San Pedro Sula

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San Pedro Sula
"Usula (Valley of Birds)"
Flag of San Pedro Sula
Official seal of San Pedro Sula
La Capital Industrial
San Pedro Sula is located in Honduras
San Pedro Sula
San Pedro Sula
Coordinates: 15°30′0″N 88°2′0″W / 15.50000°N 88.03333°W / 15.50000; -88.03333Coordinates: 15°30′0″N 88°2′0″W / 15.50000°N 88.03333°W / 15.50000; -88.03333
Country  Honduras
Department Cortés
Municipio (County) San Pedro Sula
Foundation 27 June 1536; 478 years ago (1536-06-27)
 • Mayor Armando Calidonio Alvarado (PNH)
 • Urban 840 km2 (320 sq mi)
Elevation 83 m (272 ft)
Population (2010)
 • City 1,073,824 [1]
 • Density 2,427.7/km2 (6,288/sq mi)
 • Metro 1,445,598 [2]
Time zone Central America (UTC−6)

San Pedro Sula (Spanish pronunciation: [sam ˈpeðɾo sula]) is a city in Honduras. The city is located in the northwest corner of the country, in the Valle de Sula (Sula Valley), about 100 kilometres (62 mi) south of Puerto Cortés on the Caribbean Sea. With an estimated population of one million in the main municipality, and 1,445,598 in its metro area (2010), it is the second largest city, after the capital Tegucigalpa. It is the capital of the Cortés Department.

Early years[edit]

San Pedro Sula was founded on 27 June 1536, by Pedro de Alvarado under the name Villa de San Pedro de Puerto Caballos, close to the town of Choloma. There were around 18 towns populated by indigenous people in the Sula valley at the time. Early descriptions of the landscape indicate abundant swampland and dense tropical forests, with little land good for agriculture or cattle raising. The city's name became San Pedro Sula in the 18th century, after several changes. The "Sula" part of its name comes from the Minas de Sula, gold mines located to the west of the village of Naco.

Panoramic view of Downtown San Pedro Sula

For the first few years of its history, San Pedro was the colonial mint, where gold, found to the west in the Naco, Sula, and Quimistán valleys, had to be brought to smelt, and where the Spanish Crown collected a fifth of the value of the gold. The mint was moved to Gracias, and ultimately to Comayagua in the 1550s.

French, English, and Dutch pirates raided and sacked the city, prompting the Spaniards to move the city to its current location along the Chamelecón River. San Pedro languished to a neglected backwater, with few Spanish settlers. New settlers were not attracted to the city, preferring the higher, drier valleys inland with more farmland and gold mines. At the same time, lax Spanish control spurred illicit trade in alcohol from the Caribbean islands, such as Cuba.[citation needed]

Municipal Palace

The city grew slowly from about 800 residents in 1590, to almost 10,000 by the 1890s, but most of this population growth took place in the 19th century. It benefited initially from the growth of bananas for export in the 1870s and 1880s and formed a close relationship with U.S. based shipper and railroad entrepreneur Samuel Zemurray's Cuyamel Fruit Company, and the construction of the Interoceanic Railroad between 1869 and 1874 which connected the city to the coast at Puerto Cortés. Zemurray worked closely with local elites who invested in subsidiary enterprises and thus shaped the way politically for Cuyamel to establish itself and, along the way to pay very few taxes.[3]

San Pedro Sula was officially recognized as a city by the Congress of Honduras on 8 October 1902. In the mid-1920s, it grew from 10,000 to 100,000 people, following a boom in banana plantations in the region.


In 2013, fifteen years after the effects of Hurricane Mitch, Honduras is one of the poorest countries in Latin America; around San Pedro Sula, banana production has not fully recovered, and "manufacturing has all but dried up."[4] The problems are exacerbated by organized crime, whose rules prevent residents from safely leaving gang-controlled neighborhoods such as Chamelecón for jobs in other parts of town.[4]

In 2000, then-Mayor Roberto Larios Silva said "San Pedro Sula is where the economic development of the country is concentrated via the city’s industrial, commercial and financial development." The then-manager of Hotel Copantl attributed its growth in business-related tourism ...[to] the maquila (apparel manufacturing) industry.[5]

As of 2011, San Pedro Sula generates two-thirds of the country's gross domestic product (GDP).[6]


