The bridge into Puerto Cortés
|Nickname(s): "El Puerto"|
|Time zone||América Central (UTC-6)|
Puerto Cortės in a city on the north (Atlantic) coast of Honduras. Originally known as Puerto de Caballos, the present town was founded in the early colonial period. It grew rapidly in the twentieth century, thanks to the railroad, which exists no longer, and banana production. In terms of volume of traffic the seaport is the largest in Central America and the 36th largest in the world. As of 2014, Puerto Cortés has a population of some 200,000. The city is on the Caribbean Sea coast, north of San Pedro Sula and east of Omoa, at 15.85° N, 87.94° W. It has a natural bay.
Hernán Cortés founded the town of La Natividad in 1524, roughly where Puerto Cortés is today, and populated it with about 20 Spaniards who had been previously been living in Nito and Naco. The name Puerto de Caballos (Port of horses) is because when Hernán Cortés arrived on Honduras' coast from Mexico and started unloading horses and cargo from the ships, several horses were drowned. By 1533, a local native leader, called Çiçumba (or Çoçumba, or Socremba, or Joamba ... we don't really know since the Spanish recorded so many variants of his name) had destroyed the town, reportedly taking a woman from Sevilla, Spain captive. After Çiçumba's defeat in 1536 by Pedro de Alvarado, a new town, Puerto de Caballos was founded on the southern shore of the body of water known as the Laguna de Alvarado.
English privateers attacked Puerto Caballos as they did other places along the Honduran coast, in 1592, Christopher Newport briefly occupied the town. Because it was vulnerable to pirates until the building of the Spanish fort at Omoa in the 18th century, it had few permanent residents in the 16th and 17th centuries. People preferred to come out to the coast from San Pedro when a ship came into port. In 1869 Puerto Caballos changed its name to Puerto Cortés in honour of Hernán Cortés.
Bananas, railroads and development in the twentieth century
The proposal to construct an "inter-oceanic railway" (Ferrocarril Interoceánico) in 1850, a product of the demand for transport from the Atlantic to the Pacific occasioned by the US Gold Rush, took shape in 1853 when work commenced to anchor the railroad at Puerto Cortés. The rail line went slowly with many problems. In 1876 President Marco Aurelio Soto nationalized the Trans-Oceanic Railroad, which only reached to San Pedro Sula. In any case, once the Panama Canal was completed in 1903, the larger plan of crossing Central American was abandoned. While the projected cross-American link did not happen, the railroad opened up extensive lands that were ideally suited for the growing of tropical fruit, especially bananas, in the hinterland of Puerto Cortés. As a result, the region became an early center for banana growing and export, and the port was one of the leading ports for the export of bananas as well, as the production of that fruit took off in the early twentieth century.
The early banana export industry came to be dominated by foreigners; among the first foreigners to obtain a government concession was William Frederick Streich of Philadelphia in 1902. His concession was in the vicinity of Omoa and both banks of the Cuyamel River. However, in 1910 Samuel Zemurray's Cuyamel Fruit Company purchased these 5,000 acres, but soon branched out, both with more land and with political and tax concessions, especially after Zemurray installed Manuel Bonilla in office as president using mercenaries hired in the area and abroad. In addition to awarding Cuyamel additional land, Bonilla also waived the company's tax obligations. Cuyamel had built port facilities at Omoa, but also began using the facilities at Puerto Cortés and soon came to dominate them to the point that local shippers had to ask Cuyamel's permission to use the port. In 1918, Cuyamel constructed a railroad spur into Puerto Cortés, and in 1920 he obtained effective control over the National Railroad, and from this and a network of clandestine railroads the company effectively controlled all transport to the port. When Zemurray sold Cuyamel Fruit to United Fruit in 1929, the giant company had great influence in Puerto Cortés and in Honduras as a whole.
In August, Puerto Cortés celebrates its local or patronal festivities during two weeks. The last day (a Saturday) is known as Noche Veneciana (Venice's night). August 15 is a local holiday in honour of Virgen de la Asunción (Puerto Cortés local patroness or saint).
In September 2001, the Bridge Laguna de Alvarado (Alvarado lagoon) was rebuilt and inaugurated after the old bridge, a 50 years old structure, was badly damaged in 1998 by Hurricane Mitch. A concrete wall that surrounds and protects a portion of the coastline in the bay area, was built close to the north end of Bridge La Laguna, this wall is known as El Malecón, the Spanish word for 'jetty' or 'pier'.
The first four-lane highway in Honduras was inaugurated in 1996, connecting Puerto Cortés and the city of San Pedro Sula.
