Lempira was a war captain of the Lencas, a Mesoamerican ethnic group, who speak their own language and have lived in Honduras and El Salvador since pre-colombian times. The Lencas are still living in Honduras and recently have gained popularity because of their beautiful pottery and crafts.
Lempira is very important in Honduran history, because he fought against the Spanish around the 1500s, when the Spanish were trying to conquer the territory. He was of medium height, with strong complexity. He was known for his bad temper and since a young age he demonstrated courage and bravery and was known for his love for his people, land, laws and traditions. The name Lempira comes from the word Lempaera, which is the union of two lencan words, Lempa which means Lord – title of dignity and hierarchy, and the word Era, which means hills. Therefore, Lempira would be the “lord of the hills”.
Lempira was very respected among his people and when fighting against the Spaniards, he was able to unite 200 different tribes to create an army of 30,000 soldiers. Because of this organization it was very difficult for the Spaniards to take control of the region during 1537, until Lempira’s death.
There are two versions of Lempira’s death, the first version, which is the traditional story heard in Honduras states that he was betrayed by the Spaniards. Supposedly, they had agreed to meet with Lempira to negotiate peace. When he met with the Spaniards, he was shot by one of the Spaniards. The second version of his death was found on a document called Pobranza de Meritos, in the Archivo General de Indias of Sevilla, written by Rodrigo Ruiz. This version states that the captain “EL Empira” was killed in combat by Ruiz in the middle of an unexpected battle. After Lempira was killed, Ruiz cut Lempira’s head off as a proof of his death.
Because of Lempira’s important role in Honduran history, many things were honored with his name. Honduras currency is el lempira, also there is a city called Puerto Lempira, capital of the department or state Gracias a Dios and finally there is a department called Lempira.