San Pedro Sula is one of the most violent places in the world. In 2013, the city had 187 homicides per 100,000 residents.[7] This surpassed Ciudad Juarez, Mexico's rate of 148 killings per 100,000; Ciudad Juarez had previously topped the list for three consecutive years.[8] Both cities are major operational and strategic distribution points in the illegal drug trade, particularly to the United States, and have significant gang activity.[8][9][10] Meanwhile arms trafficking has flooded the country with just under 70% illegal firearms; 83% of homicides in the city are by firearm compared.[11]

The city's growing role as a hub for cocaine trafficking has led to a surge in homicides in recent years.[12] For the second year in a row, San Pedro Sula had the highest murder rate in the world,[13][14] surpassing Mexico's Ciudad Juárez. San Pedro Sula topped the list of violent cities a second time with a rate of 169 intentional homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, setting an average of more than three homicides a day.[15] Authorities have launched Operation Lightning, saturating violence hotspots with police and soldiers.[15]

In 2013, various sources labelled San Pedro Sula the "murder capital of the world."[4][9][11][15][16]

According to the Los Angeles Times, "the homicide rate is stoked by the rivalry of the brutal street gangs, mostly descendants of gangs formed in Los Angeles and deported to Central America in the 1990s, including Mara Salvatrucha (MS) and the 18th Street gang. Their ranks are fed by the economic disaster that is Honduras and emboldened more recently by alliances with Mexican drug traffickers moving cocaine through the country."[4]

Crime and economic stress have led to the migration of large numbers of unaccompanied minors to the U.S. border. The latest data from the CBP shows San Pedro Sula as the major source for Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) migrating from Honduras. UAC Map.



San Pedro Sula features a tropical savanna climate (Koppen Aw), with year-round relatively high temperatures and plentiful rainfall year round. San Pedro Sula has experienced hurricanes and tropical storms and is prone to them during the hurricane season usually when the storms form in the southern part of the Caribbean or Western Africa.

Climate data for San Pedro Sula, Honduras (1991–2009)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 28
Average low °C (°F) 20
Precipitation mm (inches) 70
Source #1: Weatherbase;[17]
Source #2: [18]

Administrative divisions[edit]

San Pedro Sula's Old Train Station.

San Pedro Sula, as most cities built under the Spanish colonial period, is divided in quadrants. Avenues in the city run from North to South and Streets run from East to West. First Street and First Avenue mark the "center of the city" and effectively divide it into four major quadrants NW, NE, SW and SE.

Educational institutions[edit]

Colleges and universities[edit]

San Pedro Sula is home to many colleges and universities. It is the home of the first private university in the country, the Universidad de San Pedro Sula (USAP).

Due to its influence in the industrial and commercial sectors of Honduras, San Pedro Sula has many higher education institutions that attract students from all over the country. Many people have migrated to the city to take advantage of the educational opportunities present in the city.

The following Universities are located in San Pedro Sula:


San Pedro Sula is home to many sporting teams and events. In 1997 it became the first, and only to date, non-capital city to host the Central American Games. The games, though full of scandal,[citation needed] left the city with a modern sporting infrastructure. The Villa Olímpica is a multi-sporting complex that has facilities for most Olympic style games including soccer, boxing, swimming, baseball, cycling and multipurpose gymnasiums.

San Pedro Sula is the only city in the country to be home to two soccer stadiums. The Estadio Olímpico Metropolitano is located in the Villa Olímpica and is the largest in the country with a capacity of 42,000. The Estadio Francisco Morazán is located in the center of the city and holds 23,000 people. The stadiums are home to San Pedro Sula's most popular professional soccer teams Marathón and Real CD España. Because of the stadiums, training facilities, and an almost religious supporting fan base, San Pedro Sula has become the home for the Honduras national football team.[19]

The city has hosted many international tennis tournaments and serves as the home of the Honduran tennis team. The Club Arabe Hondureño provides great facilities for the sport.

San Pedro Sula is also home to the Liga Georgina de Villegas basketball league. The League is divided in two divisions with a promotion and relegation system. The league has a female counterpart as well that carries the same name. Many teams from neighboring cities also take part in the league as it is the highest form of competitive basketball in the area.

