In Copan we combine a modern ambiance with a legendary past. The Mayan culture, one of the most important in America, flourished in the western part of Honduras, leaving many different costumes and traditions which can be traced to long times past.
The majority of arqueologists agree that Copan formed part of the three largest and most lavish cultural centers of the new world. The Mayas developed a civilization based on a complex sociopolitical structure; at the same time they incurred, with amazing dexterity, in the fields of science, mathematics and astronomy. They also developed a writing system based on hieroglyphs, which enabled the interpretation by epigraphs of not only contribution made in this disciplines to shed light on aspects of their historic evolution.
Equally impressive is Mayas art which is evidenced in the careful planning of their ceremonial centers, their arquitecture based on the constructions of scaled graded pyramids, their sculpture, which keeps well today on their altars and historical monuments, the remains painted murals and the beauty of their work in jade, ceramic and stone.
Copan, considered by many one of the most spectacular cities of the ancient Mayas civilization, is situated in the southwestern part of the Mayas region. It flourished during the 7th century of our era and is representative today of what Athens, to the old world; the cradle of its civilization. Because of this and other reason, UNESCO declared it a world heritage site in 1980.
Exploring the ruins you see a huge complex consisting of several plazas and many temples built on various levels. This larger site, Copan, is Mayan, whereas the smaller one, Las Sepulturas, is Lenca and about a kilometer from the main one. Both sites sit in an unbelievably verdant valley bisected by the Rio Chamelecon. Forested mountains surround big tobacco farms in this valley. The sky is free of pollution and you can watch the shadows of passing clouds move along the mountains and over the tobacco fields. The setting is pristine in its beauty and serene in its peacefulness.
The jungle that surrounds Copan is lush, tall and filled with sounds of a variety of animals. One sees monkeys, colorful guacamayas (large parrots), tree sloths and peccaries, which look like very large, short-haired, fat, round guinea pigs and have gold pelts flecked with black.
The many different areas of Copan offer visitors a feast of Mayan artifacts to discover. The detail and sheer volume of carvings and stelae are impressive; 4,531 structures have been detected with 3,440 of the structures found only 24 sq km surrounding the Principal Group. The Principal Group consists of five basic areas of interest:
The Acropolis - Divided in two big plazas: the west court and east court. The west court houses temple 11 and temple 16 with altar Q set at its base. Temple 11 was built as a portal to the other world. Temple 16 sits in between the east and west court; it was built on top of a previous temple without damaging it. Altar Q depicts the 16 members of the Copan Dynasty.
The Tunnels - Archeologists have dug 4km of tunnels under the acropolis to view earlier stages of Copan civilization. Two of the tunnels are open to the public for an additional fee.
The Ball Court - The ball court is the second largest to be found in Central America.
The Hieroglyphic Stairway - The most famous of Copan's monuments, 63 steps and several thousand glyphs tell the history of the royal house of Copan and is the longest known text of ancient Mayan civilization. Unfortunately, the steps have fallen out of place leaving the exact meaning undecipherable.
The Great Plaza - The immense plaza is famous for its stelae and altars that are found scattered around a well groomed lawn. In addition to the park, two museums contain more artifacts and information about the Mayan civilization. One museum is housed at the archaeological site, the other in the town of Copan.
Lempira was a war captain of the Lencas
a Mesoamerican ethnic group, who speak their own language and have lived in Honduras and El Salvador since pre-colombian times.
The Lencas are still living in Honduras and recently have gained popularity because of their beautiful pottery and crafts. Lempira is very important in Honduran history, because he fought against the Spanish around the 1500s, when the Spanish were trying to conquer the territory. He was of medium height, with strong complexity.
He was known for his bad temper and since a young age he demonstrated courage and bravery and was known for his love for his people, land, laws and traditions. The name Lempira comes from the word Lempaera, which is the union of two lencan words, Lempa which means Lord – title of dignity and hierarchy, and the word Era, which means hills. Therefore, Lempira would be the “lord of the hills”.