In 1966, the Empresa Nacional Portuaria (Honduras National Port Authority)  was created. A free trade zone was created in 1976.
Among all worldwide seaports that export containers with goods with destination to U.S.A., Puerto Cortés is the 36th in terms of volume.
Because of its proximity to U.S. seaports in the Gulf of Mexico and on the East Coast and its seaport infrastructure, Puerto Cortés was included in the U.S. Container Security Initiative (CSI), the first such port in Central America. In December 2005, the U.S. government signed an agreement with Honduras's government and opened a U.S. Customs Office in Puerto Cortés. Under this agreement, all containers exported from Puerto Cortés that are destined for any U.S. seaport are checked by U.S. Customs officials in Honduras.
On December 7, 2006, the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and Energy (DOE) announced the first phase of the Secure Freight Initiative, an unprecedented effort to build upon existing port security measures by enhancing the US federal government’s ability to scan containers for nuclear and radiological materials overseas and to better assess the risk of inbound containers. The initial phase of Secure Freight involves the deployment of a combination of existing technology and proven nuclear detection devices to six foreign ports: Port Qasim in Pakistan; Puerto Cortés in Honduras; Southampton in the United Kingdom; Port Salalah in Oman; Port of Singapore; and the Gamman Terminal at Port Busan in Korea. Beginning in early 2007, containers from these ports were scanned for radiation and information risk factors before being allowed to depart for the United States.[dated info]
In March 2007, under the Megaport initiative, three RPMs (Radiation Portal Monitors) were already installed in Puerto Cortés by U.S. DOE in order to inspect all containers with destination to USA, checking for possible dangerous radioactive threats. On April 2, 2007 the RPMs became operative.
Puerto Cortés is home of a football team known as Platense, which in 1966 won its first Honduran National Football Champion. In 2001 the team won its second national championship. They play their home games at the Estadio Excélsior. Atlético Portuario was briefly another football club based in the city.
Notable people and natives
- Edgar Alvarez – football player.
- Roger Espinoza – football player who plays for Wigan Athletic and the Honduras national team.
- Felipe Rodríguez Plata (deceased) – Former Director of Honduras Customs Administration.
- Guillermo Peña Zelaya (deceased) – MD, former Congressman (1986–1990), former Mayor of Puerto Cortés.
- Guillermo Ramón Miranda Talbot – former Puerto Cortés Port Superintendent and former Assistant of the General Manager of Empresa Nacional Portuaria (Honduras National Port Authority).
- Guillermo Rene Soriano – Doctor in Theology, Preacher and Supervisor of Missionaries in the U.S.A.
- Julio César "Rambo" De Leon – Famous football player, now playing in Italy.
- Luis Cosenza Jiménez – Former Congressman and Ministry of the Presidency (Jan. 2002-Jun. 2005) and former representative of Central America in the Inter-American Development Bank (Jul. 2005-Jun. 2006) and current representative of Honduras in the World Bank.
- Mario Alberto Prieto Rodríguez – Former General Manager of Empresa Nacional Portuaria (Honduras National Port Authority) and Current President of Liga Nacional de Futbol (Honduras Professional Football Association).
- Mario Enrique Prieto Alvarado – Former Congressman and Secretary of Honduras National Congress (1982–1985), former member of Honduras 1980–81 National Assembly which approved the 1982 Honduras Constitution. Father of Mario Alberto Prieto Rodríguez.
- Mario Sierra – Businessman and President of Club Deportivo Platense and current member of the Board of Directors of Empresa Nacional Portuaria (Honduras National Port Authority).
- Roberto Valenzuela Simons – Former Mayor of Puerto Cortés, former General Manager of Empresa Nacional Portuaria (Honduras National Port Authority), he went into exile to Mexico during military governments.
- Rodrigo Wong Arévalo – Journalist, anchor of TV news program Abriendo Brecha and news magazines Hablemos Claro, As Deportiva, Cromos, and Hablemos Claro Financiera and Come to Honduras. Also the CEO of "Television Educativa Nacional, TEN Canal 10."
- Selim Canahuati – Former President of Liga Nacional de Futbol (Honduras Professional Football Association), former member of the Board of Directors of Empresa Nacional Portuaria (Honduras National Port Authority).
- Vilma Cecilia Morales – Former President of Honduras Supreme Court of Justice (Jan. 2002 – Jan. 2009, current president of CNBS – Comisión Nacional de Banca y Seguros (National Banking and Insurance Commission).
