September 17 – Honduran Teacher’s Day

Municipality of Tela

It is a city and port in the department of Atlántida in the Republic of Honduras.

Tela was founded by the conquistador Cristóbal de Olid on May 3, 1524, the day of the cross. The town was originally founded near an indigenous settlement called Tehuacan, which had a good source of pure water, food, and medicinal plants, and was controlled by the chief Cicumba, who convinced the Spaniards that it was a good place. On June 1, 1876, it was granted municipal status.

General Information

Origin of its name: a contraction of «tetela,» which means «sandy land» in Mesoamerican language.

  • Population: 87,732 inhabitants (2012)
  • Date of foundation: May 3, 1524
  • Patron Saint Festival: May 3, Day of the Holy Cross
  • Territorial Area: 1,196.38 km2
  • Villages and hamlets: 54 villages and 106 hamlets


Tela, the port city, was the first settlement founded by the Spaniards in Honduras. The city was founded on May 3, 1524, by the Spanish conquistador Cristóbal de Olid under the name «Triunfo de la Cruz» (Triumph of the Cross). Olid, as a devout Catholic, recognized the date as the day when Catholics celebrate the Day of the Cross.
However, the name was considered too broad by the city’s inhabitants, so the town was commonly abbreviated as ‘T de la Cruz.’ By 1829, the city came to be known simply as Tela. The name «Triunfo de la Cruz» was retained for a small promontory in the bay adjacent to the present-day city of Tela. Other versions of the city’s name indicate that it comes from a contraction of ‘Tetela,’ which in an indigenous language means «rocky land of hills and mountains.»

The city was originally founded near an indigenous village called Tehuacán, which had a good source of pure water, food, and medicinal plants, and was controlled by the chief Cucumba, who convinced the Spaniards that it was a good place. Several months after its foundation, the municipality was dissolved and became part of the jurisdiction of the Villa de Trujillo.

In the late 16th century, the Bay of Tela was frequented by buccaneers who roamed the Caribbean Sea, seeking to attack Spanish schooners carrying fortunes in metals and precious stones from Trujillo, Puerto Cortés, Havana, and other ports in the Atlantic.

In 1825, when the first territorial division was made, Tela was part of the Department of Yoro. In 1876, it was granted municipal status. With the creation of the Department of Cortés on June 4, 1893, Tela became part of Cortés. Later, on July 17, 1894, it again became part of the Department of Yoro. However, in 1902, it became part of the Department of Atlántida. The port of Tela was granted city status in March 1927.

Between 1860 and 1900, the economy was based on the cultivation and production of bananas in Honduras. By 1912, the government began granting concessions to national and foreign individuals who wanted to promote the local economy, thus beginning the great era of banana companies in the country. During this time, the small population experienced a period of great splendor when the transnational banana company Tela Railroad Company had its main offices here.

Tela became a municipality on June 2, 1876, under the government of the constitutional president of the republic, Dr. Marco Aurelio Soto. Starting in 1912, the United Fruit Company (UFCO) generated 80% of the jobs in the area. In 1930, with the relocation of the United Fruit Co. to the Sula Valley, Tela faced serious unemployment issues.

In 1976, the company returned the lands it occupied to the municipality of Tela. The powerful banana company had a significant influence on state decisions, creating a parallel form of government that lasted for several decades of the last century. After the disappearance of the Tela Railroad Company, the small city fell into a lethargy from which it has begun to awaken in recent times.

Main Economic Activity

Cultivation of African palm, bananas, plantains, citrus fruits, basic grains, cassava, sugarcane, vegetables, and spices; raising of cattle, pigs, horses, sheep, and goats.


Tela is a port city located on the Honduran Caribbean coast. It covers an area of 1,163.3 square kilometers (449.2 square miles). Politically and administratively, it belongs to the department of Atlántida. Its coordinates are 15° 47′ 00.3″ North latitude and 87° 27′ 14.8″ West longitude. It is located between two important cities, San Pedro Sula (East) and La Ceiba (West). The country’s capital, Tegucigalpa, is 321 kilometers away.


