Why is the Honduran Currency Called Lempiras?

Most countries have their own currency. There are many different reasons for the names and signs we use with currency. In the case of Honduras, our Honduran currency called Lempiras  to honor a national hero. The abbreviation of our currency is L. English speaking Hondurans call it lemp or lemps for plural.

You see it happens that back in the days of the conquest the locals put up quite a fight against the conquistadors. Although there was no one large kingdom in Honduras at the time, one man managed to raise an army of 30,000 to defend the cause. The leader or chieftains name was Elempira. He lived in the highlands of Western Honduras. The region is one of the most rugged in Central America. There are many peaks and valleys, with deep ravines and canyons between the peaks. This made things very complicated for the Spaniards as they tried to march through the area. Captain Juan de Chavez, who was to establish a city in the area, but got lost in the mountains. When he finally made it out of them, he thanked God for having led him and founded the city of Gracias a Dios.

This was Elempiras´ territory, he knew it well, and he set up a guerrilla warfare against the conquerors. His reputed headquarters was at a high peak that Hondurans call “Congolon”. Although many question the existance of Elempira, historian Mario Felipe Martinez Castillo has proved he did indeed exist. Proof is in the general archive of the Indies in Sevilla, Spain. There, Rodrigo Ruiz, a Spanish solder testifies that he in person killed Lempira and cut his head off.  Local stories claim that he was invited to a truce for peace talks and murdered.

Throughout the years, the name Elempira evolved to Lempira. The National Congress of Honduras determined that our currency should bare de name of this hero. An image of him appears in every 1 lempira bill in the country. This decree by Congress dates back to April 3, 1926.

It is interesting to note that Lempira is not the only local chieftain to fight the Spaniards with certain success. Cicumba, Lord of Ticamaya did so with great success before Lempira. Cicumba fought his last battle on the Ulua River. There, Gonzalo Guerrero, a Spaniard  married a Mayan lady in Mexico fought by his side. Guerrero had fought with the Mayas of Yucatan against the Spaniards. His expertise was valuable because as a Spanish solder he understood their war tactics.

Today, the Honduran lempira is worth about 24 lemps to a dollar. You can easily exchange it for dollars. The Honduran lempira comes in bills of 1, 2, 5,10, 20, 50, 100 and 500. Although there are still coins that are worth 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents, these are almost worthless and not really used anymore. So now you know why the Honduran currency called Lempiras is used in Honduras.