- William Chong Wong – Former Director of Internal Revenue Service (1990–92), Subsecretary of Treasury (1993), Subsecretary of Finance and Budget (Feb. 2002 – September 2004), Secretary of Finance (Oct. 2004 – Jan 2006), Secretary of Finance (Jan 2010 – February 2012).
- Juan Ramon Rivera Zelaya – Pastor at Central Baptist Church (Iglesia Bautista Central) in Tegucigalpa since 1989.
- Benjamin Vindel Alvarado – Founder of softball and baseball in Puerto Cortés, famous communist. Good friend of Roberto Valenzuela Simons, who was also a famous communist.
- Zora Neale Hurston - African American writer, scholar and political activist resided at the Hotel Cosenza from May, 1947 to February, 1948 while writing her book Seraph on the Suwanee.
In 1982, a new constitution was approved; before that year mayors were designated "by finger" by Tegucigalpa top government officials.
- 1982–1983: Roy Reyes Orellana (Partido Liberal)
- 1984–1985: Mario Sabillón (Partido Liberal)
- 1986–1990: Romulo Montoya (Partido Liberal)
- 1990–1991: Rolando Méndez (Partido Nacional).
- 1992: Rolando Orellana Cruz (Partido Nacional).
- 1992–1993: Alvaro Zacarías Mena (Partido Nacional).
- 1994–1997: Marlon Guillermo Lara Orellana(Partido Liberal)
- 1998–2001: Marlon Guillermo Lara Orellana (Partido Liberal) (reelected)
- 2002–2005: Marlon Guillermo Lara Orellana (Partido Liberal) (reelected)
- 2006–2009: Alan Ramos (Partido Liberal)
- 2010–2014: Allan Ramos (Partido Liberal) (reelected)
- There is an elementary school named República de Mexico.
- There is an elementary school named República de Chile.
- There is an elementary school named Saint Martin de Porres in honour of this Saint from Peru.
- There is a private Catholic high school named Sacred Heart of Jesus (Sagrado Corazón de Jesús).
- There is a high school academy named Saint John Bosco (San Juan Bosco) in honour of that saint.
- There is a bilingual school (elementary school, junior high and high school) named Saint John the Baptist in honour of this Prophet.
- There is a high school named after former US president Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
- There is a beach known as La Coca Cola, named after the soft drink company due to La Embotelladora La Coca Cola being situated on this beach. The plant once employed many workers whose meals depended on this job.
- In the decade of the 1930s a small whale was captured in the bay of Puerto Cortés. This was a very rare situation, since whales are not normally found in the Caribbean Sea.
- The USS Hornet aircraft carrier made Puerto Cortés a port of call in 1963.
- There is football stadium known as Estadio Excelsior (the home of Club Deportivo Platense). In 1965 an Argentine professional football club Chacarita Juniors (then in Argentine first division) played here, defeating Platense(2–1).
- Since 1986, the Municipality of Puerto Cortés receives four percent (4%) of all revenues (income) received by the Honduras Custom office in Puerto Cortés, and four percent (4%) of all revenues received by La Empresa Nacional Portuaria (Honduras Port Authority) in the Seaport. This fee is known as El Cuatro por Ciento (The Four Percent). The same percentage (4%) is also received by four other municipalities where Empresa Nacional Portuaria operates (La Ceiba, Trujillo, Roatan and San Lorenzo). This percentage is applied to all revenues received by the Honduras Custom Office.
- Puerto Cortés offers a variety of medical health care services.
- Centro Medico Litoral Atlántico
- Centro Medico Handal
- Hospital IHSS (Public)
- Hospital del Area (Public)
- Centro de Rehabilitacion Integral de Puerto Cortes
- Mega Puerto
- David Marley, Wars of the Americas: A Chronology of armed conflict in the Western Hemisphere, 1492 to the present (ABC Clio, 2008) 1: 126.
- Relación histórica de los contratiempos que ha sufrido la construcción de un ferrocarril á través de la República de Honduras (London: Clayton and Temple, 1875)
- Glen Chambers, Race, Nation and West Indian Immigration to Honduras, 1890–1940 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2010) pp. 28–30. Chambers cites Honduran historian Manuel Argueto, Bananas y politica: Samuel Zemurray y la Cuyamel Fruit Company en Honduras (Tegulcigalpa, 1989)
- Vilma Laínez and Víctor Meza, "El enclave en la historia de Honruras," Anuario de Estudos Centroamericanos 1 (1974)
- Her letters from Puerto Cortes are reproduced in Carla Kaplan, ed Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters (New York: Random House, 2003) pp. 550-68.