  • North: Caribbean Sea
  • South: municipalities of Morazán and Yoro (both in Yoro)
  • East: municipality of Arizona
  • West: municipalities of Puerto Cortés (Cortés), El Progreso, and El Negrito (both in Yoro)

It borders the north with the Caribbean Sea; the south with the municipality of Yoro; the east with the municipality of Arizona; and the west with the departments of Cortés and Yoro. The Lancetilla River divides the city of Tela into two well-defined sectors known as Tela Viejo (East sector) and Tela Nuevo (West sector).
The port of Tela is surrounded by several Garifuna communities, as well as national parks. To the east of Tela is the Garifuna village of Ensenada. 8 km away is the Garifuna town of Triunfo de la Cruz and the Punta Izopo Wildlife Refuge.

To the west of the city (8 kilometers) is Tornabé, the largest Garifuna village in the region. Further west is the Garifuna village of Miami. Additionally, there is the Laguna de Los Micos, Punta Sal or Jeanette Kawas National Park, and the Garifuna village of San Juan, all located near Tela. To the south of the city is the Lancetilla Botanical Garden.

The main economic activities in Tela are tourism, fishing, agriculture, livestock, and commerce. Previously, Tela relied solely on the cultivation of bananas, fruits, and rice, but now African palm, livestock, and agriculture are predominant. The rambutan fruit spread through the Lancetilla Botanical Garden and the Honduran Foundation for Agricultural Research (FHIA). Today, rambutan is an important exotic crop in the area.

The African palm production and processing companies are of foreign and national capital. Small producers are organized in a cooperative of agricultural producers in the municipality. The cultivation of rambutan is in the hands of independent producers as well as livestock farmers.

When the Tela Railroad Company relocated its plantations between El Progreso and San Pedro Sula, it marked the closure of important sources of employment for the city of Tela. The closure of the pier negatively affected the city’s income, and its destruction has been the most damaging factor to Tela’s economy. Nowadays, the employment opportunities for the people of Tela revolve around tourism and agriculture. Employment in Tela is temporary and is related to the months in which different production or exploitation activities are most active. For example, African palm generates employment between the months of August and October.

Rambutan production takes place in September and November, and livestock farming is active during the rainy season due to increased milk production. In urban areas, there is work in the months of March and May. Regarding tourism, employment increases during Easter week and December. The authorities have given «a lot of support» to this sector.

However, some residents believe that «tourism is not the main source of employment.» On the other hand, it is considered that agricultural production is what sustains Tela, as the wealth of Tela rests in livestock, agriculture, and small producers.

The Garifuna communities engage in the cultivation and exploitation of cassava, from which they make casabe. Garifuna communities like Tornabé have full communal land titles, with 5% of the population dedicated to the cultivation of corn, cassava, and rice. Another activity that generates income for the Garifuna people is fishing and coconut oil.

The Garifuna community of San Juan depends on agriculture and fishing. They extract starch from cassava and oil from coconuts, which they sell in the localities of Tela, El Progreso, La Lima, and San Pedro Sula. In terms of crafts, women prepare the well-known pan de coco, cakes, and tablets to be sold to nationals and foreigners. Men work in carpentry and construction, which are occasional jobs.


The inhabitants of Tela are mestizos, resulting from the combination of two races: Spanish and Tolupan. This indigenous ethnic group withdrew from the area after the arrival of the Spanish to the Bay of Tela. The Garifuna people are descendants of blacks who came from the island of St. Vincent. They have been living in the area surrounding the city since the beginning of the century and, despite the strong cultural influence they have experienced, they still preserve their language, their dance «punta,» and ancestral traditions.
The population of Tela in 1901 was 1,101 males and 975 females, totaling 2,076. According to the National Institute of Statistics of Honduras (INE) in 2010, the municipality of Tela had a population of 45,533 inhabitants in the urban area and 42,110 inhabitants in the rural area, totaling 87,643. 36.4% of the population falls between the ages of 0-14 years.

7.2% fall between 50-60 years, and 7% of the population falls between 65-70 years. The national statistics of 2013 indicate that 44.6% of the population is male, and 55.4% is female. This data is not reliable, as it does not take into account the number of Garifuna or Tolupan who make up the municipality’s population.

