TERRITORY: HUMAN GEOGRAPHY
At the beginning of the century. XVI, at the time of the Spanish conquest, Honduras was populated by approx. one million Amerindians: in the N area of the plateau there were Nahua and Mayan- speaking people ; the latter had built splendid cities, including the famous Copán. In the central and western regions there were mixe and lenca- speaking tribes who, along with those of the Caribbean language of the Atlantic belt, constituted the oldest residents of the country. Finally, in the S and Mosquitia were the northernmost Chibcha- speaking peopleof Isthmian America. The lack of interest of the Spanish colonization in Honduras partly protected the country from profound ethnic upheavals. In fact, the influx of the African element was weak, so much so that blacks and Zambos (Africans mixed with Amerindians), concentrated mainly in the Caribbean plain, represent 4.3% of the total population; even whites, who constitute a racial and social elite, are very few (2.3%), while the great mass of the population (87%) is made up of mestizos. The Amerindians (Lenca, Xicake, Paya, Mosquitos or Miskito etc.), a minority of little importance (5.5%), are settled in the high lands and forests of Mosquitia, in the Northeast of the country. The commercial exploitation of these areas is a cause of conflict between the government and indigenous communities. According to itypetravel, population growth has long been rather low; very high values occur only starting from the sec. XX, the death rate stood at very low values, compared to a birth rate which remained among the highest in the world. It has thus gone from 500,000 residents in 1910 to 1.3 million in 1950 and to 7,367,000 (2006 estimate). The annual growth is sustained (2.5% in the period 2000-2005) despite the migratory flows: it is estimated that about 100,000 Hondurans live and work in the United States and numerous others have found asylum in Canada. In the early 21st century, however, the number of refugees from Honduras dropped significantly. Furthermore, at the beginning of the new millennium, with the spread of the HIV has seen a substantial increase in mortality rates, especially those relating to infant mortality. The population density (average 69 residents / km²) is extremely varied. The volcanic highlands, fertile and with a temperate climate, are densely populated: in particular in the Tegucigalpa region there are over 137 residents / km²; the Mosquitia (4 residents / km²), on the other hand, is semi-desert, corresponding to the department of Gracias a Dios; 371 residents / km² are in the lower Ulúa area, where the industrial and commercial development area of San Pedro Sula is located. Despite territorial dynamisms of this type, rural settlement prevails, also because the low degree of industrialization of the country has not favored the phenomenon of urbanism, which registered a slight increase only towards the end of the twentieth century: the urban population is just under half of the total. The only major city is Tegucigalpa (900,400 residents, Over a million considering the urban agglomeration), a political, historical and cultural center as well as an active market in a vast agricultural area of the central and southern highlands; However, San Pedro Sula (558,200 residents in 2005), the seat, together with the capital, of the country’s main industries, has registered considerable development. Other important cities are the Caribbean ports of La Ceiba, Tela and Puerto Cortés.
The vegetation cover of Honduras is very rich, covering a total of 41.5% of the territory: the rainforest, including cedar, mahogany, ceiba, sapodilla, etc., dominates in the lowlands, along the northern slopes of the ranges. mountainous and generally in the most humid areas, yielding above 1500 m to oak and conifer woods; the savannah, on the other hand, occupies the driest areas and the coasts are often edged with mangroves. The fauna, which also includes rare or endangered species, includes the Central American tapir, the jaguar, the ocelot, the margay, the paca; Reptiles and Amphibians including 7 species of poisonous snakes, the American crocodile, thespectacled caiman, green iguana, sea and land turtles; among the birds, the pope vulture, various parrots such as the Ara macao and the Ara militaris. Considerable are the environmental problems, among all the demolition of large portions of forest to make way for agriculture and to obtain precious wood (mahogany, cedar and pine) and the pollution of the waters of Lake Yojoa and various rivers due to the discharges from mining industries. Protected areas (16.1% of the country’s surface), managed since 1991 by the Department for Protected Areas and Wild Flora and Fauna, are divided into nine categories, including 18 national parks and numerous other sites including biological, anthropological and marine reserves. Of these areas, just over half have national legal recognition. To these sites must be added the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site in 1982.