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History, The Colonial Period

Comayagua, Viceroyalty of New Spain, Hernan Cortes, Antigua Guatemala, subsistence agriculture

The conquest of Honduras began in 1524 and was characterized by bitter struggles among rivals representing Spanish power centers in Mexico, Panama, and Hispaniola. Hernan Cortes, the conqueror of Mexico, went to Honduras in 1525 to establish a firm claim, but the discovery of gold there made it a center of intrigue and conflict for several years. Pedro de Alvarado, the governor of the Kingdom of Guatemala, finally overcame all challengers in 1539 to gain control of Honduras. The province became a part of the Guatemalan kingdom, which encompassed almost all of Central America and was itself a part of the vast Spanish colony known as the Viceroyalty of New Spain. Comayagua, established in 1540, served as the province’s capital during most of the colonial period. An early mining boom around Gracias gave the town such importance that in 1544 it became the capital for the Kingdom of Guatemala. The gold and silver deposits were more limited than originally believed, however, and Honduras lost its early importance; the regional capital was moved to Santiago de Guatemala (today known as Antigua Guatemala) in 1549.

Flurries of mining activity around Tegucigalpa encouraged that town also to challenge Comayagua, especially in the late colonial period, creating a rivalry that would grow in intensity after independence. For the most part, however, colonial Honduras was a sparsely populated province, with most of its population dedicated to subsistence agriculture or ranching. By the end of the colonial period Honduras was an important supplier of foodstuffs and livestock to the indigo-exporting regions of El Salvador and Guatemala.

Article key phrases:

Comayagua, Viceroyalty of New Spain, Hernan Cortes, Antigua Guatemala, subsistence agriculture, Hispaniola, Tegucigalpa, challengers, colonial period, Santiago, Pedro, discovery of gold, Alvarado, ranching, Salvador, Panama, rivals, Guatemala, livestock, governor, Central America, rivalry, conflict, population, town, years


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