The Afro-Caribbean community in Tela, which is Garifuna, has a population of around 10,000. They are spread throughout the different villages and neighborhoods in the municipality, such as Tela Viejo, Triunfo de la Cruz, San Juan, Miami, and La Ensenada. The Garifuna community has a strong presence in Tela and plays a significant role in preserving their cultural heritage and contributing to the local economy.

Tela is a multicultural city with diverse ethnicities and cultures living side by side. The population is a mix of indigenous, mestizo, Garifuna, and other ethnic groups, contributing to the cultural richness and diversity of the region.

National Parks

National Parks: Punta Sal, Lancetilla Botanical Garden, Janet Kawas.
The geographic area of Bahía de Tela encompasses its extension from the Ulua River to the Lean River, an area that hosts a significant amount of biodiversity and cultural richness. It is home to 653 species of flora, 300 species of fauna, 349 species of birds, 7 lagoon bodies, and extensive pristine forests.

Located 5 km from Tela is the Lancetilla Botanical Garden. The true origin of Lancetilla began in 1925 when the United Fruit Company established a Department of Scientific Research under the supervision of scientist Wilson Popenoe. Its purpose was to study banana diseases and explore feasible means of cultivating other tropical products of immense potential value.

The garden covers an area of 1,681 hectares, of which 1,261 hectares are natural reserves. It is considered by scholars as a high-category «sanctuary of plants» in the Americas and showcases natural wonders with human assistance. It is an immense orchard that serves as a temple of wisdom for those who know how to delve into it and desire to learn. Lancetilla has the most extensive collections of native, Asian, and Oceanic fruits in Tropical America, including the largest plantation of Mangosteen and Garcinia Mangostanam in the eastern hemisphere.

Only 8 kilometers from the city of Tela is Punta Izopo. The Punta Izopo National Park was declared Wetland of International Importance (RAMSAR Site No. 812) by the United Nations on March 20, 1996.

This protected area features a system of terrestrial, coastal, and marine environments that have been relatively undisturbed by nearby human populations. It offers a variety of bird species and the opportunity to navigate through a diverse mangrove ecosystem.

The Texiguat Wildlife Refuge is located 50 km from Tela. The refuge covers an area of 16,000 hectares, including its core zone and buffer zone, based on the forest map created in 1987 under Decree 87-87 by CONSEFORH. The ecosystems in the Texiguat Wildlife Refuge are quite diverse. Its rugged topography has resulted in various types of soils, with the dominant vegetation consisting of broadleaf forests, followed by pine forests.

The Punta Sal National Park or Jeannette Kawas is geographically located 35 km west of the city of Tela. The park was created in 1994 through Legislative Decree No. 154-94. It encompasses an area of 78,400 hectares, containing at least 14 types of ecosystems and 44 communities located between the municipalities of Tela and Puerto Cortés. The Punta Sal National Park is RAMSAR Site No. 712.

It has approximately 35 linear kilometers of beaches and a width of around 20 kilometers. It has a territorial extension of 793,818 km2, including the core and buffer zones. The predominant ecosystems in the area are wetlands. During tropical storms or hurricanes, communities such as San Juan and Tornabé suffer from flooding for several days due to the rise in the water level of Laguna de Los Micos. This park is located near other protected areas such as Lancetilla Botanical Garden, Texiguat Wildlife Refuge, and Punta Izopo National Park.

Current Situation

Tourism Project and Patronal Fair

Currently, a tourism project is underway in Tela, with a total investment of 400 million dollars. The first phase of the project, which began with an initial investment of $38.6 million dollars, concluded with the delivery of the basic infrastructure works in May 2010, including access roads, sewage systems, and electrical connections.
According to the Honduran Tourism Investment Fund (FHIT), the second phase involves the construction of a 120-room hotel and a professional golf course, with the participation of 45 business groups. This second phase is projected to be completed by October 2012. It is estimated to generate 1,500 direct jobs and around 6,000 indirect jobs, with financing from the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (BCIE) and private banks.

In 2011, an important coral reef bank was discovered in the waters of Bahía de Tela. On July 14, 2011, the presentation of the most relevant research results took place in Tela, with the presence of Dr. Melanie McField, Director of Healthy Reefs Initiative (HRI), an important and renowned coral reef researcher worldwide.

