What’s in a name?
There are several proposed meanings behind Tegucigalpa. Several theories believe that it was derived from the Nahuatl language, but differ on the exact etymology source:
Taguz-galpa – “hills of silver”
Togogalpa – a small green parrot
Tecuztlicallipan – “place of residence of a noble”
Tegucigalpa – “in the homes of sharp stones”
Achieved Capitalhood – 1824
1791 – 5,431
2013 – 1,157, 509
A brief history of Tegucigalpa
The area know today as Tegucigalpa was a settlement called Pech by local Native American tribes – the Tolupans and the Twahkas – prior to European invasion. It was first settled by Spanish explorers on September 29, 1578. Coincidentally, silver mines were discovered in the area that same year and for the first 200 years of its existence, Tegucigalpa was a mining town.
Tegucigalpa was declared an official city in 1821, the same year Honduras declared independence from Spain, and a mere 3 years later, in 1824, it was named the capital city of Honduras… kind of.
Honduras did something very interesting when deciding upon a capital city – it chose two! Tegucigalpa and its nearby sister Comayaguela were considered the two most important cities in Honduras in 1824. The Honduran government granted capital status to both, deciding to alternate between the two. This went on until 1880, when Tegucigalpa was declared the permanent capital of Honduras.
But in 1898, both Tegucigalpa and Comayaguela were declared co-capitals again, this time with the two cities forming the capital, even though both would maintain their individual identities as cities.
So why did Tegucigalpa win this battle of the twin cities? Well there’s two competing theories, one politics, one soap opera.
Politics: Then President Marco Aurelio Soto was a partner in an American silver mining company called Rosario Mining Company, based in San Juancito, which is closer to Tegucigalpa. He declared Tegucigalpa the capital so he could be closer to his company.
Soap opera: The society of Comayagua, the former colonial capital of Honduras, is said to have publically declared its dislike for President Soto’s wife. In an act of revenge, Soto moved the capital permanently to Tegucigalpa.
All three branches of the national government are housed in Tegucigalpa. This could be one of the reasons why Comayaguela didn’t receive as much political funding and is less developed than Tegucigalpa.
Like Nouakchott, Tegucigalpa has grown rapidly in the past 30 years and faces an overpopulation problem. It is not a well–organized city, and while city planners are trying to resolve some of those issues, heavy traffic congestion is an issue.
Both Tegucigalpa and Comayaguela are divided into two types of districts: barrios and colonias. Barrios are historic, inner-city neighborhoods, while colonias are more recently developed suburban areas.
Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world and has been experiencing record-high violence for the past several years. While Tegucigalpa is often ranked amongst the world cities with the highest murder rate, it actually does not have the highest murder rate in Honduras. That distinction belongs to San Pedro Sula. Many of the murders throughout Honduras are tied to the illegal drug trade, particularly moving drugs into the United States. More recently – in 2015 – it has been claimed that drug trafficking in Honduras has dropped by 72% thanks to military and intelligence work by the Honduran government.
Tegucigalpa is a colonial city with a 400 year history, providing many landmarks for tourists to visit. It is home to numerous parks and 14 museums, including the National Identity Museum and the National Art Gallery.
Roman Catholicism is the main religion on Honduras and many beautiful churches can be found throughout the city, including the Iglesia Los Dolores and Iglesia de la Merced.
The Parque Nacional La Tigre, the first national park in Honduras, is located just 16 miles from the city. It provides more than 30% of the resource necessities for Tegucigalpa and has been protected since the 1920s.