Lempira was very respected among his people and when fighting against the Spaniards, he was able to unite 200 different tribes to create an army of 30,000 soldiers. Because of this organization it was very difficult for the Spaniards to take control of the region during 1537, until Lempira’s death.
There are two versions of Lempira’s death, the first version, which is the traditional story heard in Honduras states that he was betrayed by the Spaniards. Supposedly, they had agreed to meet with Lempira to negotiate peace. When he met with the Spaniards, he was shot by one of the Spaniards.
The second version of his death was found on a document called Pobranza de Meritos, in the Archivo General de Indias of Sevilla, written by Rodrigo Ruiz. This version states that the captain “EL Empira” was killed in combat by Ruiz in the middle of an unexpected battle. After Lempira was killed, Ruiz cut Lempira’s head off as a proof of his death.
Because of Lempira’s important role in Honduran history, many things were honored with his name. Honduras currency is el lempira, also there is a city called Puerto Lempira, capital of the department or state Gracias a Dios and finally there is a department called Lempira.
BANDERA NACIONAL DE HONDURAS Tres franjas horizontales iguales, una azul (arriba), blanco (centro) y azul (abajo) con cinco estrellas azules de cinco puntas dispuestas en un patrón X, centrado en la banda blanca. Las estrellas representan a los miembros de la antigua República Federal de Centro América: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras y Nicaragua.
PINO - ÁRBOL NACIONAL DE HONDURAS El gobierno estableció el pino como símbolo nacional a través de acuerdo # 429 emitida en Tegucigalpa el 14 de mayo de 1926. Este acuerdo tiene por objeto establecer medidas de protección para conservar y mejorar los recursos existentes en todo el país.
El árbol de pino (Pinus oocarpa ocote o pino) es un ejemplo de la flora nacional, y es considerado como uno de los recursos conocidos por los hondureños en todo el país, ya que es abundante y sus productos se usan de muchas maneras.
Por lo tanto, un acuerdo fue aprobado por el Decreto Legislativo N º 48 de fecha 04 de febrero 1927 para declarar el pino como el árbol nacional de Honduras.
ESCUDO NACIONAL DE HONDURAS Honduras, como todos los otros países que fueron colonias españolas, utilizó los escudos (escudo de armas) de España, pero una vez que el país alcanzó la independencia, estos escudos ya no eran necesarios. Dionisio de Herrera, como el Jefe del Estado de Honduras, decretó la creación de un escudo nacional el 3 de octubre de 1825. A través de su iniciativa, Honduras adquirió su propio escudo nacional, una que representa la historia de Honduras y la rica variedad de recursos nacionales que posee y que debe ser protegido y conservado.
El Congreso Nacional lo declaró en su decreto # 16 y al artículo 142, designado el escudo como símbolo nacional para todos los usos, de manera clara y general. El Congreso Nacional aprobó esto en Tegucigalpa el 10 de enero de 1935.
ORQUIDEAS - FLOR NACIONAL DE HONDURAS La rosa fue la flor nacional durante 1946-1969, pero teniendo en cuenta que las rosas no eran nativos de Honduras, el Decreto Legislativo N º 17 de fecha 12 de enero 1946 fue sustituido por el Congreso Nacional en Tegucigalpa el 25 de noviembre de 1969. Considerando que la Orquídea (Brassavola Digbiana) es una flor nativa de Honduras con una excepcional belleza, vigor y características distintivas, se decretó declarar la Flor Nacional de la República de Honduras como la orquídea.
VENADO COLA BLANCA - FAUNA NACIONAL DE HONDURAS Como una medida destinada a proteger nuestra fauna nacional, y sobre todo para poner fin a la depravación incontrolada en curso, el Congreso Nacional de la República emitió el Decreto No. 36-93 de fecha 28 de junio 1993 instituyó el símbolo nacional de la fauna de Honduras como el venado cola blanca (Odocoileus virginianus).
Este hermoso símbolo de nuestra vida la fauna en las llanuras y colinas con vegetación rica. Se encuentra donde hay extensos bosques del pino, permaneciendo siempre fiel al área que primero eligió, y se pueden ver, preferentemente por la noche y casi siempre lleva una vida solitaria.