Within the heavily forested outskirts of the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa, nestled high up in the hills, there lie three wonderfully quaint and traditional towns, which are Valle De Angeles, Santa Lucia and Ojojona. I can only but thoroughly recommend a visit to all three of these communities.
Valle De Angeles.
This gorgeous colonial town was in fact the first place that I actually spent time in on my very first trip to Honduras as a volunteer employed by a British government backed NGO during the summer of 2014. My group and I (well over thirty young British individuals from 18-30) spent a week here partaking in an induction week alongside the assembled Honduran volunteers who had applied to assist us for the three month placement.
The town is located roughly 22 km northeast of the capital city, Tegucigalpa within a valley of the same name – between the mountains of Los Lagos, El Carrizal, Palo Hueco and Chinacla. It is a most popular tourist attraction on account of the colonial architecture, ethnic crafts and scenery, as well as the nearby ecotourism. Crafts include wood carvings, pottery, and contemporary art.
The road is completely paved from Tegucigalpa. A few kilometers away there is an important forest reserve named Parque Nacional “La Tigra”. La Tigra is a cloud forest rich in biodiversity and it is covered in hiking trails. A lot of the fresh water received in Tegucigalpa is generated from this forest.
In the 1791 population count, the settlement was part of the parish of Santa Lucia, under the rather unkind name of the Cimarron or the ‘Pigsty’. On April 1st, 1862, Fray Juan de Jesus Zepeda awarded the place its current name, and in the year 1865 it was designated as a Municipality (municipio). How it went from being the ‘Pigsty’ to the ‘Valley of the Angels’ is quite remarkable!
This was furthermore, an important mining town in the history of Honduras, with enclaves such as Las Animas and El Socorro, which produced gold, silver, copper, tin, lead and zinc.
The municipality of Santa Lucia is bordered to the north, south and west by the municipality of Distrito Central, and to the east by the municipality of Valle de Ángeles. The main town is located on the top of a mountain by the same name, at 1,180 meters above sea level and lies only 11 km from the country’s capital, Tegucigalpa.
The topography of the Municipality of Santa Lucía is irregular with its elevations between 1100 and 2085 meters above sea level. The climate is cool almost all year round. La Tigra National Park covers 50% of the municipality’s territory, with an estimated area of 65.03 km2, of which 4,330 hectares are still covered with forest, making tourism one of the main areas of its economy, yet there is also a lot of agricultural activity in the rural area with non-permanent traditional crops such as vegetables, corn, beans and others.
The primitive name was “Surcagura” which meant “Place of frogs” .
There is no exact data from its beginnings, although it is known that it is one of the oldest towns, and that it was inhabited before the arrival of the Spanish, although some writers have claimed that mining started in 1580. There are documents which indicate that around 1540 it had already been visited by the first Spanish explorers who were looking for mineral veins before they then began to exploit its rich mines. The antiquity of this municipality is such, that by January 15th, 1572, a gift was received from King Felipe II, an image, which is now a historical relic found in the church “Cristo Señor de las Mercedes de Santa Lucía”, it is possible that their church was built for this image, since the church of Cedros was also built and there are oral accounts that the image they brought for Cedros was the one that came to Saint Lucia, and was thus the one which remained in Santa Lucia for attempt to move it proved impossible due to the weight.
In his book “Explorations and Adventures in Honduras” published in 1857, the explorer William V. Wells mentions: “It is Saint Lucia, roughly 4,500 feet above sea level, where I saw a small field planted with potatoes of which in March several families from Tegucigalpa are supplemented. My old friend, Mr. Ferrari, had often pressured me to visit his sugar cane farm, known by the name of El Sitio… On the slopes of the bluish mountains that surrounded us between clouds, you could see several cultivated plots that my mate said were wheat fields. Then we went out into a green-lined gorge where Don José pointed out to me the first wheat mill I had ever seen in the country. It is actively worked after harvest. It is propelled by the waters of the Chiquito River, which descend rapidly here, to join the Río Grande in Tegucigalpa … From our post we had a splendid view of Santa Lucía, a small but gracefully built village, lined with groves and adorned with a neat white church, the cornfields and wheat fields stood out on the slopes of this mountain range…”
In the yearbook of 1889 it is mentioned that the town was inhabited by Spaniards of pure stock, however the miscegenation had already begun, yet there are doubts that this place was been inhabited before by indigenous tribes because the first settlers brought Indians from Marcala to work on their plantations. Some black slaves were also brought in, who mostly lived in the area known as La Travesía. The founding of Santa Lucía was on November 12th, 1820, as a municipality in the Department of Tegucigalpa. In 1943 the department of Tegucigalpa was renamed ‘Francisco Morazán’. https://lempiratimes.com/2020/03/10/honduran-hero-number-2/
I must add that Santa Lucia is a fine place to indulge in a hot chocolate or a coffee within any of its splendid little coffee shops, which are to be found throughout the town.
Ojojona is a municipality in the Francisco Morazán department. In documents on the history of Ojojona, the authors agree that its name means “Place of greenish water.” (Membreño, A. 1994, p. 162). Studies on indigenous toponyms in Honduras explain the grammatical structure of the name in the following way: “In the geography of Velazco, Xoxonal is written, and the people still pronounce it as Jojona. It means in Mexican tongue – greenish water”. In the first chronicles of the colonial period they named the place Xoxonal, Xoxona or Joxone. At the beginning of the 18th century, documentation refers to Ojojona and San Juan de Ojojona, the names used today. It is probable that with the passage of time these different names transformed until reaching that of ‘Ojojona’.
It was anointed in 1579 by Spanish miners dedicated to the gold and silver mines in the area. In 1739 land titles from the town of Ojojona already appeared; in the population count of 1791 it appears as head of curate and in the Territorial Political Division of 1889 it was a municipality in the District of Sabanagrande.
The Historical Center of the municipal seat of San Juan de Ojojona was declared a National Monument by the National Congress of the Republic, through decree No. 155-96, published in the Official newspaper La Gaceta in November 1996. Since this declaration, the protection and valorization of its historical-cultural heritage has been of national interest, so that its authorities, with the support of international cooperation, have developed programs and projects for its preservation.
The municipality of Ojojona is located 34 km south of the city of Tegucigalpa, M.D.C. and offers an interesting variety of pottery and crafts in clay and wood. It is 7 km from the Pan-American highway that heads south.
Final note: These three marvellous communities make for excellent visits, for – in my humble opinion, they present a very traditional and unique view of Honduras, thus allowing the visitor to experience a barely-known and quite undiscovered part of the nation.