The term “Banana Republic” was first coined by American writer William Sydney Porter, better known for his pen name, O Henry. Porter escaped an embezzlement charge in Texas by fleeing to Honduras in 1896, where he lived until 1898. During those days, the Honduran government had just granted a series of extensive land concessions to four different United States based companies, who in exchange committed to building a modern railroad system that would unite Honduras within itself and with the rest of the World.
The land concessions where all made along the Caribbean coast of Honduras, which is to the north of the county. This was some of the most inhospitable land in Central America, with dense tropical rainforests, a very sparsely populated territory, where the largest feline in the Americas, the jaguar, thrived, and where the land was so infested by a diversity of insects that it was referred to as “The Mosquito Coast”. The Honduras government was so keen on making this region a productive and profitable territory that it bent way over backwards to make the fruit companies happy and motivated in their efforts, thus creating a capitalist haven that was fully taken advantage by the banana companies. By the second decade of the XXth Century, Honduras was the largest producer and exporter of bananas in the World! It was precisely this, the fact that the US owned companies could wield so much power and get away with just about anything that made O Henry coin the expression “Banana Republic”.
There is absolutely no doubt, Honduras: the Original Banana Republic was born at end of the XIXth Century. The Fruit companies, which later evolved into the two largest fruit companies in the World: Standard Fruit Company, which is still based in La Ceiba and markets its produce under the Dole label; and the United Fruit Company, which was based in Tela and later in La Lima, just outside San Pedro Sula, who markets its produce under the Chiquita Banana brand, would play an important role in national Honduran politics and economy as late as the third quarter of XXth Century.
In 1902, the Congress of Honduras declared a new department, Atlantida, which was meant to give certain prerogatives to the fruit companies. This new department, local equivalent to a state, still has a large portion of its territory covered by a dense tropical rain forest, which is protected by the rugged Nombre de Dios Mountains. Today, Atlantida is the department with the highest percentage of English speaking persons in Honduras, and has some of the best education facilities within the country. It has also evolved into a promising new destination, Atlantida, which has three hubs: Tela, La Ceiba and the Cangrejal River.
Atlantida is the perfect link between the World famous Mayan Archaeological site of Copan in Western Honduras, and the lovely Caribbean Bay Islands of Honduras. Together, they offer the most complete and diverse destination in Central America. Where Copan offers a rich cultural heritage, and the Bay Islands some of the best diving in the World, Atlantida offers its rich Banana Republic heritage, the cultural diversity of the Garifuna people, and some of the best National Parks in Central America. Come and discover the charm of Honduras: the original Banana Republic!