Growing up in Mexico City, I had often heard the expression “Banana Republic” I always related it to the high end clothes store and brand, Banana Republic, one of my favorites due to the comfortable, fresh, light weight cotton clothes, loose fitting and fashionable shirts. For some reason, I always related the concept to some lost African nation, far away, in the middle of nowhere that I would probably never even visit. Little did I know that the original Banana Republic country was actually much closer to home, and that I would actually live not only in the Banana Republic, but in its original capital!
Actually,the original Banana Republic is in Central America, in the lovely, spectacular country of Honduras. Back in the very late eighteen hundreds, the Vacaro Brothers Company negotiated a land lease with the government of Honduras. It was meant to produce bananas that would be exported to the USA. The Government of Honduras gave them a 100 year lease on the land, with few preconditions. The original lease was just outside of La Ceiba, in what today is the municipality of El Porvenir, adjacent to the city of La Ceiba, and one of the few responsibilities that the Banana Company had was to build a railroad. Eventually, the Vacaro Brothers Company turned into the Standard Fruit Company, and the product that was exported out of Honduras through the port city of La Ceiba was done so under the brand name of DOLE. To this day, produce from La Ceiba is exported out of the area, through the port of Puerto Castilla to the World under the Dole brand name. Bananas are mostly grown in the Aguan Valley area, east of La Ceiba, and there are extensive pineapple fields around La Ceiba. The Standard Fruit Company still has their offices in La Ceiba, a block away from Central Park, and although the original land lease has expired, the relationship between the central government of Honduras and the Fruit Company has allowed for continued production.
Thus, Honduras was the first of several different countries where land leases where issued to the Standard Fruit Company. This corporation had a big impact in the development of Honduras. The first bank in the country, Banco Atlantida was an offspring of the Standard Fruit Company and its first office was actually established in La Ceiba. The beer brewing company, Cerveceria Hondurena was also born in the city as an offspring of the agricultural activity.
Today, La Ceiba has transitioned from being the original capital of the Banana Republic to be a city where services and commerce are the backbone of the economy. It is a major hub from where the departments of Colon, Gracias a Dios and the Bay Islands get most of their supplies, and although it is the 5th city in terms of population in Honduras, it is the third as far as economic importance.
Its geographical location is ideal, being located between the Caribbean Sea and the Nombre de Dios Mountain Range. It has some outstanding infrastructure, such as an international airport, a port facility that connects it with the Bay Islands of Utila, Roatan and La Ceiba and a paved highway that is in good shape and connects the city with San Pedro Sula, the most important city in the North of Honduras, which is 200 km away.
La Ceiba offers unique eco tourism and adventure tourism possibilities. The dense tropical rain forests of Pico Bonito National Park, the beautiful Cangrejal River Valley, the Mangrove Canals and lagoons at Cuero y Salado Wildlife Refuge and the pristine Cayos Cochinos coral reefs are all proof of it. (Cayos Cochinos is also known as the Hog Keys).
Without doubt, the Crown Jewel of natural tourist attractions in La Ceiba is the Cangrejal River Valley. Located in the mountains, only 10 km, (6 Miles) from town, you will find a variety of different activities as well as lodging options. There is something for every budget and every taste. Make sure you check out La Villa de Soledad, www.lavilladesoledad.com . A lovely boutique eco lodge located on the Cangrejal River. Perfect to relax as well as to access the different and exiting activities available here. For more information on the Cangrejal River, visit www.cangrejalriver.com