There are city softball (Óscar Saybe Softball League) and a baseball leagues that host seasonal competitions annually, and serve as qualifiers for the national tournaments in their respective sports. These leagues are far less popular and attract fewer fans than the city soccer teams.[citation needed] Though less supported than their soccer counterparts, the city teams enjoy much success on the national level. Azulejos, the city's baseball champion, has won the national tournament the past two years.

The Delfines Sampedranos, a local swimming club, is the most successful club in the country and the Central American region. It has dominated Central American competitions for the past several years.[citation needed]

Also it is the only city in Honduras where there is a highly developed Taekwondo center, where the only World Gold medalist in Honduras, Andrea Erazo, well known in the world of Taekwondo, trains. Some Centers are:

  • Kumgang
  • Honduras Idols Taekwondo

This sport is one of the only sports in Honduras that gives really good results not only in regionals or in nationals but also at international events.[citation needed]

An annual marathon sponsored by Diario La Prensa is hosted in the city.

Motorcross is also practiced in the city. The Olimpic complex has hosted motorbike and ATV racing. Endurance drives up the Merendón mountains are usually organized.

C.D. Marathón[edit]

Club Deportivo Marathón, as it is officially known, is more commonly known as just Marathón. It was founded on 25 November 1925 in San Pedro Sula by Eloy Montes and a group of his friends. The team's colors are red, white and green. It is the oldest team in the city. The team was a founding member of the Liga Nacional (Honduras's top soccer league). It plays its home games in the Estadio Yankel Rosenthal.

Real CD España[edit]

Real CD España was founded on 14 July 1929 at Escuela Ramón Rosa in San Pedro Sula. España's colors are black and yellow, a fact reflected in the club's nickname: "The Aurinegros" (a compound word meaning gold and black). It has won the national championship eleven times. It was also a founding member of the Liga Nacional. It plays its home games in Estadio Francisco Morazán.[20]


Air travel[edit]

The city is served by Ramón Villeda Morales International Airport. It is conveniently located about 15 minutes from the city's center and serves North-Western Honduras through several domestic and international air companies, such as: United, American, Delta, COPA, Spirit Airlines, Aeroméxico, Maya Island Air, And Avianca which link the city with San Salvador, Mexico City, San José, Belize City, Managua, Atlanta, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, Newark, Miami, and New York City.

Ramón Villeda Morales Airport is the major and busiest airport in Honduras, handling about 1.1Million passengers in 2013. Travelers using this airport are charged a departure tax of $38.71 to help with expansion of the airport.

Ground transportation[edit]

San Pedro Sula has a central bus station that is used by most bus companies. The bus station, called the Gran Central Metropolitana de Autobuses de San Pedro Sula, is located a few kilometers south of the downtown area It is not only the largest bus station in Central America, it also serves as a shopping center, food court, and many other services.[21]

A rapidito minibus in San Pedro Sula.

San Pedro Sula's public transportation features buses and minivans ("Rapiditos") whose smaller size permits faster service, Taxis (painted white) are easy to find. A "colectivo" is a taxi that serves a specific route that allows multiple passengers to share the cost of the trip.


Sights include the Copán Ruins which are a three-hour drive away, Lake Yojoa and Pulhapanzak Waterfalls; Cusuco Cloud Forest; Tela and Garifuna village; and Omoa Fortress, an 18th-century outpost.


  • Museo de Antropología e Historia (The Museum of Anthropology and History)
  • Museo de la Naturaleza (The Museum of Nature)
  • Planetario Infantil (The Child Planetarium)

The Museo de Antropología e Historia is licensed by the Honduran Institute of Anthropology and History to house archaeological and historical collections, which by law belong to the people of Honduras. The ground floor of the museum is devoted to the history of Honduras, and San Pedro Sula in particular. The upper floor exhibits are about the prehistory of the valley in which San Pedro is located. The Museum has a research library with information relating to the history of Honduras. The museum director is Teresa de Pastor.

San Pedro Sula's municipal palace.

The second museum has to do with the flora and fauna surrounding the city. This museum houses several insect species, as well as books about the nature and the animals found in the Merendon mountains. This museum is directed by Gladys Fasquelle de Pastor.

The planetarium is an astronomy museum. It shows the night sky as seen from San Pedro Sula, while also providing information about the solar system, constellations, and a small space exhibit.

