Wednesday, March 23, 2011



Established in 1931, the Lempira is the currency issued by the Central Bank of Honduras.  I am not sure whether the currency is regulated or not, but since I have been here the exchange rate has remained 18.895 Lempiras to 1 Dollar.  Lempira refers to an indigenous war hero who mounted a campaign against occupying Spain, of course ultimately losing the war.  He was part of the Lencan tribe who are descendents of the Mayan empire.  There are differing accounts as to the story of Lempira the Lencan war hero.  One account has Lempira staging a coup against occupying Spain commanding a force over 30,000 soldiers from at least 200 separate native nations.  The indigenous warriors were pushed back to a stronghold where they held the Spaniards for a couple months.  One account has him being coerced out of their stronghold to negotiate the terms of a treaty.  When the Spaniards got Lempira out in the open they took out a pistol and assassinated him unarmed.  The other story stems from a letter written to the Spanish government by one of the generals occupying the territory.  The letter is a request for a pension from the Spanish government for his duties in New Spain.  The soldier explains how the conquistadors were a force of only a few soldiers that got pushed back fighting the Lenca troups.  Bruised and beaten, the small group of Spanish soldiers continued to fight and this one individual, who was asking for the pension, fought through a group of Lencan warriors to get to Lempira and decapitate him.  He took the head of Lenca and paraded it around the city.  In both cases, after Lempira was dead, the indigenous warriors were said to have stopped the fighting.  There are people who advocate for indigenous groups in Central America that point out that, in most of the countries, indigenous figures are always put on the smaller denominations.  The fact that the entire army is said to have quit at the sight of their fallen leader says a great deal about the ability of this heroic figure to lead his people in war.  Regardless of race and politics, Lempira is fit to have his name remembered.

Marco Aurelio Soto is on the two Lempira note.  He was president of Honduras from 1876-1883.  He is known as a liberating figure working to reform Honduras into a republic.  He is best known for helping found the national library.  The budget was 1000 pesos at the time and now boasts a collection of over 40,000 volumes full of the history and culture of the Honduran people.  It never gets easy seeing the 2 dollar note here since it is so rare in the United States.

The five Lempira note is graced by one of the most recognizable historical figures in Honduras.  The early to mid 19th century was turbulent in Central America as Spanish colonialism was at its end and different groups and different states were fighting for power.  Francisco Morazán was best known for fighting for one republic of Central American nations.  He implemented liberal reforms into the republic like the freedom of speech, religion, and press.  He also worked to limit the power of the church, which created a lot of enemies for him.  Eventually, the republic was broken up into 5 separate nations and he was thrown into exile.  Upon returning to fight once again for the rights of his people, he was betrayed by someone he thought was a friend and turned over to the enemy to be executed.  He was martyred as a figure that fought for one liberal republic in Central America.  Most countries in Central America have dedicated street names, universities, and departments after this dynamic leader only to continue in the footsteps of those that killed him.  The corruption and lack of freedoms rampant in Central America are exactly what this visionary thinker was against.  He is known primarily as being a Honduran having spent most of his political career working in Tegucigalpa.  The capital department of Honduras is named after him and his face graces the 5 Lempira note.

If his name wasn’t plastered on the Ten Lempira note, I would think that José Trinidad Cabañas was Father Time.  He also came to political power at the same time as Francisco Morazan and helped in the quest to unite the Republic of Central America.  Unfortunately non of this panned out, but Cabañas as well as Morazan are still considered great leaders and visionary thinkers.  He is known as “the gentleman without blemish and without fear.”  He served two separate terms as President of Honduras.  During his presidency he is most notable for his liberal reforms giving freedoms to his people as well as his work in agriculture and establishing a railroad infrastructure. 

Dionisio de Herrera also gained fame in the political sector of the turbulent 19th century.  He was a prominent lawyer and politician in Honduras and served as the “Thomas Jefferson” of the Republic of Honduras.  He wrote the Declaration of Independence and the constitution of Honduras.  He is also known for his liberalism toward the rights of the citizen.  He is found on one of the most popular notes of Honduran currency, the 20 Lempira note.

Juan Manuel Gálvez Durón is found on the 50 dollar bill.  He was President of Honduras in 1949-1954.  He is most notable for lowering the external debt by paying off the last of the British bonds.  A significant portion of the national budget during his presidency was spent on road construction, which was much needed infrastructure for the booming fruit business at the time.  He came to power after 16 years of an oppressive dictatorship and restored freedoms to the press.  He founded the national bank of Honduras which gave him the monetary recognition to be portrayed on the 50 Lempira note. 

José Cecilio del Valle is known as “the wise”.  The Central Bank "wisely" put him on the 100.  He was an integral part of the transformation from Spanish rule to Central American Sovereignty.  He was one of the only successful leaders of his time that can be called a pacifist as he looked to words to solve conflicts instead of the sword.  He was an expert in public administration and government philosophy helping the republic get out from under the Spanish rule.

Ramon Rosas was a famous Honduran poet also known for his liberal positivism and for his contribution to the philosophy of the Republic. “He believed that ideas should govern society, which in practice led him to overestimate the leading role of intellectual minorities. He believed in the natural progress of mankind and saw the reason and soul, science, the best way to end the prejudices and superstitions, to promote commercial and industrial progress and even to moralize people.”   



  1. Enjoyed the history lesson. Very interesting.

  2. This will be a good lesson for my kids! Just got back from Spain. It was great!