Tegucigalpa was founded by Spanish settlers as "Real Villa de San Miguel de Heredia de Tegucigalpa" on September 29, 1578 on the site of an existing native settlement. Before and after independence, the city was a mining center for silver and gold. The capital of the independent Republic of Honduras switched back and forth between Tegucigalpa and Comayagua until it was permanently settled here in 1880. It is said that the society of Comayagua, the long-time colonial capital of Honduras, publicly disliked the wife of President Marco Aurelio Soto, who took revenge by moving the capital to Tegucigalpa. However, it is more likely that the change took place because President Soto was an important partner of the Rosario Mining Company, an American silver mining company, whose operations where based in San Juancito, about away from Tegucigalpa, and he needed to be closer to his personal interests.
The city remained relatively small and provincial until the 1970s when immigration from the rural areas began in earnest. During the 1980s, several avenues, some traffic overpasses, and large buildings were erected, a relative novelty to a city characterized until then by two-story buildings. Tegucigalpa continues to sprawl far beyond its former colonial core, towards the east, south and west, creating a large but disorganized new metropolis.
The city's main buildings include the former Presidential Palace (now a national museum), a 20th-century Legislative Palace, the headquarters of the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) , the campus of the National University of Honduras (founded in 1847), an 18th-century cathedral, and the Basilica of the Virgin of Suyapa.
Industrial production, small and mostly for local consumption, has increased since the 1970s with improved roadways. Products include textiles, clothing, sugar, cigarettes, lumber, plywood, paper, ceramics, cement, glass, metalwork, plastics, chemicals, tires, electrical appliances, and farm machinery. Some maquiladoras (duty-free assembly plants) have been established since the 1990s in an industrial park in the Amarateca valley, on the northern highway. Silver, lead, and zinc are still mined in the outskirts of the city.
The city is located on a chain of mountains at 14°5′N 87°13′W, at an elevation of 990 m (3,250 feet). The Choluteca river, which crosses the city from south to north, physically separates Tegucigalpa and its sister city Comayagüela. El Picacho hill, a rugged mountain of moderate height rises above the downtown area; several neighborhoods, both residential and shanty towns, are located on its slopes. The city consists of gentle hills, and the ring of mountains surrounding the city tends to trap pollution. During the dry season, a dense cloud of smoke lingers in the basin until the first rains fall.
Of all the major Central American cities, Tegucigalpa's climate is among the most pleasant due to its high altitude. Like much of central Honduras, the city has a tropical climate, though tempered by the altitude—meaning less humid than the lower valleys and the coastal regions—with even temperatures averaging between 19 and 23 degrees Celsius (66 to 74 °F). The months of December and January are coolest, whereas March and April—popularly associated with Holy Week’s holidays—are hottest and driest. Precipitation is spread unevenly through the year; during the Caribbean hurricane season (June to November), it may reach 920 mm (36 in) at the end of a normal day.
For all practical purposes the capital of Honduras is Tegucigalpa, but some sources note that two “cities” share that designation. Chapter 1, Article 8, of the Honduran constitution states (translated), "The cities of Tegucigalpa and Comayagüela, jointly, constitute the Capital of the Republic." Chapter 11, Article 295, translates, "The Central District consists of a single municipality made up of the former municipalities of Tegucigalpa and Comayagüela"; however, municipalities are defined in Honduras as political entities similar to counties, and they may contain one or more cities. In a decree of October 30, 1880, President Marco Aurelio Soto established a permanent seat of government in Tegucigalpa, and in 1907 the episcopal (now archiepiscopal) see was translated there. On March 15, 1938, General Tiburcio Carías Andino and the National Congress declared that Comayagüela was a barrio ("neighbourhood") of Tegucigalpa, the national capital. Today some government offices are listed with Comayagüela addresses, but the area is considered a part of Tegucigalpa.
On October 30, 1998, the city was significantly damaged by Hurricane Mitch. It destroyed part of the Comayagüela section of the city, as well as other places along the banks of the Choluteca river. The storm remained over Honduran territory for five days, dumping heavy rainfall late in the rainy season. The ground was already saturated and could not absorb the heavy precipitation, while deforestation and debris left by the hurricane led to catastrophic flooding throughout widespread regions of the country, especially in Tegucigalpa.