Central Park[edit]

Although the downtown area officially begins at First Avenue, the commercial hub begins at Third. Central Park is located between these, and it contains a small gazebo in the center, marking the spot where the city was founded. This gazebo is the only piece of architecture that remains standing to this day from the date when it was built in 1901 by then governor Luis Alonso Barahona. This gazebo served as a provisional church at the turn of the 20th century while the cathedral was being built. Currently, cultural and musical events are held on weekends. The statue in the center depicts two women doing laundry on a river bank.

Zona de Armenta[edit]

The Zona de Armenta is a cold-water river that comes from the Merendón mountain range. The park is located in the Northeastern part of the city and serves as a recreational area for many people in the city. The river has several areas that are open for swimming as well as places to purchase food.

Mercado Guamilito[edit]

Vendors sell crafts, pottery, souvenirs, flowers and local Honduran food.


  • The Francisco Saybe Theatre
  • Centro Cultural Sampedrano
  • Torre Universitaria Jorge Emilio Jaar

Avenida Circunvalación[edit]

Avenida Circunvalación is a popular zone to visit at night. There are many restaurants and it is home to events like the Feria Juniana that is celebrated in June. This part of the city also contains hotels, malls, banks, auto dealers and fast-food chains.


  1. ^ "Honduras: largest cities and towns and statistics of their population". World Gazeteer. Retrieved 22 May 2010. 
  2. ^ "Honduras: metropolitan areas". World Gazeteer. Retrieved 24 February 2010. 
  3. ^ Dario Euraque, Reinterperting the Banana Republic: Region and State in Honduras, 1870–1972 (Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press, 1996) pp. 25–27.
  4. ^ a b c d Wilkinson, Tracy. "In Honduras, rival gangs keep a death grip on San Pedro Sula". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2013-12-17. 
  5. ^ "San Pedro Sula becomes popular convention destination". Special International Report. The Washington Times Advertising Department. 24 March 2000. Archived from the original on 2001-08-23. Retrieved 2013-12-17. 
  6. ^ "Honduras's indebted economy: The cost of a coup". The Economist (The Economist Newspaper Limited) 399 (8737): 71. 11–17 June 2011. Retrieved 2013-12-17. The country of 8m is fighting back hard against its “unjust strangulation by the rest of the world”, says Luis Larach, head of the chamber of commerce in San Pedro Sula, a northern export powerhouse that generates two-thirds of the country's GDP. 
  7. ^ Sterbenz, Christina (31 December 2014). "San Pedro Sula, Honduras is the world’s most violent place". Business Insider. Retrieved 31 December 2014. 
  8. ^ a b Miroff, Nick (13 January 2012). "San Pedro Sula, Honduras is the world’s most violent place". The Washington Post. Retrieved 30 April 2013. 
  9. ^ a b "Honduran City is World Murder Capital; Juarez Drops for Second Year in a Row". Fox News Latino. 8 February 2013. Retrieved 30 April 2013. 
  10. ^ Gardner, David (29 April 2013). "Inside the most violent city in the world: Horrific collection of photos show grim reality of life in San Pedro Sula, Honduras". Daily Mail. Retrieved 30 April 2013. 
  11. ^ a b Cabrera, Jorge (5 April 2013). "Life and death in the murder capital". Reuters. Retrieved 30 April 2013. 
  12. ^ Miroff, Nick (8 March 2012). "Grim toll as cocaine trade expands in Honduras". The Washington Post. 
  13. ^ Miroff, Nick (13 January 2012). "San Pedro Sula, Honduras is the world's most violent place". The Washington Post. 
  14. ^ Romo, Rafael (28 March 2013). "Inside San Pedro Sula, 'murder capital of the world". 
  15. ^ a b c Romo, Rafael; Thompson, Nick (28 March 2013). "Inside San Pedro Sula, the 'murder capital' of the world". CNN. Retrieved 30 April 2013. 
  16. ^ Kuruvilla, Carol (30 March 2013). "San Pedro Sula in northwest Honduras is the murder capital of the world: report". New York Daily News. Retrieved 30 April 2013. 
  17. ^ [http:// "Weather Information for San Pedro Sula, Honduras"]. Retrieved 27 Nov 2010. 
  18. ^
  19. ^ El 2009 Sera Duro. Diario La Prensa
  20. ^ Official Page of Real Club Deportivo Espana
  21. ^ Gran Central Metropolitana Homepage

External links[edit]