«During this event, Dr. McField explained that there are several scientific indicators that demonstrate the vitality of the coral reefs. One of them is the live coral cover, and the «Capiro Bank» ranks second in the Mesoamerican Reef System (SAM) with 69%. This coral bank is part of the other ecotourism attractions of Bahía de Tela. The first place is held by Cordelia Bank in Roatán, Bay Islands, with 72.2%. The third place is a site in Belize with 39.7%, while the average in SAM is 19%.»

To preserve these resources, the Tela Reef Association (Amatela) was created, bringing together all social and economic sectors of the area to seek strategies that promote the sustainable use of these resources, especially for tourism purposes.

Patronal Fair

San Antonio de Padua, whom Pope Leo XIII called «the saint of the whole world» because his image and devotion are found everywhere, is the patron saint of the port city of Tela. This saint, who was born as Fernando de Bulloes y Taveira de Azevedo on June 13, 1195, changed his name to Anthony when he joined the Order of Friars Minor due to his devotion to the great patriarch of the monks and titular patrons of the chapel where he received the Franciscan habit.
San Antonio was canonized less than a year after his death; on that occasion, Pope Gregory IX chanted the anthem «O doctor optime» in his honor, thus anticipating by seven centuries the year 1946 when Pope Pius XII declared San Antonio a «Doctor of the Church.»

From the 17th century onwards, San Antonio is often depicted with the Infant Jesus in his arms. This is due to an event that gained widespread fame and occurred when San Antonio was visiting a friend’s house. At one point, the friend looked out the window and saw the saint enraptured, contemplating a beautiful, radiant child in his arms.

In earlier representations before the 17th century, San Antonio appeared without any other distinguishing feature than a book, symbolizing his wisdom regarding the Holy Scriptures. Sometimes he was portrayed holding a lily in his hands and also next to a mule which, according to legend, kneeled before the Holy Sacrament shown by the saint.

Tela celebrates its carnival in honor of San Antonio de Padua in the second week of June. This tradition began more than 40 years ago and was one of the first of its kind in Honduras. Each year, usually after the traditional city parade, musical groups set up along the coastal boulevard by the beaches of Tela.

Precipitation and Temperature

The region of the Bay of Tela is located between the following two climatic provinces: Lz and Sz. It covers elevations ranging from sea level to the foothills of parts of the Nombre de Dios and Omoa mountain ranges, as well as the coastal area of Mosquitia (Lz), and areas with no heights greater than 100 meters above sea level (Sz). The rainiest months are from October to December.
«The rainiest months are from October to December. Its rainy and cool period coincides with the winter of the northern hemisphere, during which the influence of anticyclones and cold fronts predominates. The precipitation during its peak intensity is in the form of drizzle. The total annual average rainfall reaches values close to 2,900 mm in windward sectors of the Nombre de Dios mountain range.»

«The number of rainy days per year reaches 190, and the monthly average rainfall values do not descend to zero mm. The least rainy months are April and May. The wind blows from the northwest quadrant over the department of Atlántida and from the north quadrant over the department of Cortés. The annual average temperature is around 26°C, with annual averages of maximum and minimum temperatures of 30°C and 20°C, respectively.»


The municipality offers pre-primary education, 6-grade schools, 9-grade basic education centers, high schools, and alternative education, such as the Tutorial Learning System (SAT) program, which offers high school education in Rural Well-being and operates in several villages where there are no Basic Centers, and the Educatodos Program.
The school structure is composed of 194 education centers, of which 166 are public and 28 are private. In the urban area, there are 50 educational centers (25 public and 25 private), while in the rural area, there are 144 centers (41 public and 3 private). These centers serve an approximate student population of 29,579 students with a total of 696 teachers, at a ratio of 42 students per teacher.

The educational centers are distributed as follows: Pre-primary = 41, Primary = 130, Pre-school = 10, Secondary and Technical = 12, Continuing Education = 1. For a total of 194. Regarding equipment, there are 14 libraries available in the municipality, which means that only 7% of the educational centers have access to them. There are also 6 workshops and 13 telephone lines.