The heavy rain caused flash floods of the Choluteca River's tributaries, and the swollen river overflowed its banks, tearing down entire neighborhoods and bridges across the ravaged city. The rainfall also triggered massive landslides around El Berrinche hill, close to the downtown area. These landslides destroyed most of the Soto neighborhood, and debris flowed into the river, forming a dam. The dam clogged the waters of the river and many of the low-lying areas of Comayagüela were submerged; historic buildings located along Calle Real were either completely destroyed or so badly damaged that repair was futile.
Tegucigalpa is divided presently into "barrios" and "colonias". The latter represent relatively recent 20th-century middle class residential suburbs that are continuously spreading while the former are old inner-city neighborhoods. Most of the city's outskirts are "barrios marginales", shantytowns that house the poorest elements of Honduran society. The marked difference between social classes in Honduras is evident at Tegucigalpa and its improvised growth. The wealthy elite of the country live in upscale neighborhoods such as El Hatillo, Lomas del Guijarro, Loma Linda, Miramontes, Palmira, and El Molino.
According to 2005 estimates, the city of Tegucigalpa has approximately 1.25 million people. The city-dwellers are predominantly Spanish-speaking mestizos with a very small white Hispanic minority. They are joined by Arab immigrants from Palestine, and smaller cohorts from China. There are indigenous (Amerindians) and Afro-Honduran people as well. Further information may be found under Demographics of Honduras.
There are several conventional tourist attractions in Tegucigalpa. Some interesting places include:
There are several charming colonial villages within easy driving distance from Tegucigalpa: Santa Lucia (away), Valle de Angeles (away), Ojojona, Yuscaran and San Juancito. Each has its own distinct character and sense of history and all of them make easy day-trips out of the city.
Smaller shopping centers and strip malls can be found all over the city, including Los Castanos, El Dorado, and the new Los Proceres center.
Tegucigalpa is the national education center, with most universities and higher education institutions based there.
b) Privately Funded: Universidad Jose Cecilio del Valle , founded in 1978; Universidad Tecnologica Centroamericana (UNITEC), founded in 1986 in Jacaleapa, member of Laureate International Universities; Universidad Católica de Honduras , founded by the Catholic Church in 1992; the Pan-American Agricultural School or Escuela Agricola Panamericana (widely known as Zamorano) , located in Zamorano valley, east of the city, founded in 1941; and Universidad Tecnológica de Honduras (UTH) , founded in 1986.
Toncontin International Airport serves as the major airport in and out of Tegucigalpa. The origin of this name is unknown. This airport is frequently criticized for being one of the most dangerous in the world (due to its location next to a sierra, its short runway, and difficult approach, which requires large commercial jets to execute a tight hairpin leftward u-turn turn at very low altititude to land on a very short runway--American Airlines pilots, for example, receive additional, specific training for the Toncontin approach). Thankfully, major renovations, both cosmetic and physical, have taken place and continue (as of January, 2008). For those who have not flown in and out of Tegucigalpa within the last couple of years, there is a marked change -- from the terminals themselves to the immigrations/customs area. The hope is that additional air service carriers will choose to fly in and out of Toncontin. Efforts have been made for years to replace it with Palmerola airport in Comayagua, currently a Honduran and American Air Force base. Toncontín has been improved by the work of CAT (the Airport Corporation of Tegucigalpa) which is owned by TACA of El Salvador and by INTERAIRPORTS, a company hired by the government of Honduras to manage the four airports of the country. On May 30, 2008, there was a plane crash in the airport, in which TACA airline jet skidded off the runway, across a busy road and slammed into an embankment, crushing several cars. The crash killed five people and injured 65. President Mel Zelaya announced that all commercial flight would be transferred to Palmerola, but there still have to be confirmation of this arrangement because Palmerola isn't ready to take in commercial flights immediately.
Airlines at Toncontin
There are also inter-city school sports championships.
There is a Coliseum used mainly for basketball but is also used as a music concert venue. There is also what is called a "Villa Olimpica" to practice Olympic sports such as boxing, archery, tennis and tae-kwon-do; it is located close to the National University.