Honduras!

By then, the Atlantic Hurricane season was in full swing in the Caribbean Sea. Columbus encountered great difficulty navigating against the general direction of the wind. Here in Honduras, the winds blow from the East – Southeast. They do so all along the Caribbean Coast of Central America. After many days of fighting the rough seas, stormy conditions and the wind, he came upon a cape that allowed him to head south.

Honduras gets a name: Honduras Gracias a Dios!

Things to do in Celaque
View from Celaque National Park. Photo Courtesy of Visit Gracias

Reputedly, he thanked God, and exclaimed: Gracias a Dios hemos salido de estas honduras! (Thank God we have left these depths!). Without knowing it, Columbus had just given this land its name: Honduras! Three decades after this, the Spanish Captain Juan de Chavez was lost. The rugged mountains of Western Honduras where getting the best of him. His mission was to establish a city. But he had lost his way in the highest peak of Honduras: Celaque or Cerro de las Minas. Cliffs, ravines and general rugged conditions created a sense of desperation in Captain Chavez. He finally made it to a flat valley ideal to establish a city. There he exclaimed, Gracias a Dios que hemos hallado tierra llana! (Thank God we have found flat land!). He then named his new city Gracias a Dios.


Gracias a Dios Lempira

Las Mercedes Colonial Church in Gracias, Lempira

Gracias a Dios, better known as Gracias, became an important city. It was the seat of the Colonial provincial government for a few years. The Audiencia de los Confines was first established in Gracias. After a few years it moved to Guatemala City (Antigua Guatemala). In those days Gracias was the home to fierce fighting with the local natives. A local chief, named Lempira, led an insurrection against the Spaniards. Legend says that he was shot by the Spaniards during some truce negotiations. In 1943, the National Congress of Honduras proposed changing the name of the Department of Gracias a Dios to Lempira. This of course in honor of the first Honduran hero! This change of name took place thanks to decree number 47 – 1943.


Gracias a Dios, La Moskitia

Of course, many felt that is was a rather ungracious change of name.  This religious “slip” got fixed a few years later. The National Congress of Honduras authorized the creation of a new department. Thus a Department called Gracias a Dios was reborn. This department took territory from the department Colon and Olancho. Gracias a Dios is a large department that is generally referred to as La Moskitia.  It seems that Congress was determined to continue its admiration to national hero Lempira. Thus the Port of Puerto Lempira became the capital of Gracias a Dios!

Honduras gracias a dios
A typical village in La Moskitia.

As such, Honduras has a department that of Lempira, whose capital city is Gracias a Dios. At the same time, the department of Gracias a Dios, has Puerto Lempira as its capital. As you can imagine, this causes much confusion with the mail! When planning your travels throughout Honduras, make sure you are well aware of where you want to go. God forbid that you end up in the wrong place!

So know you understand why I titled my post Honduras Gracias a Dios! One thing is certain, Honduras us a pious country!